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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
Hours of operation: Monday-Saturday year-round, except holidays. Tours start at 9:30 a.m. daily, with the last one at 1:45 p.m. The farm recommends that walk-ins call ahead before noon on weekdays during the months of March through July to ensure availability, as that's their busiest time with school groups. Web site: www.oldmcmickysfarm.com
The scoop: Old McMicky's Farm might not inspire a lot of confidence from the roadside. But it's a perfect example of not judging a book by its cover, which is only the first of many lessons children (and adults) can learn from a visit to this educational petting farm.
Directions: From Tampa, take Veterans Highway or Dale Mabry North to Van Dyke Road. Turn left on Van Dyke Road and follow it to Gunn Highway. Turn right on Gunn and follow it to Crescent Road, where you will see a sign for Camp Keystone and old McMicky's Farm on the left. Turn left and follow Crescent Road to Camp Keystone where you will park. From Pinellas, take U.S. 19 north to Tarpon Road and turn right. Follow Tarpon Road (which becomes Keystone Road and then Tarpon Springs Road in Hillsborough), until it dead ends at Gunn Highway. Turn left on Gunn, follow it to Crescent Road, and proceed from there.
Why go? What's not to like about a farm? Especially a farm that's clean, humane, educational and that you don't have to get up at 5 a.m. to manage yourself. Old McMicky's Farm is designed around the premise that many children don't have the opportunity to get up close and personal with traditional American farm life. From the little red barn to the array of mostly gentle farm animals, Old McMicky's Farm makes good on its promise to provide a fun, hands-on experience of what farm life is all about sans mucking out stalls.
Time stamp: We got there a little after 9:30 a.m. on a cool and breezy Friday morning and joined a tour just getting under way. Guides are on hand to take walk-ins individually or in small groups on two-hour tours.
Field report: Our group consisted of moms and mostly-under-5 tots. Kristen, our tour guide, was warm, encouraging and informative and did a great job of keeping everyone together. Early in the tour, everyone (under 16) was treated to a pony ride, before moving on to visit the goats and sheep and then the red barn. The barn featured incubators with ducks and chicks and a selection of reptiles. Children exited the barn via a metal slide that landed them in a hay pile, a nice touch. Other activities included milking Edith, an extraordinarily patient black cow; seeing an enormous 600-pound pig; gobbling at turkeys who obligingly gobbled back; climbing a big cargo net into a two-story tree house and catching a chicken. The tour ended with a hay ride.
Upon further review: Old McMicky's Farm was a lot of fun, even for my older kids, who got silly over a chicken they insisted looked like Donald Trump. The animals were well cared for and the facilities clean and well maintained. Guests are invited to bring picnic lunches to enjoy by Crescent Lake before or after tours. There's also a Barnyard Boutique Gift Shop.
Do it again? Families with children under 10 and the occasional teen may enjoy periodic visits, and certainly if you have visiting younger children or grandchildren, it's a great place to take them. The farm also hosts holiday events throughout the year.