"Kids love the parties," said Ben Jensen, owner of a local
ranch-hand service, who came on board with Placiotis in 2006. "I teach the
children something about every animal when I'm out at a party," he said.
"When we are hired for city kids who haven't been exposed to farm animals,"
said Placiotis, "they are terrified at first."
She said the children warm up as soon as they realize how tame the pets are."
These kids are experiencing a little bit of farm," she said, "and farms are a
disappearing style of life."
Placiotis offers standard zoo packages for birthday parties for $250. The fee
includes 15 petting animals and a pony ride. She brings an attendant
who carries a hand sanitizer for the petting ring and also requires
clients to provide access to soap and warm water.
"You can't leave the petting ring without slathering your
hands with sanitizer," she said. "We've never yet had a problem
with anyone getting ill from our parties."
Her business is licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and also is also
Placiotis is committed to the rural lifestyle and the animals she has grown to love.
She comes to her choice naturally.
Born to immigrant Greek parents, she grew up near 90 acres of family land,
where her father boarded horses and raised small numbers of turkeys,
goats and chickens. She also spent summers in Greece with her
grandparents, who had goats, sheep and chicken on their land.
"I knew I'd live on a farm," she said, envisioning life as an adult.
"It would be either my family's farm or one of my own.
"Placiotis purchased a small farm property in New Jersey in 1988.
But in 1991 followed her parents to Tarpon Springs when they retired.
The Gulf of Mexico, she found, was no subsitute for farmland.
"Everyday I'd go searching for land to start my farm," she said.
After a series of smaller purchases, Placiotis settled in the Keystone
area of Odessa, and doesn't plan to leave her dream farm.
"I can be a stay at home mom, earn a little money and also do
something for the community. Who could ask for more?"
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