Watch a video of Pittsfield Elementary School third-graders visiting the Spring Valley Trout Farm, just west of Dexter.
From AAPSNews Service
Say hello to Walter, if you can find him.
Families and students who visit Spring Valley Trout Farm look forward to spotting the behemoth 14-pound catfish that has become a legend at the family owned farm west of Dexter.
Third-graders in Melissa Jaeger’s and Kara Armstrong’s classes from Pittsfield Elementary School recently got the chance to search for Walter, as well as enjoying a day of fishing, learning about fish and the business of aquaculture while visiting the farm on a field trip.
Jaeger’s maternal grandparents (and parents to Haisley Elementary Principal Mary Anne Jaeger) bought the property and started the 20-acre farm when they discovered there was a natural spring on the property.
“My grandparents bought this property and found out they were on an aquifer. He learned as he went,” said Jaeger of her grandfather’s farming. She grew up coming to the farm and said she thought her students would also enjoy a day there.
It is still family owned and operated, with Jim Kaercher at the helm. Another AAPS connection: he is Mary Anne Jaeger’s brother and the husband of Pioneer High School math teacher Jeannie Kaercher.
“I was 10 when we opened,” he explained. “Everything here we brought in and created.”
Kaercher grew up working around the family fish farm and eventually got his degree in business. He said the spring-fed nature of the ponds puts them at the proper temperature for keeping the trout healthy and happy.
“You have to be part biologist, part environmentalist part businessman to be able to do it,” he added.
Spring Valley Trout Farm sells fish mostly to individual anglers, but does make one exception to the rule: They sell trout to Haab’s Restaurant in Ypsilanti, he said.
The farm caters not only to school groups like the Pittsfield classes, but is used for corporate team-building meetings and draws other groups including churches. Individuals and families also come out to catch fresh trout and catfish during the season.
Kaercher said his favorite part of the job involves the many families that visit. “I love working with the kids,” he said. “I’ve had college kids working for me who have loved the kids so much, they’ve gone into teaching,” he added.