LEWISBURG — Wild Hearts African Farm in Lewisburg revealed plans this month to create 31-acre educational farm with an African theme. The farm is operated by Amanda Badger, a former state park naturalist, and her husband Brian Badger, who is a lifelong wildlife conservationist who has worked in Africa for the last 10 years.
“We wanted to bring a distinct and real African experience to the area, one that teaches people of all ages about wildlife conservation methods and the role humans play in wildlife management. Africa’s most notable wildlife actually live on vast farmland. Every species from prey to predator share the same land as sustenance farmers” said Amanda Badger. Wild Hearts will highlight conservation methods such as livestock guarding dogs, goat dairying demonstrations (a staple in African countries), and raise iconic species such as zebra, ostrich, camels and sheep. Eventually, the farm plans to add a fun safari tour experience where you will be driven around to see the animals grazing in scenic pastures.
Sites around the farm will include thatched-roof barns, rustic stonework and handmade African crafts on display. Additionally, visitors will be able to see animals found on Ohio farms including pigs, ducks, and donkeys, along with native wildlife such as foxes, birds-of-prey and box turtles. The farm will produce corn and other crops on about twenty acres. At harvest, they plan to offer a conservation corn maze, pumpkin patch and wagon rides. The farm will be completed in phases over the next 3-5 years as funding allows. The Petting Zoo with livestock, small exotics and friendly farm animals has been open for two months, and has already attracted hundreds of visitors from as far as Columbus, Cincinnati and Richmond. Tourism is a major economic driver for the state and is a $43 billion industry according to Ohio.org. The farm’s easy access from route 40, 503 and I-70 made it a desirable location.
Wild Hearts African Farm is one of the first in the area to participate in Ohio’s growing agritourism sector, which allows visitors to participate in, observe and enjoy agriculturally related educational, entertainment, historical, cultural, or recreational activities conducted on a farm. “Our farm will give a unique farming experience to visitors from the region, as well as create job and student internship opportunities for our community” said Badger.
Brenda Latanza, Director of Economic Development for Preble County visited the farm and commented on their agritourism role for the area.
“Wild Hearts’ efforts and diligence supports the mission statement of the Partnership and will play into the quality of life in Preble County. In this educational atmosphere, children will see a farmer up close and watch a farmer in action. They will also be able to interact with some of the animals. We’re excited about this opportunity for the county” said Latanza.
Preble County Commissioner Denise Robertson also recently visited the farm’s Petting Zoo and toured the grounds. “This unique agritourism concept is a great complement to our existing farming community, in additional to the added fun experiences it will provide for our families and opportunities for students interested in animal-science and Ag careers”, said Robertson.
Wild Hearts African Farm is a USDA-licensed, non-profit educational farm with a mission to make a positive impact on wildlife conservation both locally and globally through unique experiences while providing a fun and recreational resource for our community. According to Badger, Wild Hearts’ Mobile Zoo can be booked for educational programs, birthday parties and public events year-round, and seasonal Petting Zoo tours can be booked through October on the website WildHeartsAfricanFarm.org.