WILLMAR — While it doesn't have the Peppermint Forest or Gumdrop Mountains like a similar sounding board game, Kandi Land Farm does have the Monarch Trail, Ag Career Corn Maze and a pumpkin patch, as well as a farm animal petting area and a hay ride.
Located at 3843 15th Ave. S.W. on the west edge of Willmar, Kandi Land Farm is the brainchild of Melanie and Adam Dickman, who both grew up on crop and animal farms and wanted to share those experiences with those who might not have ever even stepped on a farm.
"People really don't know where their food comes from, even here in Willmar," said Melanie Dickman. "As simple as where milk comes from. Some kids say the grocery store because they just aren't exposed to it."
With Kandi Land Farm, Dickman hopes to change that, at least for the families that come to visit the farm over the next eight weekends. The fun and educational fall farm will be celebrating its grand opening this weekend, Sept. 18-19, and will be open every weekend in September and October. The farm's first season finishes with a final celebration on Nov. 6.
Each weekend at the farm will have a special theme. This weekend, called "Sweet Dairy Air Weekend," will focus on dairy and sugar beets. There will be a sugar beet scavenger hunt sponsored by Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative on Saturday, and a visit from the Kandiyohi County Dairy Princesses on Sunday. Upcoming themes include "Bugs, Plants and Dirt Weekend" and "Farm Girl Weekend." There will be vendors each weekend and refreshments.
"I'm still coming up with some fun ideas," Dickman said.
Admission is $7 per person, while children under the age of 2 and veterans are free. Hours are 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Over MEA weekend, the farm will be open 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 21 through Oct. 24.
The farm is full of educational activities for all to enjoy. Visitors can decipher their way through the specially planted corn maze while learning about different agriculture careers as they go.
"I wanted to have a broad picture of agriculture. It is not just farmers. There are so many important jobs in agriculture," Dickman said.
The maze itself was designed by Next Level Ag Solutions of Clara City. From above, one can see a barn with the Kandiyohi County Farm Bureau logo, which sponsored the maze.
An old greenhouse was transformed into a corn play area that uses 400 bushels of corn kernels to create a play pit for kids. There is also a play ethanol gas station and the opportunity to get up close with corn and soybean plants.
Other activities include a hay ride, a barrel train ride, a walking path through a pollinator garden called Monarch Trail, a pumpkin patch to find the perfect gourd for a jack-o'-lantern and, of course, animals. There are horses, a donkey, goats, chickens, rabbits, turkeys and even a few kittens running around.
Dickman first thought about turning her farm into an educational park as she was participating in the Minnesota Agriculture and Rural Leadership Program. It was during these classes and site visits that she learned how little the general public knows about agriculture and the seeds of an idea were planted.
"I love agriculture education," Dickman said, who is a district conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. "What can I do on my farm to educate people. I feel like we have the perfect location."
Over this past winter Dickman began putting her idea into action, reaching out to fellow graduates from the leadership program and to local agriculture organizations and businesses. The response has been more than Dickman could have hoped for, though she wasn't surprised they wanted to help. Many of the events and activities are sponsored by area businesses, like the hay ride which is using a John Deere tractor on loan from Haug Implement Company.
"I feel like people in the ag community are that way; they all want to work together the same goal. They know the importance of educating people," Dickman said.
Dickman hopes that people who visit Kandi Land Farm leave with a positive feeling about agriculture and understand the good it does for Kandiyohi County.
"No matter what you have to eat, it is important to support everyone: small farms, large farms, grain farms, animal farms, they are all important," Dickman said. "I want to have the emphasis on how important agriculture is to Kandiyohi County and the surrounding area."