When Mary Rottschaffer purchased an old dairy farm in the mid-80s, she had no idea that nearly 40 years later, that farm would help educate more than 100,000 individuals.
Students all over the state have been learning about farm animals and agriculture through the Critter Barn in West Michigan. Now, Rottschaffer is looking for a bigger, more accessible space to continue providing this education.
“About 10 years ago, we started looking at this critically—it’s not sustainable where we are,” she says. “We don’t have parking; we don’t have bathrooms. We know if we had a better destination and something that was more accessible, it would be better for everybody—the animals and the people. We’re intentionally focused on building an educational farm for the public that will also serve vet tech students and FFA students.”
The wheels are in motion to grow 12-fold from the original three-acre farm to 36 acres to better serve the community.
“People love to learn, and people are hungry to learn more about their food, their sources, health,” says Rottschaffer. “For the busy, digital world that we live in, it’s a good remedy for all of us. We see it being very good—a lot of therapeutic value.”
However, with an expansion this large, Rottschaffer has hit a roadblock: funding.
“We’ve raised a lot, and we’re grateful for our donors,” she says. “We get donations—sometimes $5, sometimes $100. I believe in the millionaire next door.”
With all of those donations, the Critter Barn has received more than $3 million to go toward infrastructure at the new location. Rottschaffer says they’re still in need of donations to fund a small livestock barn, hoop barns and a compost area. For more information, click on this story on our website.