Interview with Country Bumpkin Farm Market owners - Charlie & Cindy Rhinehart

The Country Bumpkin Farm Market is one of Wisconsin Dells' hidden treasures. Located about a mile west of Walmart, they offer over fifty different homegrown berries, fruits, and vegetables, along with bakery treats, flower baskets, crafts, and other unique gifts. On top of all this, they have a petting zoo, corn mazes, zip lines, peddle karts, a play town, a tractor pulled train, and even a slingshot and catapult to launch fruit through the air.

Recently, I had the chance to spend an afternoon with owners Charlie and Cindy Rhinehart, who graciously gave me a tour of their thirty acre farm attraction, as well as shared their story of bringing healthy food and activities to kids and adults alike. 

CHRIS DEARMAN: So while we’re waiting for Charlie to get back from the fields, tell me a little about yourselves. Are you two originally from the area?

CINDY RHINEHART: My husband is. He’s from the Dells. He went to the Dells High School. I’m from Northern Wisconsin. I’m originally from Mercer, then St. Germain, then Eagle River, Minocqua, those areas.

So what made you come down here?

Well, we met there. He was up there working when we met, and we ended up moving back here to his area.

Was he a farmer?

No, he was always doing other things. He was doing blacktop at the time. He’s done that for all of his life. His dad, he was always the farmer, and had the land. We bought this land from his parents.

So it was always a farm?

Yes, it was a 100 acre farm. We eventually sold some off, and now have thirty acres for ourselves here. They did the soy beans and field corn, but it just got to be that there was no money in that anymore. Once you hired someone to do the combine, there ended-up being zero balance sheets. (laughs) So, the land lay bare for a couple years, but Charlie was always thinking of ideas – what could we do for ourselves on our own? Especially something for our retirement years.

Were you into farming before you met Charlie?

No, I was always in office work. Real estate and secretarial . . .  that type of thing.

So you had farmland, but nothing growing on it. What made you finally decide to start things back up again?

In 1996, it was sort of the start of the “health” phase; people were really getting into that. We thought, let’s start with strawberries, because there weren’t a lot of strawberry farms yet, the pick your own kind, around here. So, we started with that. We were both still doing our other jobs, but by hand we planted a half an acre of strawberries on our hands and knees. (laughs) So, that’s how we started.

How did it turn out that first year?

It turned out good! On my days off from work I was just down there.And my Mom helped too.   People came and picked berries. It worked out nice. We also were doing an honor system for pumpkins and sweet corn, because his father always did. We would have a wagon out there at the farm and a metal can, so it all started that way. We put the money away for the kids towards college, but we were thinking, like I said, that we wanted to build something for ourselves – what can we do? – let’s build a business with the farmland. So, we put up a little building seventeen years ago. We had the square part of what is the store now, and that was it! (laughs). He just put in a driveway and we were off and running.

Charlie likes to tell the story of when we first started. It was our first Spring and time for me to plant the seeds, -- so he went out and plows it all. He then says to me – go ahead and plant! I was like – but I don’t know how! (laughs) Actually, I kind of cried -- looking at all that empty soil all around me.

So how did you end up learning?

Charlie taught me. He’s the one that taught me really. It started out by just hammering in stakes, making rows, and learning how to take care of the crops. But I also learned a lot by belonging to the various farming associations. I just get more confident every year.

Well it looks like things have certainly grown from back then. Did you guys have a grand plan for it all?

Charlie had drawn on graph paper and had it all planned out of what he would like to see the future to be, and it ended up that we built it exactly where he had everything spaced and placed. He had a vision. He’s the visionary. I’m just like, OK, let’s do it!

Did you call it Country Bumpkin seventeen years ago?

We did. Charlie asked me what we wanted to name it, and I don’t know why, but I came up with the name Country Bumpkin Farm Market. He liked it, so it stuck. I just thought, you know, we’ll just be country bumpkins! (laughs)

It’s a great name! So you started with strawberries, what came next?

What came next is that we planted raspberries, because we were into the U-pick We-pick berries. Also, his father already had a well-established patch across the road of blueberries, which are now there like 30-35 years old, so we thought that would be a good start – a good niche.

From that start of berries you’ve now grown to all sorts of things. How many varieties of produce grow here?

Oh, I always thought that we have fifty different things at least. We go from the asparagus season, to the strawberries. Actually, five different varieties of strawberries.  And then we have summer raspberries and fall raspberries. Then blueberries, we've got four different varieties of those now. We have some apples, some plum trees, and then the grapes – champagne or dessert grapes, the seedless red, and then Concord grapes down at the end.  We grow lots of different melons too.

From there we have the vegetables. Everything from pickles & dill to sweet corn and tomatoes.  Different types of cabbage, various types of lettuce. We have broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, and kale.  Beets, eggplant . . . peppers . . . zucchini.   We wanted to be very versatile, so that we could be open from April till we can’t anymore, which is November first. Our main goal was to grow healthy, with no sprays. Also, we wanted to have everything possible so when someone drives all the way out here, it’s worth it, because there was nothing out here when we started. There was no Walmart, nothing.

And now not only do you have a thriving farmer’s market, you have your very own little town and petting zoo (Charlie sits down).

So Charlie, you started this place with just fruits and vegetables and now you grew it into a whole town!

CHARLIE RHINEHART: Yeah, but that was what we had mostly been for all the years, strictly a farmers market.

Is it just you two or do you have any other employees?

CHARLIE: I do it all by myself! (laughs). No, we used to do it all ourselves for years, with a little help from our mothers, but now our daughter and son-in-law help. They are working it to eventually take over someday.

CINDY: Our son also helps us occasionally, and one of our neighbors, Holly, she’s been helping us for eight years.  We have a nice family that have picked berries for us the last 13 years.

So when did you come up with all the cute little town stuff?

CINDY: That just started last year.

CHARLIE: I tried to do it ten years ago…

CINDY: But I dragged my feet! (laughs) " No, I don’t want buildings, I want it to stay just the way it is" – I thought it was pretty. He always had thought about adding the petting farm part, but I don’t know about the play village. How did that come about? Is it because the kids joined us now, and you wanted to build the place up?

CHARLIE: I built the little church, and was like,  I might as well build something else. (laughs)
Did you build them all by yourself?

CHARLIE: Yeah, well I built the house too! (the normal size one that they actually live in) I actually built all the buildings on the property, but those little buildings took me about a month each to build, -- our house took me two years! (laughs)

Well, I see you have a little replica of your house, a church, a school house, a barn, miner shack, and an outhouse. Any future plans for more little buildings?

CINDY: Well I know he wants to build a jail. (laughs)

CHARLIE: Some days, with some of the kids you need one! But, you know the first thing that is going to happen is that the kids are going to have the parents locked up! (laughs)

CINDY: And then he always thought of a log cabin…

CHARLIE: A little log cabin in the pine trees.

That all sounds pretty neat. Besides the tiny town that kids can climb around in, I noticed you have a few things that require you to be active – like the Pedal Karts and zip lines. Any other plans for more things like that?

CINDY: We've got some plans for some other fun things. Like recently we saw bouncy horses for adults and children, so we want to make a corral with that, of bouncy horses.  And an obstacle course.

CHARLIE: Everything has to require something for physical activity though.

CINDY: Yes, it’s all for health. Good healthy food, good healthy activities.

CHARLIE: Yeah, we don’t want any motors on them. (laughs), Everyone seems to really like the Pedal Karts, even without motors.

Yeah, that’s pretty unique for these parts. The Dells has a dozen different go cart places, but what you got here is something a little different.

CINDY: We added the Pedal Karts this year. For adults and kids – it’s really fun! You look down there and see parents racing their kids. Everyone is smiling. It’s just a good feeling to see, everybody having fun.
I bet the kids have a lot of fun at the petting zoo as well. Where did you get the animals and how many do you have here?

CINDY: We rent them from a gentleman in Reedsburg…

CHARLIE: But we’re thinking about putting in a more permanent barn so that we can keep a few animals year-round...

CINDY: We have two donkeys, two alpaca, and a llama. We have three mother goats, and they each have a set of twins, and then one of them had another set of twins. The owner didn’t know she was pregnant, so that was cool. We have a picture of Charlie in there holding the goats as babies when they were just born. Then we got Rudy the Rooster, and his ten hens. (laughs) We have some ducks, and then the sheep, two mothers and two young ones.

Wow, sounds like with everything you two got going on here, that there must be a ton of hard work to keep things running smoothly.

CINDY: That’s true, but every year it seems that it’s getting easier, even though we are doing more. It seems like it would get harder, but you just get used to what you’re doing and you’re ready to do more. They say the more you do, the more you can do.

Well from the looks of things, it seems like all your hard work is paying off. I’ll wrap things up by asking, what’s your favorite aspect of doing all this?

CHARLIE: Mostly, just watching the kids have fun.

CINDY: I just love having all the healthy vegetables and fruit that people really appreciate. Everybody is happy when they come out here. They can wander around and it’s peaceful. They remark that they can see that we love what we are doing. It reflects in everything, and that we keep it clean and that it’s laid back. I think that is something that we tried to gear towards, just something peaceful.

So I think that’s the main thing, like I said, to be healthy, to have healthy food, and to keep it comfortable and relaxed so people can just enjoy. They can come to pick berries, they can take their time, there is no one here saying no you can't do this, you can't do that. We just let them come out here and enjoy.

Well I certainly enjoyed my afternoon here. Thank you so much for having me come out and see the place. I can’t wait to come back and bring my niece and nephew. I know that they’d love it!

For more information about the Country Bumpkin Farm Market please visit their website: or find them on Facebook HERE.