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Finding Minnesota: Experiencing Farm Life At The Zoo

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(credit: CBS) Angela Davis
Angela Davis joined the station in 2006. Angela co-anchors the Sund...
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By Angela Davis, WCCO-TV

APPLE VALLEY, Minn. (WCCO) — With spring officially here, most people will be spending a lot more time outside. And soon farms across the state will really come to life with the planting of crops.

This week in Finding Minnesota, Angela Davis went to a farm in Apple Valley where everyone can get a lesson or two in farm life and farm animals.

The working farm spread across 10 acres of land at the Minnesota Zoo is a pretty picture but it’s also real.

From April to October each year, you can get up close and personal with the animals on the Wells Fargo Family Farm.

Dawn Walker is the zoologist who is in charge of maintaining the health of the animals on the farm.

At the dairy barn there are a couple of the cows for people to meet including Daphne and Charlotte.

“She’s chewing her cud … She goes ahead after she gets done eating, she regurgitates some of her food, re-chews it, swallows it and then coughs it back up and re-chews it,” said Walker. “Cows spend about eight hours of their day ruminating or chewing their cud.”

Apparently, it helps them relax.

The milk from a herd of seven cows goes to a creamery where it is used to make cheese.

Workers also grow several crops; sugar beets, corn and alfalfa. That produce is used to feed the animals.

The outside of the dairy barn is just as interesting as the inside. With its unique gambrel roof, it is the last “traditional” barn built in Minnesota in the 20th century.

Then there is the farm house.

Although it’s three times the size of a typical home you would have seen years ago, it has many of the common features.

Like the “L” floor plan that allowed farm families to add rooms easily and inexpensively.

“We do get a lot of kids as well as adults that are really disconnected from agriculture,” said Walker. “Grandma, grandpa maybe had a farm they don’t get back to anymore. Or they just don’t realize where milk, they don’t know where eggs, where beef — they just don’t realize where their food comes from.”

Spend some time at the Wells Fargo Family Farm and that will become quite clear.

In the swine barn, visitors learn about pork products but also about the lives of pigs.

“Both of these girls have had babies before. Last year the red one had 14 — she had a huge litter. And you think you have how many areas does she have to nurse? She has 16 areas to nurse,” said Walker.

Davis was amazed, even more so when the pig stood up on cue as if to show her where the pig nurses her piglets.

Those expectant pigs are the moms of the little piglets visitors will soon be able to see at the “Zoo Babies” event.

It begins Friday, April 1 at the Minnesota Zoo and runs the entire month.

The Wells Fargo Family Farm is also part of a summer camp that the zoo runs and there’s still time to register your child, if you’re interested.

For more information about the farm and the zoo, click on the links below.

Minnesota Zoo Wells Fargo Family Farm
Minnesota Zoo Farm Babies

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