Roden Barnyard Adventures

 


If you head just east of West Bend, Wisconsin you might find yourself at Rob-N-Cin Farms; a dairy farm that – as far as dairy farms go – is quite common. They have everything you’d expect to find: cows, calves, barns, a milking parlor and lots of machinery. Also not uncommon about their farm is the fact that it’s a family run operation. It seems few industries are more generational than farming in this country. What isn’t common about their farm is Robert and Cindy Roden’s daughter, Jacki, and the education in agriculture she’ll happily give you when you visit.


At just 22 years old – the youngest of five children – Jacki displays a passion for agriculture and a dedication to hard work that seems well beyond her years. Her parents were both raised in large farming families; mom was one of five children and dad was one of ten. Considering that many children who follow their family’s path into farming simply never leave, it seems only natural that some of Robert and Cindy’s five children would choose to remain on the farm. Jacki wanted to be on the farm, but she took a roundabout way to get there. She started by attending the University of Wisconsin - River Falls, graduating in 2013 after studying Agriculture Marketing and Communications. While the schooling she got in the classrooms was instrumental to her education, the experiences she had beyond the campus taught her more than any textbook ever could.


While in college, Jacki knew that if she wanted to return to her family farm, she needed to be able to produce an income, but how? One of her siblings had joined the ranks by purchasing his own cows and essentially going into business with their parents. So that was his link, but it didn’t seem the same idea would be a good fit for her, so she searched for a better answer. It was during a conference she attended during her sophomore year an idea emerged. She heard one of the speakers talking about the disconnect in our country between the public and their food. Where it comes from and how it gets from farm to the table were concepts that people just didn’t seem to pay attention to in our fast paced, instant gratification society. From that seminar, it was decided.


Jacki was going to educate people and she was going to do it right from their farm.
 


During her junior year, she wrote her business plan, but knew she needed some real world experience as well. Sure, she’d been raised on the farm and knew better than most how it worked – but knowing about something and teaching others about it are two entirely different things. So she found an internship that she could take part in and spent the summer between her junior and senior years in New Jersey getting hands on practice. That experience ended up being a difficult one for her because, while the facility she worked at was centered on the same ideas that she had, their approach was not what she had in mind. She was plagued with self-doubt, but only fleetingly. Instead of giving up, she stuck it out and came away with a lot of lessons on what she didn’t want to do.


When Jacki got back to the farm, the support she’s proud to say her parents have given all along continued and the necessary steps were taken to ensure her entrepreneurial endeavor could get off the ground. So Jacki’s dream became a reality: Roden Barnyard Adventures, LLC was born. While she continues to work side by side with her family, keeping up on her fair share of chores – she has a separate building that is set up just for her budding business. It’s her office, classroom, showroom and meeting space all in one.


When you walk in the simple pole shed, the first thing you may notice is that the perimeter of the building is lined with different educational stations, a life size model of a calf and a bathtub used to demonstrate how much water a cow typically drinks in a day are just a few of the tools and creative references she uses to help kids understand more about agriculture. There are picnic tables where kids can sit and enjoy a snack they took part in making. Jacki loves to share her passion for the family business and says that each time she hosts an event – be it a tour or camp – something different comes up. The events are shaped by the very questions the kids themselves ask and that ensures that Jacki also continues to learn.


No matter the season, it’s easy to find something to do at Roden Barnyard Adventures. You can purchase fresh fruits and vegetables that are grown right on the farm or enjoy an ice cream treat while you take a look around a real functioning dairy. You can take a guided tour, learn more about your favorite barnyard animal – a program Jacki calls ‘Barnyard Buddies’, or you can sign up for camp or special events.


Special camps are hosted regularly at Roden Barnyard Adventures. Jacki just began offering 5 half-day camps and 3 full-day camps for kids of various ages. The campers get to engage in a variety of fun and educational activities such as learning to care for a calf, make-and-take crafts, make and eat snacks, scavenger hunts, a barnyard obstacle course and witness real, every day farm chores. To top it off, there's always the possibility campers will get the chance to witness a calf being born – not your average summer camp.


In addition to camps, she holds other special events including: birthday parties, Farm Safety programs, fall fun specials and, just this past September, she even opened up her space for weekly yoga classes! ‘Yoga on the Farm’ was the name coined for the free classes offered by certified yoga instructor Kim Budiac. It’s partnerships like these that will help Jacki continue to grow her business while she feeds her passion.
 


With the support of her family and the community she’s touched so far - Jacki is excited about her future and that of Roden Barnyard Adventures. She knows she’s young to be making such strides, but rarely feels the burden of the work. She happily helps on the farm and grows her business because, ultimately, she knows this is where she wants to be - now, and in the future. She will eventually share her passion for farming with her most cherished of clients: her own children. In fact, that’s the basis for her motivation, because she’ll happily tell you that she can’t imagine raising kids any other way.
 


If you’d like to visit Rob-N-Cin Farm and Roden Barnyard Adventures, LLC – you can find them at www.rodenbarnyard.com, email Jacki at rodenbarnyard@gmail.com or call 262.689.7521.