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Barnyard Delights in the City

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Wide-eyed with wonder, 2 1/2-year-old Ka’iulani Croxton-Torres held out a carrot to a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig three times her size.

“Look, Mommy!” she squealed with delight as the animal ate the carrot and then sniffed around for more.

Mother and daughter were visiting the Jones Family Mini Farm, a South County barnyard with horses, rabbits, ducks and goats tucked away in the middle of the area’s urban sprawl. Children can take $2 pony rides or feed and pet the other animals for free.

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“We live in such a modern-day society, we’re out of touch with animals and nature and the way that life used to be,” said Karena Croxton-Torres, Ka’iulani’s mother and a resident of Dana Point. “It’s so important to have something like this here for the kids.”

Nestled in the Los Rios Historic District, the farm covers 1 1/2 acres of land that was once part of a 2,500-acre Mexican rancho. The barn, built in 1895, is one of the city’s few historic buildings and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1981.

From fluffy Angora bunnies to huge Belgian draft horses, the mini-farm is a menagerie “where kids can be kids and where they can get away from things like video games,” said Sheree Ito, a San Juan Capistrano mother of six.

The entire Jones family pitches in to keep the farm running. Gil Jones, who is a member of the San Juan Capistrano City Council, gets help from his 11-year-old granddaughter, Jessica Baldridge, with daily chores such as cleaning the stables and feeding the animals.

The family relies on donations to keep the farm running.

“We feel some people wouldn’t be able to afford coming down to the farm if we charged admission,” said Millie Jones, Gil’s wife. “It’s a labor of love.”

The farm, at 31791 Los Rios St. across from the Amtrak depot, is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Information: (714) 831-6550.

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