Farm life is rich in hands-on experiences, especially for today’s children. Farm tourism is a thing, and it’s booming from one end of the United States to the other, including right here in Alaska. Whether families pick vegetables together, pat bunnies, or livestock cross a pasture, a few hours spent investigating the living bounties from Mother Earth can change one’s life perspective. Especially in the spring, and most definitely right now at the Reindeer Farm in Palmer, Alaska’s historically-rich agricultural region.
Nestled at the foot of Bodenburg Butte, a table-shaped mountain that acts like a beacon for visitors (and is a popular hiking trail), the Reindeer Farm currently is home to about 100 reindeer (plus 20-some babies for the 2020 calving season), three Rocky Mountain elk, two yaks, one bison, a friendly moose, a string of horses, a pot-bellied pig, two rabbits, three dogs, and a particularly social calico kitty. While all of the animals at the Reindeer Farm are stars in their own right (ask if you can get Brady the pig to do his little dance for a treat); it is the reindeer that attracts visitors from all over the world.
A truly family-run operation (check out the history HERE), owners Denise and Josh Hardy (and their children) have developed a casual approach to their spread, knowing that families with small children don’t need a long tour with lots of standing around, they want to see and touch and become one, if you will, with these unique creatures that pull Santa’s sleigh.
Open now by appointment only due to COVID-19 protocols and mandates, the Reindeer Farm is at the height of its most popular (and busy) time: baby season. The gangly little ones that arrive out in the pastures at any time of the day or night, and weather, capture visitors’ hearts on sight. And why wouldn’t they? Their heads are so soft, their noses, so squishy, and in the case of Elsa, this year’s bottle baby, naps on your foot.
Tours take about an hour and include a bit of Reindeer 101 information in the historic barn before walking out to the corral where some of the herd are kept for visitors’ enjoyment. Be prepared to wash your hands several times, and to stay distant from each other, but you’ll still get the chance to feed and pat the deer as they nudge your hands for the pellets they know are coming. Reindeer Farm tours also include a visit with the elk, yaks, Dolly the bison and Rocky the moose, who came to the farm three years ago as a gangly little guy left motherless in a quarry on the Kenai Peninsula.
But it’s not just the tour that’s great; it’s the whole farm atmosphere. Linger after, and pat the pig or wander over to the horses (you can even take a pony ride or make plans for a guided trail ride after Memorial Day). Toss a ball for one of the dogs, and plan to have lunch at the new “Dasher Dawgs” hut, a nice addition to the team (yes, they serve reindeer sausage, among other things, but this is a farm, for heaven’s sake, and livestock provide food, don’t they?).
Admission ranges from $13 (military, Alaska resident, kids 3-11, seniors 65+) to $15 (everybody else). Kids two and under are free. ALSO — Mother’s Day is coming up, and moms get in FREE, so if this is your gift to a mother in your life, you better make reservations today. It’ll fill up fast with fewer people allowed in groups right now.
ALL tours must be booked and paid for online. Find the calendar and payment page HERE.
Wear clothing that can get muddy, wet, hairy, or slobbered-on. Allow about 45 minutes to drive from Anchorage. Masks are not required, but it is recommended that guests do, because that helps reduce the chance of COVID-19 spread in our community.
Enjoy, soak in the view, and make your day at the Reindeer Farm one to remember.