East Mesa farm welcomes the public - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

East Mesa farm welcomes the public

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Posted: Thursday, March 1, 2007 5:16 am | Updated: 7:36 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

When Dugan’s Dairy Farm in Chandler closed its public tours last year, Casey Stechnij decided to fill the gap and open his family dairy farm to the public.

SuperstitionFarm.com in southeast Mesa opened in November to public tours, school field trips and community events. Stechnij wants to provide a fun place for families to see what a working dairy farm is all about.

“So many people don’t understand what it takes to get a gallon of milk,” said Stechnij, 35, who grew up working on the farm and graduated from Gilbert High School. “People are interested, but there’s no outlet.”

The farm’s 55 acres boast more than 1,000 cows, a horse named Lover and old Redbone, the farm dog. There are four goats (Cookie, Brownie, Cupcake and Carmichael), three rabbits and several chickens and ducks to round out the small petting zoo.

“The eggs are a bigger hit than the chickens,” said Stechnij’s sister, Alison, 32, who lives in Scottsdale and works at the farm. “One little girl even cried because she couldn’t take an egg home with her.

Visitors can take a hay-wagon ride through the farm, ask any cow- or farm-related question and try some flavored milk (the chocolate and cherry milk is yummy). A 2,400-squarefoot barn is also available for presentations, workshops, parties and art shows.

“I show them everything,” he said. “I’m proud of what my industry does.”

The farm is a family affair. The Stechnijs are fourth-generation Arizonans and third-generation dairy farmers. Casey Stechnij still works on the farm, with his parents, Glenda and Hector “Hec” Stechnij, and his sister. Nine employees also work on the farm.

The idea to open the farm to the public was a gradual decision for the family. As more visitors stopped on Hawes Road to look at the calves — a daily occurrence at the farm — Casey Stechnij thought he’d start with an open-door policy. He would introduce himself to the visitors and hand out coloring books to the kids. He wanted to be a good neighbor.

“We don’t want to move to Coolidge” where many local dairy farms have moved, he said. “We like it here in Mesa.”

He invited the community to an open house in November 2005 to show what his farm is all about. He borrowed a hay wagon from Richard Dugan, owner of Dugan’s Dairy, and anticipated 500 people would come out. The day far exceeded his expectations when 2,000 visitors walked through his farm.

Dugan also came out and said he was going to close his farm. Dugan said he was just too tired to keep up with the tours after suffering a brain injury in a 1997 car crash.

Before Dugan’s farm closed to the public, Stechnij took the Dugan tour, talked to kids and adults who came out to the Dugan farm, and listened to employees to find out what worked, and what didn’t.

The first public venture for SuperstitionFarm.com was a Friday on the Farm event in November.

About 4,000 people showed up to take a hay ride around the farm, learn all about cows and experience a day in the life of a working dairy farm.

The farm also had a “Moosic” Festival last month with a half-dozen local bands and arts and crafts booths. The charity event netted $4,500 for Sunshine Acres Children’s Home in Mesa.

Besides the tours, Alison Stechnij is using her experience as an Urban Outfitters merchandiser to run a farm gift store called My Dairy Aire, selling SuperstitionFarm.com T-shirts, farm toys and snacks. She plans to move into a larger building this summer and add local art and produce for sale.

A Desert Open Space Garden is also planned for an April 28 (Arbor Day) opening with a tortoise habitat, organic vegetable garden, composting demonstrations, healing garden and cactus exhibits.

SuperstitionFarm.com

Where: 3442 S. Hawes Road (near Elliot Road), Mesa

Hours: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays (closed this Saturday) and by appointment

Information: (480) 986-7781 or www.superstitionfarm.com

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