RIDGEWAY, Va. – From helping kids feed baby goats with bottled milk to watching nursing home residents kiss alpacas, it’s never a dull day at work for Laura Steere.
Featuring more than 40 different animal species on its 60 acres of land, the Infinity Acres Ranch is a cherished tourist attraction in Henry County.
But it’s not just any ordinary petting zoo, the ranch strives to offer an interactive learning experience to individuals of all ages and backgrounds through guided tours and a myriad of programs.
Steere and her husband, Richard, founded the ranch in 2007, and five years later, it officially became a nonprofit.
Its formation was inspired by their son, Michael, who has disabilities. When they realized the lack of programs in the area that accommodate adults with disabilities, they knew there needed to be a change.
“Adults with disabilities fill a huge spot in our hearts. We want everyone who comes here to feel safe and feel loved and that includes the people and animals,” said Steere.
Due to this, the ranch is currently working with Ms. Wheelchair Virginia with the intention of increasing accessibility across the property.
As for its name? Steere said it was inspired by their wedding rings, which have the infinity symbol designed on them. The couple has been married for 28 years and wanted the ranch to serve as a safe haven where people could feel loved and welcomed into what she calls, “the Infinity family,” with open arms.
Not only does Steere want visitors to feel welcomed at the ranch, she also wants them to leave having learned something new. She takes pride in the plethora of educational programs the ranch has to offer, which include:
- ENABLE: A new Virginia licensed day service program offering educational activities, which include animal husbandry and agricultural experiences, to individuals with disabilities
- Educational, guided tours: Reservations are required for tours, which include information about animals, their unique contributions to the habitat and lessons on the importance of conservation, preservation and recycling. Group tours are available to schools for field trips, churches, organizations and other large groups.
- Animal Adventure Summer Camp: During the summer, there are camp sessions offered to children where they’ll have the opportunity to learn more about the environment, make friends and participate in crafts and activities.
- Mobile exhibits: If you see the Infinity Acres Ranch at the Henry County Fair, don’t be surprised! They often travel to local festivals, churches and carnivals to help the community learn more about its exotic animals.
- Alpaca/Llama 4-H Club: The group competes three times a year, performs community service and learns animal handling skills, among a wide number of activities. Soon, they’ll be traveling to Massachusetts to compete in the Big E, which is also known as ‘New England’s Great State Fair.’
- Community service and volunteering: Looking for volunteer opportunities? Whether you have skills in fundraising or animal husbandry, Infinity Acres Ranch is always looking for new volunteers!
When the New York native was asked what it’s like to look back and see how far the ranch has come over the last 15 years, she responded with one word: humbling.
She added that after living in Henry County for more than a decade, it now feels like home.
“There are so many good things about this community, and it makes me really sad about the bad things. I wanna see this area be respected and seek positive growth and be a community that the young people wanna stay in and not get the heck out of Dodge.”
Out of everything that happens at the ranch, Steere said her favorite part of her job is seeing the excitement on visitors’ faces as they connect with the animals and learn more about them. She describes those as some of the most precious moments.
“I love what I do. I love the clients that we serve, and I love the animals that we care for. It can be stressful, but that’s what you do when you have a passion for something,” she said.