It was an unloved patch of farmland with little apparent use – until 71-year-old, Robert (Bob) and 59-year-old Randi Bautch gave it a new and whimsical purpose. In 2003, the couple refurbished the buildings on the 22-acre parcel, purchased a couple of horses and began cultivating apple trees in Big Bend when they tried raising pumpkins to sell.
“We started picking the pumpkins and putting them on the side of the road but that didn’t work too well as people began ripping us off,” said Bob. “The thing is, we weren’t selling the pumpkins for our own profit, we were giving everything to St. Joseph Parish and School in Big Bend.”
The couple married in the parish in 2001 and immediately felt at home among the close-knit members. After participating in a course at their parish by Crown Ministries, a nonprofit, nondenominational financial planning group, they began to think differently about their own financial situation and realized that God was calling them to be good stewards of all that they had. The course turned the couple’s thinking upside down and while they thought they had good values, both realized that they were putting their personal needs before God’s. Following the 12-week course, they realized some things needed to change in the way they lived their lives.
“We began to think about how prudent it would be to share the blessings in our life and all the things God put us in charge of,” said Bob, who runs the farm as a hobby as he owns a printing business, Randi is an executive assistant for an assisted living center, Brookdale Place, Brookfield.
“We began taking any of the proceeds and giving them to the church for the past four to five years and didn’t make it known to anyone. But recently, since we are set up to handle more people, we thought we could generate some additional business to make our efforts more personal and generate more profits to the church.
“Whatever we have belongs to God, we are just stewards and why not share it, than just give God what we have leftover?” he said.
From those 22 acres of apple trees have grown a cross between a pumpkin patch and fall playground, where visits by families and grade-school classes have become a custom. The R & R Ranch began its six-week pumpkin-selling season at the end of September and will continue through Oct. 31.
For $7, visitors can enjoy a tractor driven hayride through winding horse trails to choose a free pumpkin from the great pumpkin patch, or pick apples from the orchards. In addition, corn stalks, ready picked pumpkins and hale bales are available for those wanting to forgo the hayride.
“The apple crop is down a bit this year, and usually we like to give everyone an apple on the hayride,” said Bob. “So this year, I had to be a bit more creative and now am giving everyone an ear of field corn. I thought it wouldn’t go over very well, but the kids really seem to love it.”
Each weekend, depending on the weather, more than 100 to 200 visitors a day opt to take the hayride. Visitors enjoy lingering near the pond, swinging on a wooden swing, visiting the gazebo,
warming their feet by the fire pit or relaxing at a picnic table to soak in the sounds of nature, catching glimpses of deer and wild turkeys roaming the land.
Ranch hands Greg and Sharon Wuerger, parishioners and close friends of the Bautches, are available to help after they are finished working their regular full-time jobs.
“I’ve been involved with my wife for the past four to five years,” said Greg, “I like the hayrides and the kids running all over the place, and it is a good time.”
The couple helps with hay baling, general farm work, caring for the horses throughout the year or whenever needed.
“We aren’t here every day, and less often in the winter, but it feels good to know that we are helping our parish and school,” Greg said. “I feel that Randi and Bob are a true witness to our faith in that they never really made it known what we do, but donate all the proceeds in faith that we are helping.”
Through their efforts, word has spread among the 975-family parish and they count on the repeat business for ongoing parish support.
|If you want to go: R & R Ranch
W226 S8025 Guthrie Road, Big Bend Directions: Highway 43 North to Exit 50 (Big Bend) South 1 mile to Guthrie Road left on Guthrie (Highway U) to top of hill)
Open Saturday and Sundays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and weekdays 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. All purchases are cash only. Families, friends and group outings are all welcome. Contact R&R Ranch to make group arrangements or if you have any questions, call (262) 662-4920 or (414) 254-8726 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Proceeds from all sales will benefit
St. Joseph Catholic Church and School, Big Bend.
“We have met some good friends through church and they come back year after year,” said Greg. “I always wear a cowboy hat with a feather in it, and one kid this year said he remembered my hat and noticed that I changed the feather in it – that was quite observant.”
Since Bob is in his 70s, it is hard to know how much longer he will be physically able to run the ranch, but Greg and Sharon will be there to help as long as possible.
“I just want to help; Bob treats me like one of the family, and we like being around each other,” said Greg. “We get so many people coming up here who had planned to go to the Elegant Farmer in East Troy, but they don’t want to wait so long to get in. So they come here and stop and are thrilled to walk from the upper paddock to the hayride. Most people stay here anywhere from 15 minutes to a couple of hours.”
As business manager of St. Joseph Church, Karen Schuh said she’s impressed by the couple’s faithfulness as well as their generosity to the diocese, the parish and its ministries.
“Randi chaired our human concerns ministry for three years and helped with our children’s summer vacation Bible study, and Bob served two terms on the parish council and is an active member of the Knights of Columbus.”
In addition to the couple guiding parishioners on stewardship by facilitating the Crown Ministry Program, they also facilitate the adult Bible study programs.
“As you can see, they are very involved here at St. Joe’s and we feel so blessed to have them as part of our St. Joseph Parish family,” said Schuh. “I have had the pleasure of going to the R & R pumpkin farm with my family and the time was filled with fun, laughter and pumpkin picking. I would recommend a day at the Bautch’s farm for all to enjoy.”