Written by Abby Holmes
Hidden in the suburbs of St. Charles County, Missouri there is a historic treasure many residents aren’t aware of. From Highway N, Dickherber Farms might seem to be nothing more than an old farmhouse with rolling pastures. However, after visitors travel through the tunnel of trees lining the driveway, it becomes clear there is so much more to this quaint family farm.
When Dickherber Farms was established in 1890, it was a fully operational farm closed to the public. Now, over 100 years later, the farm has opened its doors to the community. Rita Dickherber and her husband Kim Bradsher, are the current owners of the farm. They found opening it to the public was an easy decision. After seeing neighborhood kids frolicking on the property for many years, they knew they wanted to welcome everyone in the community to learn about agriculture firsthand. The joy their visitors experienced after coming face-to-face with a cow for the first time and collecting their own farm-fresh eggs inspired the couple to expand their services to the community.
“We wanted to provide a more organized and educational farm experience,” Dickherber said. “Nobody knew where their milk or meat came from. They all thought it came from the grocery store.”
Dickherber and Bradsher pride themselves on making a visit to Dickherber Farms feel like a trip to grandma’s house. Since many children no longer have grandparents with farms, they feel that Dickherber Farms is “grandma’s house” for everyone in the community. Both Dickherber and Bradsher live and work on the farm, so they are always around to greet guests with a big smile. The farm showcases charming features such as a playground named “Fort Dickherber” and picnic tables surrounding a quaint pond. They believe the farm experience is important for the children who visit, as it teaches them valuable skills like cooking, building, gardening and animal handling. The farm grants kids the opportunity to interact with nature. The owners strive to make every visit a memorable one.
In 2008, the couple adopted goats, sheep, miniature donkeys and a miniature horse to add to the farm. 2008 was also the first year they hosted the annual Simply-A-Maizin’ Corn Maze, which has featured intricately designed shapes like spider webs, pumpkins, and beloved characters of the Charlie Brown cast. The maze also incorporates a puzzle with a new theme every year. Guests must find all of the letters hidden on posts in the maze and unscramble the special message to discover that years theme. Religion was always a driving force for Dickherber and Bradsher, so Bradsher looks for inspiration from his church when creating the secret message.
“In the end, we want to ensure that everyone that comes here leaves with a smile, knowing God is for them,” Bradsher explained.
Fall is the busiest time of the year for Dickherber Farms. Visitors can expect a thrilling exploration of the corn maze, hands-on encounters with a variety of farm animals, relaxing hay-rides and countless lifelong memories. One reason why Dickherber Farms is so memorable to guests is the free-range chickens and the goats. Unlike most petting zoos, there isn’t always a fence permitting visitors from cuddling up with an animal.
Danielle Brinker, a local mother who recently visited the farm, affirmed that her visit to Dickherber Farms was a very memorable day for her family.
“My son, Everett, had a blast at the farm,” Brinker said. “It was very kid-friendly. He loved seeing all of the animals and feeding them. We will be back next fall for sure!”
Dickherber Farms provides more than a one-day excursion. They also host Farm Camp every summer. Children spend one week as young farmers — learning about animal care, gardening and cooking. Young farmers have the opportunity to feed, groom and play with many of the farm’s animals including newborn kittens and baby goats. They tend the gardens, harvest fresh fruits and vegetables and bake them into delicious treats. At the end of the week, all of the families are invited for a picnic that showcases the hand made dishes. The children then show their families all they learned and introduce them to the furry friends they made.
The newest development at Dickherber Farms was implemented in the summer of 2018. Aimee Robertson, a local special-education teacher, hosted a three-day farm camp for special-needs children. The experience was transformative for the campers.
“Dickherber was incredible eager to accommodate the children we work with, and worked hard to adapt their camp to meet the needs of our kids.” Robertson said. “It was wonderful to give them a chance to just be with the animals and enjoy interacting with them.”
“They were so excited to connect with our animals,” Dickherber said. “The bonds they formed empowered the kids to communicate in ways that they had never done before. It was like they were finally able to open up and be themselves.”
Robertson felt that the camp was a useful reminder that people with different abilities have far more in common with others than they do differences.
“They all have talents, things that bring them joy, and a need for acceptance and inclusion.” Robertson said.
Dickherber and Bradsher both hope to include more programs for special needs children in the future.
Although Dickherber Farms offers an abundance of services, they are always looking to grow and improve. Currently they provide reservations for birthday parties, field trips, family reunions and weddings in their newly renovated wedding barn. They also offer farm-fresh eggs, beef and honey available by pick up. Attending Farm Camp, the Simply-A-Maizin’ Corn Maze and purchasing Dickherber Farms products are all ways to support this family-friendly attraction. Bradsher and Dickherber seemed excited for the changes to come.
“We want better everything,” Bradsher said. “We are always working to grow and improve our farm. The best is yet to come.”