Ranch gives kids look at farm life
Last updated 8/13/2021 at 12:51pm
On some level or another, Lisa Childers has always been passionate about children.
"I was an educator seven years in California, I've been involved with the Guadalupe Missionaries, so many avenues with children," she said. "Children have been my whole entire life."
That passion for children eventually led Childers and her husband, Randy, to start Muddy Little Cowboy Ranch, a 30-acre property located in Hanover (16810 S. Peyton Hwy., Colorado Springs, CO 80928). The ranch has a petting zoo with chickens, rabbits and goats, and koi ponds that create fertilizer for crops. Visitors can buy a variety of farm crops and flowers from the ranch's country store, and make crafts. The ranch is open Monday-Tuesday to private groups, and open to the public Wednesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. While there is a charge, it's deliberately set at a low level so it doesn't break people's budgets.
"It's very economical for families to come out here," Childers said. "We charge $25 – it doesn't matter if the family has 10 kids – and each child gets to take home a basket. They love to make the baskets – they are full when they leave with things that they don't get in the city. We've had preschoolers, homeschoolers, we had 30 kids out here the other day. I have youth group volunteers help me, and they want to come back to the pumpkin patch in October."
Childers described the ranch's goal as educating children about getting back to nature, seeing how things are grown and how to live sustainably.
"I think God created all of this for us to live this way," she said. "I mean, we don't have to really go to the store very often. We have fresh eggs, we have everything that we need to live right here except we don't have cattle and we don't have solar. If we had both of those, we would not need to go out to the city at all."
The ranch opened officially in June, after two-and-a-half years of paperwork. Childers explained that the ranch's location in Hanover meant they had to get approval from various boards, including county and regional groups, before they could officially open.
"We didn't realize it was going to be so much red tape," she said.
Prior to opening the ranch, the Childers lived for 10 years in the Soaring Eagles neighborhood of Colorado Springs, but were always looking for some way to start a ranch or farm. One key concern was finding a location with lots of land, but also near a main highway.
"So we finally found this road off Peyton Highway and we just saw this house with the 'for sale' sign on it," she said. "It took 10 years to find the right property, the right land."
Childers made it clear that she couldn't be happier with the land that they ended up with.
"It's incredible, the sunsets out here and the sunrises out here – I mean, I call it God's country," she said. "It's beautiful out here in Hanover, and I didn't even know Hanover existed until just like four or five years ago. One thing everybody who comes out here says is they didn't know this place exists."
One reason for that may be that Hanover soil isn't actually great farming soil by itself. Childers' initial gardening attempts were less than successful, but then she added fertilizer from the koi ponds and petting zoo animals.
"With the composting and all the goats and the chickens, the rabbits, all their poop – you break it all down and it's the greatest fertilizer that you can imagine," Childers said. "My first year here, I grew one pumpkin, the soil was so depressed. My second year, after adding the fertilizer and compost, I grew 150 pumpkins. If you don't amend your soil, you're not going to get anything but dirt and dust."
The closeness to Hanover Junior-Senior High School, whose students need 60 community service hours to graduate, has been a great benefit to Muddy Little Cowboy Ranch.
"We've had an incredible response with youth groups out here," Childers said. "Teens, they work out here, they volunteer out here, seeing their faces when they learn something and get super excited [is great]. One of them has actually decided to go work with animals for his career."
Childers has particularly enjoyed showing city children what farm products are actually like.
"Every time they come up here, I asked them what color eggs are," she explained. "They all say 'white,' so then I show them green eggs, turquoise eggs and I tell them 'you know, there are pink eggs, different colored eggs.' You should see their faces!"
Muddy Little Cowboy Ranch will be open through October when it hosts a pumpkin patch harvest; after that it will closed for the winter and reopen in May. To find out more, go to facebook.com/MuddyLittleCowboyRanch, email [email protected] or call 719-683-5233.