Old Farm, New Purpose: Gleason dairy farm gets new life as way to support veterans
Otto Reetz and Vickie Frank lead a small group on a tour of their farm.
The pair sold their house in New London and bought the old dairy farm in Gleason this past spring.
“We found this place and everything kind of came together,” said Frank.
Country Haven Farm looks like your average small, family-owned farm.
A big red dairy barn is the first thing to catch your eye as you pull in the driveway. Tall silver silos are just off to it’s right. A house sits off to the left of driveway.
As you walk toward the back of the property, you’re greeted by a large pole building and fenced in pens holding pigs, goats, donkeys, and highland cows.
Surrounding the property is fields of corn and trees in the distance.
“It’s very quiet and secluded out here. It’s a very unique opportunity,” Frank said.
Reetz and Frank have big plans for the farm.
They’re working on converting the pole building into a ranch home.
The old dairy barn will still house some animals, but there will also be a shop in there.
While there will still be plenty of animals roaming around, Country Haven Farm won’t be a farm in the traditional sense.
Reetz and Frank are creating a retreat for veterans.
“Back here it’s like they’re away from the world. They can look out and see everything, the nature. Anytime they want they can just walk up to the barn and work with the animals or take their boat and go fishing, go for walks,” said Reetz. “To us, it doesn’t really matter what they want to do. I just want to be able to give them an opportunity to just get away from the world.”
'This has become our life.'
The idea didn’t come out of nowhere.
Six years ago, Otto started taking veterans out on fishing trips.
It started small with six vets out on a day trip. It’s only grown since then.
This year, through their organization Wounded Warriors United of Wisconsin, the pair was able to get nearly 200 veterans out fishing and another 65 out on hunting trips.
“We give them an opportunity to get back into the outdoors, maybe they’ve given up on it, they’ve come home, and they just lost the spark, or they feel it’s too big of a challenge now that they can’t do it. We show them that they can,” said Reetz.
The veterans don’t pay for anything other than the gas to get there.
Reetz and Frank spend their time raising the funds and making the connections to cover all the veteran’s expenses on trips.
“This has become our life. It didn’t start out that way,” said Reetz. “The more I started to do it, the more I wanted to do it.”
Neither of them are veterans themselves.
At first these trips started as a way to give back to people that have given so much.
“[I’m] very thankful for what we have, because [if] it wouldn’t be for the military, past, present, and future, we wouldn’t have the freedom that we have,” said Reetz.
The more time Reetz and Frank spend with veterans, the more they see the impact they can make.
“To be able to do camping and things like that, I guess it helps heal. That’s what makes you feel good, when guys talk to you and say, ‘You know, I’m proud to be a veteran,’” said Reetz. “I am proud to be able to do what I’m doing for veterans.”
Converting the dairy farm into a veteran retreat came as the next natural step for them.
“We’re living the dream. We both wanted to be back out in the country. Otto wanted to get back out on the farm. Now we get to serve the vets and do the same thing. It’s awesome,” said Frank.
Right now, they’re raising money and working with local suppliers to complete their long list of projects.
“It’s going to take donations and funding small and big. We’re going to be launching a capital campaign soon so we can finish the build out on the cabin and get things going and finish the modifications we need to on the barn, but we’ll get there. One way or another we’ll make it happen,” said Frank.
Veterans and their families will be able to stay at the farm for no charge.
Frank said they’re working with the goats, pigs, and donkeys to make sure they’re comfortable and friendly for the veterans to interact with.
“Sometimes a 10-minute walk and talk with a donkey is all you need,” said Frank.
While sometimes the farm will act as a basecamp for a hunting or fishing trip, at the end of the day Frank and Reetz just want it to be a place where veterans can come to get away from it all.
“We’re hoping that by having the farm out here, it’s just another outlet. It’s another opportunity that’s just different. It still works with our core mission of getting them empowered back into the outdoors,” said Frank.
Wounded Warriors United of Wisconsin is not affiliated with the Wounded Warrior Project.
You can learn more about the organization, including how to donate and support Country Haven Farm and how to apply for trips, on its website.