Northfork Farms, a Space for Kids to Explore the West

. March 31, 2016.
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Northfork Farms and Outback in Webberville is a family-focused farm where kids can breathe in the fresh country air, spend time with exceptional horses and highly skilled instructors and learn the ins-and-outs of horseback riding in Wild West inspired surroundings. 

Christie Showerman, Northfork Farms owner, recalls the farm’s humble beginnings – “This was my dream, horses, like every little girl.”

Northfork beginnings

Showerman started Northfork in 1985, offering riding instruction to the community. In 2000, Showerman began the summer camp, providing additional opportunity for kids to learn how to ride horses, “properly, with safety in mind.” Northfork continued to evolve and grow, expanding to make the experience more enriching for kids. “We had about five acres we weren’t using,” said Showerman. “I thought the kids should go for a grand finale – a trail ride.” Creating wood silhouettes of cowboys, teepees and animals, brought the Wild West to life. The 1800s Wild West Adventure, a popular field trip destination for area schools, has since grown into three separate experiences.

Wild Wild West

The Wild West Adventure blends history, hands-on learning and a lot of fun to create a memorable experience for kids. When groups visit the Native American Village, a wagon transports them to the site where they enjoy an authentic Native American obstacle course, a nature walk, archery and storytelling. In the 1800’s Old West Town, kids explore a Lewis and Clark exhibit, pan for gold, and walk through the town, where they’ll see a jail, saloon, and blacksmith shop. Across town there’s the homestead where kids can churn butter and learn about farming. In the Old West Texas adventure, horseback riding, milking and roping are a few of the cowboy-inspired activities for kids. 

Mary-Beth Glover, a Webberville kindergarten teacher, has been bringing her students to the 1800s Wild West Adventure since 2010, and has been impressed by the program’s ability to infuse engaging education and fun hands-on experiences. 

“Hands-on activities enhance the tour,” said Glover. “Tour guides use them to illustrate the differences between the way we do things now  and how things were done long ago.” 

Northfork staff emphasizes safety — field trips are scheduled for only one group at a time. Kara Grupe, Northfork Activities Director, explains, “This model allows the farm to adjust to the needs of each group, as well as to provide parents and teachers with the assurance that their kids are in a safe environment.”

Lifetime passion

Grupe grew up riding horses. An accomplished rider and instructor, she exudes a passion for sharing her love of horses with children and families. 

“I grew up here in Ann Arbor and I was the only ‘horse kid’ in my family. I really learned a lot from other people and was grateful for that,” said Grupe. “I enjoy my job here and I have the opportunity to teach kids and give back in that way.” 

Northfork staff pride themselves on being family-oriented, creating a warm, welcoming atmosphere for their riders with a heated arena, a waiting area with popcorn to snack on and a petting zoo where riders can visit the animals before or after lessons. One parent, Taylor Fabus, who now works as a professor and extension agent in the MSU Equine Department, rode with Showerman when she was younger, and now brings her 4-year-old daughter for lessons at Northfork. 

“Each week, our entire family looks forward to our time at the farm and we’ve yet to miss a lesson,” said Fabus. “As an equine industry, we’re lucky to have a place like Northfork to share the love of horses with the public. Whether you’ve never touched a horse, or you’re looking to be competitive in the show arena, they offer something for everyone.”

Summer Camps

Summer camps offered at Northfork provide a more intensive riding experience blended with traditional camp staples, like spending time with friends, doing crafts and taking advantage of Northfork’s beautiful property. Kids learn about caring for horses with playful activities often centering around the horses. “There are opportunities to do things that are fun like games on horseback,” Grupe explained. “We have a waterway, a grooming contest to see who can make their horse the most beautiful; things that anyone who loves horses would enjoy.”

All of the fun experiences Northfork has to offer wouldn’t be possible without the horses. “Within the horse industry we call it a quarter-horse farm. They (the horses) are all very patient, gentle, [and] they’re willing to learn with you,” said Grupe. “My favorite is a little pony that we have, Betty. She’s not very tall, but she’s great for little kids that are learning – the perfect size for them. You just want to give her a hug, she’s so cute!” 

 

For more information on the programs offered at
Northfork Farms & Outback
visit northforkoutback.com or call 517-881-9142.