Cylon Rolling Acres
Cylon Rolling Acres, Goat Meat Farm to Suit Growing Demographics
By: Sandra Yerges
When Leslie Svacina, owner of Cylon Rolling Acres, was contemplating the agricultural path she should take after purchasing 140 acres of land in Western Wisconsin, she confided in a friend who teaches high school agriculture classes in Cumberland, Wisconsin. Throughout their conversation, Leslie learned there was a need for goat meat stemming from the lack of availability of goat meat in grocery stores and the diverse food preferences in the area. This conversation coupled with an abundance of research led Leslie to establish Cylon Rolling Acres, a grass-fed goat farm located near Deer Park.
With both parents working in education, Leslie did not grow up on a farm. When she reached high school and had the opportunity to try out new electives, horticulture piqued her interest. After discovering a passion for the agricultural field through her studies, she joined Future Farmers of America (FFA) in high school, an organization she continued into college. At the University of Wisconsin‒River Falls, she followed this interest of hers and studied a mixture of agriculture, communication, and marketing courses and served as a state officer in FFA for one year.
Never wavering from her sights on the agriculture field, Leslie began working with the communication and marketing department for an agricultural company. Later, she switched to education as a university career advisor with agriculture students and as an executive director for Wisconsin’s agricultural educator association. Once she and her husband, Scott, made the decision to purchase their new farming land a decade ago, Leslie never looked back.
Leslie explained that operating a goat farm is both seasonal and is based on the natural life cycles of the animals. During the summer months, they use rotational grazing practices. Every one to two days, the goats are moved to a small area of the pasture sectioned off with portable fencing, which is good for the health of the goats, plants, and soil.
While the goats have access to the grass and move around the paddock, they are helping feed the soil microorganisms through their natural fertilizer. Then, the microorganisms in the soil feed the plants, which regrow to feed the goats again later in the season.
The wintertime shifts to an indoor environment as the temperature drops. The goats have access to the barn for shelter and have hay 24/7 outside. This season could be classified as the calm before the storm before the busy spring quickly approaches. In the spring, there is a one to two month span where many of the goats are giving birth. It can be a challenging time as Leslie is not in control of when these births occur. She admits, “Mother nature doesn’t wait.” Even when she has late nights caring for the newly born kids and their mothers, it does not matter to Leslie as she is able to experience the miracle of new life with the new baby goats.
Since the beginning of this farm, Leslie has been the main individual in charge of all of the operations on the farm, such as the care of the animals as well as the marketing of the business. Scott continues to work a full-me job outside of the farm, but he also assists with the farm when he is available. This past summer, Leslie was thankful to have hired an intern who helped pack orders and maintain the meat inventory they receive from an off-site butcher and store in their walk-in freezer at the farm.
As a business running mostly through customer orders with a small percentage of their business focusing on wholesale, the company has an established online shipping service on their website at cylonrollingacres.com. Many of their customers who live outside an hour radius of the farm utilize this service to purchase their goat meat, and others who are closer can also come to the farm for pick up. The geographic region the farm is primarily marketed to is the upper Midwest, but with the online ordering system, customers from other areas across the country can also purchase goat meat from Cylon Rolling Acres.
Poor internet access led Cylon Rolling Acres to learn about the Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) in an unconventional way. Years ago, in company with congressional leaders, the Secretary of Agriculture, members of the USDA, and other farmers, Leslie attended a hearing session about rural broadband, a topic essential for the company’s Internet presence. Aer the hearing, she spoke with a member from the USDA who outlined the VAPG to her. She knew at that time she was not ready to embark on this financial journey, but she always kept the grant in the back of her mind.
Since that time, Leslie worked diligently to learn more about the grant and progress her farm forward to prepare for the application process. In early 2021, she decided it was finally time to begin working on the VAPG. While turning to her alma mater’s Small Business Development Center at the University of Wisconsin‒River Falls, Leslie worked with a consultant to create a business plan for the grant application. The assistance she received was greatly appreciated and allowed her to take a pragmatic approach to complete the application in April and receive the grant the following October.
Market expansion of the farm’s goat meat was the main focus of the VAPG for Cylon Rolling Acres. The grant funds are being put toward marketing and branding efforts, such as updated cooking guides and packaging.
Operating as a business in the “teenage phase” brings forth a new chapter for Cylon Rolling Acres as there is room for implementing new changes for expansion. As more consumers are being introduced to the company, the new marketing efforts from the VAPG will assist in moving to the long-awaited next phase of the farm.