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Original article: https://www.idahostatesman.com/news/business/article279223244.html
‘Tranquil’ farm in rural Nampa has kangaroos. Want to feed them?
When you think of kangaroos, you probably don’t think of Nampa. Or Idaho, for that matter. But a small, family-owned farm southeast of the city has two of the marsupials.
The owners of Back Forty Farms, Ron and Lisa Kern, treat the kangaroos as pets. They also schedule tours of their 42 acres of “paradise, peace and healing” by Indian Creek to educate visitors on the history of the property and allow them to interact with a range of furry animals, including those native to the Australian outback.
The Kerns also have cows, chickens, goats, alpacas, llamas, and horses, used for equine therapy. They were inspired to bring kangaroos into the mix roughly three years ago after volunteering at Babby Farms in Caldwell, a nonprofit farm with exotic animals like sloths, lemurs and kangaroos.
Ron Kern procured two male red kangaroos, now 3 and 4 years old, named Aries and Apollo, from the owners of a kangaroo farm in Washington state who planned to retire. The Kerns built a fenced enclosure for the animals and a wooden structure with windows and a heater for the winter. They feed the marsupials grass, dandelion leaves, apples and carrots, in addition to kibble formulated for kangaroos and wallabies.
“(The kangaroos) love everything that we grow out of the garden,” Ron Kern said. “Overall, they’re pretty low maintenance. The most time-consuming aspect of their care is cleaning out their pen, raking up their droppings and making sure they have fresh water and food every day.” The Kerns’ two adult children also work on the farm, helping care for the animals, tending to the garden and managing an online store. The family sells free-range eggs and freeze-dried fruit, vegetables and cheese.
Maintaining their 5-year-old farm is “a lot of work,” Ron Kern said, but spending all day on the “tranquil” property is worth it for the farmer, who was a U.S. Navy sonar technician and is now part of the Farmer Veteran Coalition. The best part, he said, is getting to share it with others.
“People come to our farm to learn about the animals, growing your own food and the history of our property, which is very, very rich,” Ron Kern said.
The state Department of Agriculture showcased the farm during its annual Harvest Tour on Aug. 31. The tour kicked off Idaho Preferred Month in September, a month-long initiative proclaimed by the governor that promotes locally grown fruits, vegetables, meats and other goods during peak harvest season.
The Kerns’ property used to be a 100-acre dairy farm in the early 1900s. A red barn and farmhouse, both more than a century old, still remain. Ron Kern said he and his wife are “history fanatics.” During a tour of the farm with the Idaho Statesman, they said Annie Oakley, an American sharpshooter who died in 1926, had once paid a visit.
Back Forty Farms schedules privates tours, by appointment only, for $10 a person. The tours last about an hour, though they can be extended. And they include a visit to the kangaroo pen.
The Kerns also offer a “kangaroo encounter,” typically as an add-on to a regular tour, for people wanting a closer experience with the marsupials. The encounter costs $50. It involves going into the enclosure to pet the kangaroos and feed them by hand. “It’s just a neat experience,” Ron Kern said. “People can learn a lot and walk away with some good memories.”