Green Meadows Farm was started in 1964 in Waterford, Wisconsin by Bob and Coni Keyes. That's the year they decided to convert their 80-acre hog and cattle business into a "pick-your-own" vegetables and raspberry farm. (At that time "pick-your-own" farms were a new concept in produce marketing.) When they discovered that most of the other "pick-your-own" farms in and around the Milwaukee area excluded children, they marketed their farm as a place to "bring the family." They also decided to incorporate some of the farm animals as an additional way to draw in families.
The next year a nursery school teacher approached Bob and Coni about bringing her group to the farm and, voila, the petting farm was born! This led to a postcard promotion to school teachers and the next thing they knew, they were attracting school groups, church groups, scouts and families. Along with Bob and Coni and their children, they employed neighboring men and women to serve as guides and to help give hayrides. In the fall, they offered their customers a free pumpkin. To their amazement, by the early 1970's the farm was hosting as many as 1,200 visitors a day during the spring and fall seasons!
Bob and Coni had found their niche! During their "off season" they expanded to offer horse-drawn hayride parties, sleigh rides, barn rentals for parties, campfires and overnight outings at the farm. They also became "mobile," leaving the farm with ponies to give rides at parties or with draft horses to give horse-drawn hayrides or sleigh ides at events. These activities continued year-round until the mid 1980's brought new ventures their way.
In 1982, one of their older sons, Dan, was becoming disenchanted with city corporate life. One day he saw school buses on a field trip and began to wonder, "Could a petting farm succeed in Houston?" He wrote to his parents and proposed the idea which they found intriguing. They were ready to try something new. Dan located a 50-acre ranch to lease about 40 miles west of downtown Houston. After a considerable amount of work, the second Green Meadows Farm opened for business in the spring of 1983. However, it was a lot of work for Bob and Coni to run two fulltime farms and raise their family. This farm remained in operation until 1991 when it was moved to Houston but they eventually closed it.