EAST MANATEE -- It was hard to tell who was more excited Wednesday at Parker's Porkers.
Was it Callie Parker, owner of the 45-acre farm off Waterline Road? Or was it an amped-up group of 3-year-olds from Lakewood Ranch High School's Mini-Mustangs pre-school program?
Parker, a 2002 Lakewood Ranch High School grad and rural letter carrier, has worked and invested eight years in getting Parker's Porkers ready as a back-to-the farm experience for city slickers.
She was delighted to show the children how to call and feed 2,000-pound cows, giant hogs and chickens.
So, how do you call cows to come eat?
"Come on, girls," is what they holler at Parker's Porkers.
And a bunch of kids earnestly did just that, over, and over again.
A herd of cattle in the pasture stopped grazing, picked up their heads and ambled to the fence, where the children had treats for them.
Some of the kids were just a little taken aback by the size of the cattle, and their rough tongues that wrangled the treats.
The children were just as thrilled by the opportunity
to feed smaller critters, such as chickens, which they summoned with a call of "chick, chick, chick."
"Do they bite?" the children asked.
"No, they don't have teeth so they don't bite, but they may peck," Parker said.
The children were a little more wary of the big porkers, which were released to root of acorns or take a mud wallow in a pond.
But the hogs were agreeable to a good back scratch and would stretch out on the ground to make it easier for the children to reach them.
Parker invited the children back in July when Parker's Porkers is expecting the arrival of 60 piglets. Many of the piglets will become show pigs for FFA and 4-H members.
The children also got their hands dirty planting radishes and watermelon, and a pot of wildflowers for their teachers, Stacey McKeon.
"Isn't it amazing that this tiny little seed would grow a 20-pound watermelon?" one of the moms who accompanied the group marveled.
What did the kids most enjoy?
Ellie Blank said she liked feeding the pigs, while Mia Caragiulo said she like the chickens best.
Parker said she is reaching out to elementary schools, preschools and others.
"I am overwhelmed and happy that the children came out today," Parker said.
For more information about Parker's Porkers, call 941-526-9611 or visit http://parkersporkers.com/.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be reached at 941-745-7021 or tweet @jajones1.