Seein’ Spots in Santa Ynez Valley

Posted on May 2 by SEASONS Magazine

Story by Nancy A. Shobe
Photos courtesy of Seein’ Spots Farm

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Nothing more fun than a donkey ride for two.

Grab the kids and head out for Seein’ Spots Farm, an idyllic farm located off picturesque Ballard Avenue near Ballard Inn. Sicilian miniature donkeys (no more than three feet tall) roam the farm along with Zeyore, the Zonkey (a zebra/donkey hybrid) and a petting zoo filled with more than 100 rescue animals including geese, pigs, goats, rabbits, ducks, tortoises, turtles, chickens and turkeys.

“We have just about every farm animal that you can think of,” says owner Linda Marchi, “including Zeyore. I found him in a petting zoo in Temecula.” Zeyore catches the looks of everyone with his striped cream-and-black leg socks.

Linda and her husband, Brett, a commercial architect, purchased Ballard Apple Farm in 2005 after they had a landslide on their property in San Juan Capistrano. It wasn’t long before miniature donkeys and a “herd” of rescue animals appeared. “My grandfather was an equine vet, and he loved these little donkeys. He couldn’t understand why they had such a crummy reputation. That’s how I got interested in them,” Linda says.

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Miniature donkeys usually measure between 18 and 22 inches when they’re born and can grow to be up to 36 inches tall.

“We also get new rescue animals almost every week,“ Linda continues. “They all have different stories. One of the most unusual stories was the day a rooster was thrown over our fence in a box. He had a broken leg, which we taped with ice cream sticks.” In addition to petting the animals, children age seven and under can also ride the miniature donkeys.

Linda—with her long blonde hair, Western dress and quiet, easy style—makes the perfect host for the schoolchildren and adults who visit the farm. She confesses that her favorite part of the day is when she shows little ones the animals or presents them to city kids who have never seen these kinds of animals before. “The kids get a thrill out of being able to ride the donkeys, and I let them brush them and feed them, too.” Photo opps abound.

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School field trips are very popular for the under-seven set.

During apple season, late August until November, an extra activity at Seein’ Spots Farm kicks in: apple picking from the farm’s 12 varieties, many of which are European heirloom. Small trees allow kids the chance to pick the apples for themselves.

“This farm is like my second career—it was always a dream of mine,” says Linda, who used to be an aesthetician nurse in a dermatology office. “People will tell me that they wish they could do this. I always tell them to try. It took me a long time to get here, but here I am. It’s wonderful.”

Seein’ Spots Farm, 2599 Baseline Ave., Ballard

Free, with a suggested donation box. Open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. or for school visits and special events by appointment.

This story was originally published in the Spring issue of Santa Barbara SEASONS Magazine.


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