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Farmington Hills

Farmington Hills' Heritage Park partners with nearby Tollgate Farm

Agricultural lessons, farm animal interactions to be gained from MSU extension

May 6, 2013

» click to enlarge «
From left, Carol Fink, of the Farmington Hills Nature Center; South Lyon resident Claudia Payus, of the Michigan State University Extension Tollgate Farm; Kitty Ostach and Todd Lipa, both of Farmington Hills Youth and Family Services; and Alan Jaros, of Tollgate Farm, stand together April 26 at Tollgate Farm in Novi with, from left, newborn goats Katie May, Bo and Lucille, as well as a baby bull calf.

NOVI/FARMINGTON HILLS — Southern Oakland County is not currently known for its farmland, but at one point it was.

The 210-acre Heritage Park in Farmington Hills and 160-acre Tollgate Farm, a Michigan State University Extension in Novi, are both remnants of a time past, back when both resided in what was previously known as Farmington Township. And now they’re partnering to provide fun and educational programming.

“We sort of met by chance,” said Carol Fink, Farmington Hills Nature Center programmer. “Heritage Park used to be a beautiful homestead with a working farm. Our philosophies and our goals are the same about teaching sustainability and stewardship. (Tollgate) is a beautiful, rural, working farm right in a working community.”

Fink and Alan Jaros, educational coordinator at Tollgate Farm, are working on a variety of mutually beneficial programs for the two venues, starting with a camp exchange service in which Farmington Hills Youth and Family Services after-school middle and early high school students will participate in a July camp where they will be bused over to Tollgate Farm for some educational programming.

“Not only will the kids be learning about the agriculture, but also about the animals,” Fink said. “It’s new and exciting, and there’s no limit to what we can do between the two cities.”

Fink said that although Heritage Park and the Nature Center have a watershed and wooded wildlife, Tollgate Farm has agricultural lessons and farm animals for the students to interact with and learn about. Three baby goats, a bull calf and several chicks were recently born at the farm.

“Carol approached me and said, ‘This is an asset in Novi that we’d like to tap into,’” Jaros said. “We do our own summer camp programs that fill up quickly. It’s a good opportunity. At the price point we have, there aren’t many farm camps. It’s educational.”

Jaros said Tollgate’s five-week summer camps for elementary and early middle school students, which have no residency requirements, run from the last week of June until mid-August. Tollgate also has a 4H Club that will now go to Heritage Park for educational programming and also will grow and harvest food to sell at the Farmington Farmers Market.

Among the educational programming for Farmington Hills visiting students will be a chance to grow and harvest herbs and vegetables to sell to visitors at Tollgate Farm, as opposed to the farmers market.

For more information on programming at each venue, visit and

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