By Kelli Ameling and Cory Smith
STANTON — Each year, Marcia Moore of Alma schedules a visit to Anderson & Girls Orchards and Gifts because of the excitement her grandchildren experience while visiting the establishment.
Moore said for the past four years, she has made the trip with her grandchildren Shalynnda, 13, and Seth, 8, both of West Branch, as it is their favorite place to visit with animals.
“They absolutely love it here,” she said. “Last year, I asked them if they wanted to go to Potter Park Zoo in Lansing or come here, and they chose here. They want to come to Anderson’s so they can actually touch the animals. We also love to see whatever is new.”
Also for Moore, it’s a special time to spend with her family, as Seth is autistic and the environment at Anderson & Girls helps make his visit fun.
“This is a really good experience for him,” Moore said. “He gets engaged by touching things and pulling the ropes to feed the animals. It takes him out of his comfort zone a little bit, which is good for him.”
From animals to orchards to a cider mill and family events, Anderson & Girls Orchards and Gifts, offers a variety of fun activities to engage any person.
The business, which is located at 2985 N. Sheridan in Stanton, started as a smaller orchard and recently developed into the attraction that it is today.
Terry and Gwen Anderson purchased the orchard in 1978 that sat on 125 acres of farm land. Today, the company is farming 200 acres of peaches, apples, cucumbers for pickles and more.
In 2000, Terry and Gwen decided to add goats to the facility to give children and adults the opportunity to feed and pet them.
“It doubled our business the first year,” Terry said, noting people were excited to interact with the goats.
After a couple of years, the business decided to expand to add reindeer, a camel and zebra, which drew more people to the business.
“It’s fun for me, too,” Terry said of why decided to add the unique animals to his business.
In order to have animals, Terry explained he had to get licenses from the USDA, which also makes visits multiple times a year to make sure the animals are being treated properly.
Today, Anderson & Girls has expanded to include foxes, kangaroos, Patagonian cavy, wallabies and much more.
General Manager Amy Laper, Terry and Gwen’s daughter, said it is normal for the family to have to bottle feed some of the babies and raise them inside the Anderson home before they are old enough to go outside. Most recently, the family did this with a new baby wallaby.
It’s also very common to see a member of the staff with one of the animals out of the pen to give visitors and opportunity to pet them.
To keep a unique variety of animals over the years, Terry said he has built networking relationships with businesses like Lolli Bros. out of Missouri and Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park in Michigan where he is able to buy and trade animals.
Laper said also through the networking they have built, the family is able to ask questions and stay knowledgable about the animals they take care of. In case of a medical issue with the animals, she said the family is able to use veterinarians from Michigan State University, or, for the bigger animals, from Ohio State University.
Throughout the summer, the animals stay at the orchard as their homes are built accordingly to keep them warm.
“These animals are like my dad’s dogs,” Laper said of how much her father cares for the animals at the orchard. “They are like family.”
New animals are always coming to the orchard. This month, a new prairie dog exhibit will be in place with windows for children to watch them in action.
“This is better than a zoo,” Ken Fedewa of Charlotte said.
Fedewa said he brings his family to Anderson & Girls Orchards and Gifts because of the uniqueness the company has to offer.
“Some of the animals you don’t see in a zoo,” he said.
Not only are there new animal exhibits, but new events are always taking place at the farm as well.
Starting this week, there will be a Meet and Greet event from 1 to 4 p.m. every Wednesday and Friday throughout the rest of the season, which ends in December.
Visitors will get the chance to experience up close interactions with the animal during that time.
Starting today, Anderson’s is holding its strawberry fest that will run from 10 a.m. to r4 p.m. now through Sunday.
Families will get to enjoy strawberry desserts, wagon rides and have fun picking their own strawberries.
“It’s a time for family to come together — for family to enjoy each other,” Laper said.
Also on Saturdays, for $1, visitors can purchase a feeding stick to feed the parakeets, among other birds in the bird room.
During the fall, the business’s busiest season, multiple events are held such as pig races, gourd and apple picking and more.
One highlight, of many, this fall, is camel rides, which will take place at the orchard.
New this year, is a summer camp where children will get to take advantage of the kid’s town, pony rides and other animals.
Anderson’s also has a bakery, cider mill, gift shop and The Sweet Shoppe where visitors can purchase gifs of all kinds, souvenirs, goodies, ice cream and lunch.
Anderson & Girls Orchards and Gifts animal exhibits are free for the public to come and see. All funding is generated from the quarter machines for feed and through the gift shop, bakery and The Sweet Shoppe.
It is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. April through December.
“I love seeing the people enjoying it,” Laper said. “(Anderson & Girls) is my life.”
For more information, call (989) 831-4228, or Anderson & Girls Orchards can be found on Facebook.