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Kia Ora Mini Farm

I live in Gorey, and I keep loving it for the great quality of life here and for the excellent leisure, artistic, dining and sporting facilities for young and old which we have at our doorsteps.

There is one great inter-generational venue just outside town which I love. This is Kia Ora mini farm.

From the moment you cross the threshold there is a genuine céad míle fáilte for all visitors from The O Donohoe family and staff.

The name says it all for me. Kia ora comes from the indigenous Maori language ‘te reo’. It is used throughout New Zealand to say Hello, express gratitude, send love or to make a connection.

This name was suggested to Maura O Donohoe by a New Zealand cousin when she opened part of the farm in July 1991. This was a small development. At that stage Maura was running a very successful B/B having been farming there since 1981 and, as she says reared three chaps there.

Her husband Paddy was well drilling at the same time, and I don’t think anyone thought Maura’s daft idea then could turn out to be the great success it is today.

They did not take Maura’s absolute dedication, enthusiasm, and drive for the new initiative into account. I remember going there in the early days with school tours at Christmas and Maura was always out to welcome each group personally. She had the best Christmas cake and teas for tour organisers. It was always a very welcoming venue.

Kia Ora was ahead of the posse with Santa tours. They started in 1992 and Santa’s cave was made from straw bales. It was so nice; it was genuine, and Santa gave children nice presents. They were never rushed. Some of those children are now bringing their own children back to visit.

Kia Ora has come a long way since then. I just love their collection of birds and animals as well as a diverse array of play areas from go carts, to slides to crazy football and a wonderful maze.

I also noticed that every place and every activity inside is wheelchair accessible. even their crazy football area.

For myself I find I learned so much from my visit there. Their display boards are all at eye level. `They are very colourful and contain lots of information about the bird or animal you are viewing at that juncture.

When I entered Kia Ora, I was immediately in awe of the lovely child friendly mushroom stools situated in the outdoor eating area with lots of kiddie’s tractors and toys accessible for playing with. I just loved the adjoining small party room with the ornate throne at the top for the party person. There is also a bigger party room available.

Now as I re-join the path outside, I see silver pheasants from Southeast Asia and Golden pheasants from Western China. There were guinea fowl from Africa. This species has been in existence since the 5th century.

Next, I meet Lady Amherst Pheasant which was first brought to London in 1828. Her offspring in KIA Ora looked well.

Now I view the Black Swan which was first seen in Shark Bay Western Australia in 1636.I remember since my visits to Perth in WA that the Black Swan is the emblem of Perth.

I met Call ducks and Peafowl which is the proper name for peacocks and pea hens.

Now we take a break from fowl as we pass the exercise area looking at real live diggers which children can safely use. I would really love to try these out myself. Podge, who took over the running of the place in 2005 told me that they are looking around for more of these diggers because of their popularity.

I loved their pedal go cart area with family carts, two seaters and one seater and a big track to pedal them around on.

Their maze is very nice, and I loved their idea that it is all transparent and you can follow your children as they wind their way through it.

You can try their crazy football while keeping an eye on the water buffalo as you walk by. There certainly is a huge array of birds and animals here in Kia Ora.

I really liked the Alpacas and Llamas from South America and the miniature Argentine Falabella horses were a delight to watch.

There were potbellied pigs from Vietnam, Red deer, and Sika deer. Emus came from Australia while Switzerland was represented by the Valais Blacknose Sheep. They also have Jacob sheep which are very ornamental, if that is the right word for sheepish looking.

Kerry was there too with the Kerry cow, one of the oldest cattle breeds in the world while Scotland had the Belted Galloway cow and The Scottish Highland cow bred for its beef rather than good looks.

Inside there was the petting area for breeds of rabbits. I also saw chinchillas.

The birdy section was twittering away to the sounds of colourful Macaws, green cheeked and rose-ringed parakeets. We had cockatiels, zebra finches, barn owls, budgerigars. There certainly was a great cacophony of birdie song.

Also on display here was the ever-popular milking cow in all her pristine artificial glory.

There was also great banter in the hen’s department, with fresh free-range eggs the order of the day. We had Buff Orpington, Polish, Silkie and Pekin Bantam. There were also Columbian Brahma from the USA. We only had Rhode Island Reds in our hen run at home in the fifties and we thought we were doing well.

For good measure they had bronzed turkeys, Sebastopol and Shetland geese and many breeds of ducks were happily quacking away in their spacious ponds.

I was just overwhelmed by the huge range of facilities here. They also have their own fire engine for tours around but have been unable to use it for two years due to Covid restrictions.

Some other activities were also constrained by Covid for the past two years and it will be lovely to see this hard-working local enterprise get up and fully running again.

It must be one of the most wonderful venues for children’s’ birthday parties, for family treats and special events like first communions. They have an indoor 65-seater restaurant.

Their Christmas season has always been a big special event and it will be great to see it up and running fully again in 2022 as it moves on to the next 30 years.

Kia ora is a fitting monument to Maura O Donohoe whose vision, dedication, and hard work got it to where it is today. It is also wonderful to see the next generation of her son Podge and family not only keeping it going but developing and improving it.

If you have not been there already, put Kia Ora on your must visit list for 2023.You will be richly rewarded with a great day out.

Michael O Callaghan

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