Forget blowing things up or building a skyscraper.

Just point my son to the closest dairy farm.

A few times each summer, Mesa’s Superstition Farm operates farm camp for kids, where 90 percent of what they get to do isn’t typically open to the public.

Think milking a cow, holding a hen, petting a calf and collecting eggs from a chicken coop.

Yup, my nearly 10-year-old couldn’t get enough of it earlier this week when the Stechnij family invited us out for a little taste of what farm camp would be like.

To give you an idea of how little the kids and I know about dairy farms — or any farms with animals — this was the first question I heard when we drove up:

“Mom, what’s that white thing?”

My kids were pointing to a turkey.

Jason Crittenden, known as “Farmer Jason” to the kids, started farm camp as a way to draw in people during the summer. “Super Farm” holds tours and events year-round, but things slow as the temperatures rise.

Farmer Jason — who married into the family business — had found that people weren’t just dropping off their children to keep them busy. Most wanted their youngest family members to take a step back in time and learn about where their food comes from.

“Back in the ’50s, someone you knew was a farmer. If not, you were,” he said. “The people who come to my camp, they want their kids to experience that.”

I share those feelings. Many fond childhood memories are from visiting my grandparents’ farm in Indiana where they raised crops, not chickens.

Without those experiences, “most kids just think food comes from the grocery store,” Farmer Jason said.

Our first stop was the petting zoo, an area for rescued sheep, goats and more. After saying “hello” to the animals, and seeing my 7-year-old city girl was going to be a bit hesitant about all this, we walked over to the “chicken area.” There our feathered friends roamed around the grounds and took turns visiting the coop to lay eggs.

It took very little convincing to get my son, Tyler, in the chicken coop. The hen pecked at him, but after diving his hands under her, out they came with two eggs. The kids even got to meet — and hold — some chicks.

Since it was “$5 day” at the farm, other families started to show up for a hayride tour and a chance to feed the rescue animals and try the ice cream made there. Note: The chocolate with Nutella is out of this world.

Casey Stechnij took over our tour and we were off to see the main attraction at Superstition Farm: cows.

My daughter just about put the brakes on this part of our trip, but with some convincing, we got her over to the Holsteins who call Superstition Farm home.

During the hayride, we learned that about five calves are born there each day. A newborn was spotted trying to walk.

Casey took us in for a closer look, a much closer look.

He opened the gate and marched us right up to the animals to discover two calves, just a few hours old, one still wet from birth.

We got to pet the calves.

Yes, I was this giddy.

Our last stop was the dairy barn. At this point, my son asked question after question while my daughter hovered at the door.

“We get kids like that,” Farmer Jason had said earlier about my daughter’s hesitancy. “That’s typical of farm camp. Some kids are crying the first day, but by the last day because it’s over.”

One time, when a group of kids were asked if they wanted to go in for ice cream or play in the chicken area, they chose the latter.

“It blew me away,” Casey said.

After telling us that story, Farmer Jason shared some of the experiences the kids have had over the years at farm camp, from seeing a just-born foal and “fishing” in the troughs to hugging a bunny and learning that one of the hens weighs, “25 chicken nuggets.”

“Life’s only as good as the memories they make … Going outside, playing with sticks and rocks, milking a cow, bottle-feeding a calf — that’s something they’ll remember,” Casey said.

There in the dairy barn, Tyler and I both milked a cow.

How many of his classmates are going to be able to say that come August?

Michelle Reese covers education for the Tribune and blogs about motherhood and family issues at her at (480) 898-6549 or

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