All creatures great and small

People and critters get acquainted on Open Farm Day

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  • Rebecca and her mom Donna with a pot bellied pig and a chicken

  • The petting zoo was filled with smiling children

  • Visitors enjoying their day at CAF visiting all the friendly animals

  • 4 of the 5 Meler children. (from left to right) 11 yr old Marcelins, 5 yr. old Stefan, 7 yr. old Kaye,and 2 yr. old Frank

  • Marie Deckinger brought her kids to have a fun day

  • Hannah Chappell with a pretty, smiling, lion painted face.

By Jerry Goldberg

— Country Ark Farm couldn’t have had a more beautiful day to host its yearly Open Farm Day on Sunday, June 9.

County Ark began in 1990 with a goal of enhancing the quality of life for physically, emotionally, and mentally challenged children and adults. Mike and Donna Ciancitto are the owners of the 26 acre farm which is home for over 100 people-friendly animals.

County Ark has rabbits, an emu, a coatamundi, many types of sheep, pot bellied pigs, chickens, ducks, ponies, goats, many species of colorful birds, an African porcupine, and lots of other small animals. The farm is equipped with handicapped bathrooms, several play areas with one having a wheel chair accessible swing.

During their regular visiting season over 850 children and adults come to visit County Ark on pre-arranged and fully staffed special days. Donna said special needs guests comprise about 70 percent children and 30 percent adults. They also have an eight bedroom lodge and it is available for overnight visits.

“This was the most crowded Open Farm Day we’ve ever had,” said Donna. She attributed the busy day to newspaper press releases and social media networks. On this day there was a bounce house, face painting, goat milking, food vendor truck, free sandwiches and beverages which were gone early as the attending crowd consumed everything available.

“Mike and I never seem to be able to get away other than for a long day when we get half our work done real early and finish up the rest of our farm chores when we get home” reported Donna. Donna said her regular days begin at 6 a.m. and end usually close to 11 p.m.

Mike told the Courier they have been doing this for 24 years and what keeps them going is the great appreciation they get from those who visit County Ark and understand what they are doing.

“We’re here to just have fun with the kids for the day,” said Marie Deckinger. Her daughter’s friend Hannah Chappell was all decked out with a face painted smile. Hannah told the Courier she was looking forward to petting the animals and having fun.

Kathy Meler was visiting County Ark with her five children said she had just gotten to the farm and was getting ready to take the kids on the bounce house and head for the petting zoo. Four of her kids were with while one had already run off to do” his own thing.”

Donna said they only had a small handful, about six, of dedicated volunteers to help with all the work and that 90 percent of their annual budget goes to program activities. ”Al who has been volunteering for five years works five days a week for free.” Rebecca Ciancitto who is a 2013 DVHS graduating senior is the last of their children at home and will be heading off to Misericordia University for the fall season to pursue a degree in physical therapy.

You can visit or call Donna Ciancitto directly to find out more about County Ark, how you can help by donating a few hours of work a week, or they even now have a once a year Pet Sponsor Program which starts as low as $15 and includes a large photo of your sponsored pet, a sponsor certificate, and a free visit to the farm.

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