When dairying is in your blood, you want to find a way to stay involved in your family's farming business. For many that means expansion to bring in another family member.
But not for Jacki Roden
Roden found another way to get involved with her family's farm near West Bend. After graduating from University of Wisconsin-River Falls in December 2013, she started her own enterprise, a combination of entertainment and education geared toward children — Roden Barnyard Adventures.
By the time she hosted the official grand opening — a Slurrystore dance and tour the weekend of Aug. 16-17 — she had already hosted about 15 tours and a two-week summer camp for children.
"I've had a passion about agriculture and about letting nonfarmers know about our business as long as I can remember," she said. "My junior year in college, I actually wrote and developed a business plan and worked with my parents to make it happen. My dream of returning to the family farm and promoting the agriculture industry has been made possible with the strong support of my family."
Roden Barnyard Adventures offers a real family farm experience with hands-on learning.
"There are other family farm adventure businesses around, and we're not really competing with them because our business is different," she said. "We are located on a real farm where my family milks and cares for 450 cows. On our tours and at our camps, we teach the children about cows and farms, but then we also take them into the barn to see the real live animals and into the parlor to see them milked."
Roden introduces the young people to milking by letting them "milk" the life-size fiberglass cow she special ordered from a company in Minnesota. Once they get the idea, she lets them actually put a real milking unit on a real cow in the Double 8 Herringbone parlor.
"They are especially thrilled to stick their fingers into the teat cup to feel the suction," she said.
As a part of her business Roden also offers summer camps. Children have a choice of a five-day, four-hour camp or a three day, 8-hour camp.
At the camps, they learn to take care of a calf; do make-and-take crafts; take part in a scavenger hunt; make and sample snacks; and tour the farm. Often the tours include an opportunity to witness the birth of a calf.
"That's what makes our business unique," Roden said with pride. "We let them see what really happens on a real farm."
Visitors also see some unusual looking dairy cows, the result of the family's work with Creative Genetics combining Montbeliarde with Swedish Red and Holstein. Roden said it helps toughen the animals so they stay around longer. Cows also hold their milk production longer, rather than peak quickly and go down in production.
She also offers tours to groups or individuals who make arrangements ahead. In the fall, there are special activities including a pumpkin patch, corn maze and activities in the barnyard clubhouse. In September, she will run a farm safety camp for third- through eighth-graders.
Along with the activities, she also sells meat raised on her family's farm and produce grown in their farm garden including sweet corn, squash, green beans, onions and fall favorites like pumpkins, potatoes, carrots and watermelon.
Roden's business is located on her parents' farm. They put up a special building to house the indoor activities, ice cream and freezers that hold the meat the family direct-markets on the farm.
In order to keep her business separate from her family's dairy business, she leases the building from her parents along with the land on which she established the corn maze.
In winter, when she is not doing tours, the new building will double as a place where they can wash the panels for the nearby calf barns. The panels link together to form individual calf hutches for the very young animals and then can be reconfigured to make the pens larger for groups of four or eight animals the same age.
The family followed its veterinarian's advice and built six buildings to house the calves, following the all-in-all-out idea in order to keep the same-age calves together for individual care.
The grand opening festivities were made possible when her parents built their new Slurrystore to replace the older one the farm had outgrown.
"What better way to initiate it than to have a dance in it first," she said. "The former owners of the farm had a dance in the Slurystore that we had been using before they put it into use."
The slurry store holds the liquid portion of the manure. The solids are separated out and run through a bedding recovery system that heats them to 170 degrees to kill pathogens so they can be reused.
It not only saves on the purchase of bedding but it means less manure to haul on the fields, and it is easier on the manure processing system than sand.
The Roden family has long had a reputation for being passionate about the dairy industry. The family's farm, Rob-N-Cin Farms, has hosted their dairy breakfast and provided tours for various groups.
Jacki's parents, Rob and Cindy, and her brother Rick are full time on the farm.
When Jacki is not working with her own business, she helps with chores on the farm and drives the tractor during harvesting season.