- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 3, 2001

Children can catch a firsthand glimpse of a variety of animals in an outdoor setting at Old Maryland Farm in Watkins Regional Park in Upper Marlboro. The farm was once a tobacco farm but now is an educational petting zoo.

Tamara Mance of the Largo area was visiting the farm recently with her 6-year-old daughter Kia and Kia's classmates Korey, 5, and Kerry, 4.

"I was 17 when my sister and I first came to the farm," she says.

She has been back many times since and now brings her daughter to the farm. The children were busy feeding the rabbits and watching how quickly they nibbled the carrots thrown into their hutch. There were brown wild rabbits as well as domestic rabbits.

Larry Duley, the farm's maintenance leader, says the farm has 75 animals. In addition to the pen full of rabbits, the farm has a variety of chickens, peafowl, pigs, turkeys, geese, ducks, sheep, llamas, goats, a donkey, ponies and a steer.

Peafowl are ornamental birds with beautiful plumage that are native to India. Unlike domestic chickens, which live five years, peafowl have a life span of 30 years, as do geese.

On a recent visit, Mr. Duley was feeding the farm animals. There were Ronnie and Joline, two of the sheep that share a pen with Buffy and Fran, the farm's two llamas. Brown-and-white Buffy is the dominant of the pair. While she immediately went to the feed bucket to eat, Fran stood patiently, waiting her turn.

This behavior was prevalent throughout the feeding process. Of the farm's three ponies Frankie, Love Bug and Maxine Frankie is dominant. One of the two male wild turkeys also was clearly dominant.

Mr. Duley says there most often is a dominant animal that intimidates the other animals. Of course, there always is an exception to the rule, and, in this case, it is not an exception to the stated rule of dominance if Junior is dominant. Junior is the farm's 1,600-pound steer. Nobody messes with him.

Prince George is the farm's only peacock. He likes to strut and show off his colorful feathers.

In addition to the chance to feed the animals, the farm offers youngsters an opportunity to ride the ponies, take a hayride, see livestock cared for and participate in nature studies in the barn.

Old Maryland Farm is open year-round. It also offers programs for students in kindergarten through fifth grade. For a special birthday, the farm offers hayride parties and pony-ride parties on weekends.

When visiting the farm, be sure to take advantage of all the activities Watkins Regional Park has to offer. With more than 850 acres, the park is a playground of recreational activities. It has hiking and biking trails, outdoor basketball courts, indoor and outdoor tennis courts, campsites and campgrounds, picnic areas, playgrounds and volleyball courts.

For summer fun, the park will open a miniature golf course Memorial Day weekend. A miniature train a replica 1863 C.P. Huntington locomotive with three coaches winds through the woods and around the farm and provides a fun way to see the park. Last, but not least, an antique carousel constructed at the turn of the century by Gustav Dentzel provides a nostalgic ride for the young and young at heart. The carousel operated at Chesapeake Beach, Md., until 1972. It was brought to the park in 1977 and restored in 1985.

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