By John Toole
---- — DERRY — There’s a little of Noah’s Ark at J&F Farms.
Two llamas, two ponies, two sheep call the “petting farm” home.
The llamas are brothers, Mochie and Majik.
The ponies are brothers, too, Bo and Luke.
The sheep are twins, brother and sister Shrek and Fiona.
With Fireworks the calf and a few chickens, they make up the petting farm at J&F.
“It’s called a petting farm because we have farm animals, not zoo animals,” founder Melissa Dolloff said.
It’s one of the 603 Reasons people say New Hampshire is special.
“That’s pretty awesome, for sure,” Dolloff said, upon learning Granite Staters find the petting farm so special.
She was an 11-year-old girl when she asked her father, farmer Phil Ferdinando, for permission to start the petting farm.
“He said it was fine, so long as I was going to take care of the animals,” Dolloff recalled.
She didn’t mind. Caring for the animals was something she already was doing.
Dolloff turns 30 next month. So the petting farm is heading into its 19th year.
There was minimal interest when Dolloff started the petting farm.
“We never made a big deal about it,” she said.
But when she took over the farmstand a few years ago that changed.
“I really started pushing the free petting farm,” Dolloff said.
“On an average weekend, I’d say we have 1,500 adults and kids go through,” she said.
J&F upgraded the operation after Hurricane Sandy blew down the shed last year.
This year, there is a new 16-by-60-foot barn.
“They can run in and out of it,” Dolloff said of the animals.
The animals are friendly, despite the disclaimer on the J&F website.
“Please never leave your children unattended and remember any animal can bite,” it warns.
Dolloff believes the calf, Fireworks, is the best with people.
“He’s the most gentle of all of them. He’s easygoing,” she said.
People seem most interested in the llamas, but usually go up to the ponies or sheep first, depending on their age.
Little kids may find the ponies a bit intimidating because of their size, she said.
Her favorites are those llamas.
“They are hard to get to know, but once you win them over, they are very loyal,” Dolloff said.
A popular attraction is no longer in the stable.
Her pony, Chocolate, died six years ago.
“That was the famous pony people came to visit,” she said.
Dolloff is a mom now, her son, Mason, 6, and daughter, Audrey, 3, enjoy the petting farm.
“What I think people like most is that it’s relaxed, easygoing, doesn’t cost anything and it’s fun to take their kids to,” she said.
The only expense is $1 if someone wants to buy a cup of grain to feed the animals.
Dolloff expects what makes J&F special to Granite Staters will remain unchanged.
“I think the size is what it will always stay at,” she said. “It’s manageable for what we have now.”
The petting farm will remain open until just before Christmas.