Crown Valley Youth Ranch in Woodlake
Aug 25, 2017 11:00AM
By Kendra Kaiserman
Story by Kendra Kaiserman
Photos courtesy of Crown Valley Youth Ranch
Up against the Sierra Mountains about 25 miles northeast of Visalia, you will find a place like no other. The Crown Valley Youth Ranch is home to all kinds of animals, from horses to donkeys to sheep to alpacas.
The newly opened ranch was founded by Scott Johnson and his wife, Deedee. By trade, Scott is a commercial cattle rancher. They officially opened their doors in January 2017, but the vision of the ranch came about “many, many years ago,” Johnson says. Johnson explains a few reasons they started the ranch: Pressure on kids, negative influences and one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the South Valley. Johnson wants to provide healing through the ranch and show “how horses can help you, as far as lifting your spirits,” he says.
“It’s no secret that horses are amazing with kids,” adds Director Aaron Ernst, who has been working with youth for 30 years.
They broke ground in January 2016 and it took a full year to open. At the end of their first season, they had 42 kids enrolled. About 55 will be on their roster for the 2017-18 school year. Crown Valley Youth Ranch serves underserved children ages 6-18, including “gang kids, troubled kids, kids from broken homes or kids whose parents just aren’t making sense to them right now,” Ernst says. Sessions are 90 minutes, twice a month and include various educational activities, such as working with horses, working with smaller animals, horticulture (including greenhouse work and gardening), crafts, woodworking, leatherworking, fishing, camping, survival training, working with reptiles and a small music program with simple string instruments such as guitars and ukuleles. The best part? All these services are free to parents. However, there is a cost for kids. Kids are required to do “chores at the ranch as well as their activities,” says Ernst. “They must give something to get something.”
The faith-based organization is a ministry. “We strive for the Gospel and the understanding of Christ,” Ernst says. No one is “forced to believe anything, just exposed to it. It creates curiosity to ask questions. To live it and see it being lived. Not an intimidating environment, not an aggressive environment, but a natural environment.”
Interest forms are available online. “We’re very family-like,” Ernst says. “We’re very personal here at the ranch. We’re like the Waltons. Very professional yet very personal.”
Johnson adds, “Life is pretty short. Looking at how the world is today, we need to put our hope in God in all these circumstances. We feel really blessed to see what God is doing. And it’s an honor and privilege to be a part of this mission to help these kids out.”
Crown Valley Youth Ranch
19880 Ave. 376, Woodlake • (559) 564-2897
Find them on Facebook & Instagram