How one woman finds perspective amid chickens and kids.
t's cold, and the snow is starting
to fall, swirling and spinning in a
dizzy dance. The trees are bare,
their arms dry and thin.
A clean smell holds the air; but it's
heavy, too, with the scent of pigs and
cows and goats, maybe a bit of
machine oil, and damp hay. There's a
lot of squawking and honking.
After a storm, both the running
water and electricity are down.
"Welcome," Carol Fink says, "to the
best place in the world."
For the past 12 years, Fink has
served as a farm interpreter at the
Kensington Metropark Farm Learning
Center. Her focus is animal care and
education, which means she does
everything from feeding the goats to
leading children on tours. It's a job she
adores, day after day.
"I love it as much today as I did
when I first started working here,"
Her life started out in Detroit,
nowhere near any farms or sign of
farm life. ("We had a parakeet and a
chihuahua," she says. "That was my
experience with animals.").
Fink received a master's degree in
speech therapy, married, and worked as
a speech therapist. Then while in
Maine, where her husband served a
medical residency, she lived on a farm
and fell in love with the life there.
It wasn't until many years later,
though, that Fink was able to secure
work at a farm — specifically
Kensington's Farm Learning Center.
She had gone there numerous times,
and finally heard about a job opening;
it was just what she wanted.
Fink's day at the Farm Learning
Center is never the same. It might start
out with repairing a fence, or gathering
eggs, or doing a bit of cleaning up,
which is how today began.
The best part always
involves baby animals,
Jerry is a calf,
comedian Jerry Seinfeld, and he's hun-
gry. When Fink arrives with a bottle,
Jerry is jumping about, rubbing against
Fink's legs. He's a Holstein, and when
you touch him he feels soft and warm,
like a thick winter blanket.
Several families with small children
are visiting today, and Fink invites
them to pet and feed Jerry, slurping
away at the bottle.
Fink holds him close, but he still
bumps around a lot. She laughs: "You
do come home with unexplained
Another part of the job involves tak-
ing school children, most of them pre-
school and early elementary age,
around the farm. More than 450,000
adults and children visit each year,
Children invariably ask the animals'
names (there are a number called Rose,
including a mild-mannered chicken, a
pig and a goat; Fancy Pants, another
goat; and new mother Piggy Sue,
among others) and what food they eat.
Fink's focus is teaching the children
"how we take care of the animals and
how they take care of us."
She adds, "It's so important that
children learn where their food
Eggs don't just walk into the grocery
store. For them to get there, Fink
explains, someone has to grow feed for
the chickens. Then someone must
gather the feed and get it to the chick-
Someone has to care for the chickens
and see to their daily life. All this
before a single egg is hatched.
"I'm passionate about it — about
the whole connection, our connection
to the Earth."
Fink has no children of her own,
and she has become attached to the
animals at Kensington's Farm Learning
Center — and not just Jerry the cow,
with whom it's fairly easy to fall in
Fink is crazy about the nervous-
Nelly geese, too, sitting in their feath-
er-filled pond and constantly honking.
"They're our alarm system," she
says. "They squawk whenever strangers
She really likes the chickens, loves
them, even — and will pick one up
("You've got to see a chicken up close")
for visitors to