Critter Barn founder and director, Mary Rottschafer, attended Hope College to study music, and earned an Elementary Teaching degree, leaving aspirations of veterinary medicine behind. For 7 years she taught school at Holland Christian and was involved in choir and instrumental music in area churches.

In 1984 they moved to the farm to live out in the country and have a bigger garden, but the family received a sheep, a goat, two piglets and a variety of farm birds, as a practical joke from Mary’s church choir. Fifty-five friends from 1st Reformed of Zeeland scraped and painted their 100’ x 65’ gambrel roof barn in three hours as a big surprise!

“No one expected the former Overwey Dairy Farm to become the Critter Barn, but our hobby farm grew in popularity as many relatives, friends and our children’s school classmates visited our family’s farm,” Rottschafer says.

In May of 1990, several former colleagues in education inquired about school field trips at the farm and 2 Kindergarten classes came for a trial field trip from Grandville.  There was a phone call the next day, and an administrator booked all the Kindergarten classes in their system for the next year.  

In 1991, field trips were held for 957 kindergarten students from Zeeland, Hudsonville, Byron Center and Grandville. In 1992 the number of attendees tripled. Today, Critter Barn touches the lives of thousands of children annually and offers a variety of hands-on educational classes, tours and programs throughout the year. We have grown our outreach to hundreds of children, youth and adults with special needs. We reach the elderly and disabled. We focus on children in urban setting who cannot travel to the farm.  

Click here to read an interview with Executive Director, Mary Rottschafer (alumni of Hope College), for the "News from Hope College" in Holland, MI.


  1998   2003   2007   2015
field trips
Critter Barn licensed
Critter Barn becomes
Staff & Teachers
Plans begin