As part of our ongoing "Getting to Know Your Local Businesses" series, we sat down this week with Catherine Griffin of One Acre Farm.
Tell us a bit about your business: What does your business offer, and how long have you been around?
One Acre Farm was established in 1998. What began as a self-sufficient homestead for Y2K preparations, turned into a lifestyle, a way to home-school, raise my kids, make a supplemental income and eventually became a
business. It evolved through the years from offering “How to Raise Chickens in Your Backyard” classes, to now offering several programs and classes for all ages from toddlers through adults. In 2016, myself and the farm, became certified through The Horse Boy for autism therapy and now offer sessions for families of kiddos with autism.
How did you decide to get involved in this line of work? How did the business get started?
It was never a specific decision to embark on this journey. It all evolved and changed through the years, as the farm started with 6 laying hens in 1998 to have eggs for Y2K and subsequently added more animals and more small-scale farming skills. Fellow home-schoolers and friends were curious and intrigued with what I was doing and I began offering classes for them. The main interest at the time, was in raising chickens for eggs. Who doesn’t want fresh eggs? Right? I began adding other classes like “How to Milk A Goat”, “How to Butcher a Chicken for Meat” and Girl Scout and Boy Scout Merit Badge classes. When I say, “it evolved”, I truly mean that it evolved. Every year brought something new. My daughters entered into 4H and county fairs with showing animals, started barrel racing with their horses and had all the experiences those wonderful things encompass. My girls also embarked into selling eggs and selling laying hens to the local feed store. All the while, my girls and I were honing in on our skills and adding more and more each year.
Tell us a couple things you are proud of about your business. What are you known for? What separates you from the competition?
At One Acre Farm, a “yes” environment is provided. That means that kiddos run the show. They decide what they want to do and how they want to do it. There is no right or wrong way to do something as long as it is respectful to other people and to the animals. So, if a kiddo wants to bring a ball into the bunny house, they can. They can try to see if the bunnies will play fetch. They can learn on their own terms that bunnies don’t really play fetch but will love to be held and eat carrots out of their hands. Kids are allowed to be kids and encouraged to get dirty and messy. It’s more difficult to convince the parents to allow this to happen than it is to convince the kids. I do message parents prior to arriving to bring a change of clothes and wear mud boots.
My heart’s desire is for kids to have a love and zest for life and learning. I want kids to have gasps at seeing a butterfly or to have belly laughter at seeing the goats play or to have questions about everything. I want kids to have unencumbered experiences and that includes being unencumbered from adult expectations or adult fears. Kids need opportunities to be kids.
What is your favorite part of running this business?
I love, Love, LOVE watching kids interact with the animals or engage in the activities with that childhood abandon that all us adults long for. I equally love seeing my animals get attention and love from the kids. Both the animals and the kids thrive on the interactions. The families of kiddos with autism especially love and appreciate the freedom that is afforded to them and their kids to just “be”. To just be themselves, stims and quirks and all. No judgments. No expectations. Just “be” and enjoy the experiences.
Who is your ideal customer/client? Who do you serve best?
The people that most enjoy coming out to the farm are families that want their kiddos to experience outdoor activities and farm animal interactions. Parents especially love the Art & Play activities because the farm provides approximately 12 different experiences that include paints and other various items AND! The parents don’t have to do any set up or clean up. They can bring their kiddos and let them get dirty and create and then just clean up their kids and go home.
The 6 weekly class Farm School session is a favorite of families that want their kiddos to have in-depth experiences, interactions and lecture about specific farming skills like raising chickens, goats, rabbits and even beekeeping.
Can you tell us something about yourself as the business owner? What is your background?
Prior to having my own children, I was a public school teacher with a lifetime certificate in K-8th grade with a specialization in early childhood and reading. I taught Head Start, 1st grade, 3rd grade and kindergarten. After having my own children, the decision to home-school them was made very early on and I left the public school classroom and home-schooled my own children for the entirety of their schooling. Throughout those years was also intermittent substitute teaching, Mother’s Day Out, tutoring with Sylvan and private tutoring. During those years, I worked on the development of the farm programs.
Are there any special promotions, annual sales, or special events that you'd like to mention?
With Christmas coming up soon, I have made a special request to Santa to come out and visit the kiddos during the Toddler Art & Play, Pre-K Art & Play and Sensory Sunday Art & Play. Santa has very excitedly agreed to coming to the farm to see the kiddos and let the parents take pictures.
Is there any other information you'd like your potential customers/clients to know about your business?
The Art & Play activities occur every month and parents should watch for Facebook
event announcements. The Farm School is a 6 week session, is offered year round and will start over again after a session ends. The autism sessions are run under the 501c3 non-profit division of One Acre Farm Educational Foundation and is fully supported by donations. There is a waiting list of children with autism wanting to have experiences with the animals and individualized sessions. The foundation strives to provide scholarships for the families. Donations are appreciated, coveted and oh my gosh, so needed. Please consider donating to One Acre Farm
How do you see your business growing and improving over the next couple of years?
The goal over the next couple years is to have a covered arena that can provide shelter for all the activities from the Texas heat and occasional rains. Especially for the activities for the families of children with autism. Being able to provide experiences for the kiddos in all types of weather makes it so accessible for the families. Many families drive over 2 hours for sessions for their kiddos. We know how the weather changes here. They may start out from their home and all is clear and then when they arrive, it’s raining. These families deserve to have their time respected and opportunities for their children, rain or shine. It is my goal to find a single donor or a group of donors that believe in what is happening at One Acre Farm and have them support what is changing lives for some of these families.
The immediate future has the current ongoing activities and classes continuing. In the next five years, my vision is to train and hire more people to run the programs and to facilitate the autism programs and get the families off the waiting list and into the farm experiences. The big picture vision is focused on acquiring more land for trail riding and housing for future live-in staff.
For more information and to learn more about One Acre Farm, visit our profile on Kingwood.com
or our website