Lynn Hicks replaces the hardware on a piece of furniture after the piece has been painted. Hicks refurbishes home décor items on her family’s 75-cow dairy near Gilman, Wis.
Lynn Hicks replaces the hardware on a piece of furniture after the piece has been painted. Hicks refurbishes home décor items on her family’s 75-cow dairy near Gilman, Wis. PHOTO BY DANIELLE NAUMAN
    GILMAN, Wis. – What started six years ago as a hobby has turned in to a thriving business for Lynn Hicks of Gilman, Wis.  Hicks operates Lynn’s Barnyard Boutique out of a garage on her family’s organic dairy farm.    
    Hicks and her husband, Nick, along with their four children – Abby, 16, Travis, 14, Sophia, 5, and Tristan, 4 – milk 75 cows. The family moved from Arcadia, Wis., to their current farm in 2013, and Hicks found herself being able to become a stay-at-home dairy farm mom. During her young children’s naptimes, Hicks was looking for a way to occupy her time, and began painting and refurbishing wooden furniture.
    “It started with chairs, with fun fabrics and paints, and it snowballed into everything else,” Hicks said of her shop. “The things I work on come from everywhere. I see something I like, and I grab it. Sometimes I know right away what I want to do with it, and sometimes it has to sit and marinate for a bit before I know.”
    Over the years, friends and neighbors have learned of Hicks’ knack for breathing new life into old items. Hicks said it has gotten to the point where things will just show up in her yard, left by people who thought she might be able to turn it into something special.
    “A lot of times people will be cleaning out their garage and ask if I want certain items, or they’ll say they were at the dump and saw something and thought of me,” Hicks said with a laugh. “I like giving things a new life.”
    Visual appeal is important to Hicks when she is creating her pieces, but so is functionality and usefulness.
    “I tell people all the time I live on a farm; I have kids and I have cows and all the kids that go with them, so I don’t have time or space for something pretty on the shelf. It needs to be something usable,” Hicks said.  
    When Hicks begins working on a new piece, she said she seldom has a mental picture of what the end product will look like, preferring to let things just happen while she works.
    “I start out picking out the paint colors, whatever I’m feeling at that time,” Hicks said. “I like colors, so I try and pick fun color. I rarely paint pieces white. I like yellows and blues and greens and oranges.”
    Although she enjoys working on a variety of items, Hicks said hutches are her favorite pieces. Hicks said she tries to keep the original hardware on each piece, but paints the hardware to change the feel and the look they give the finished product.
    The amount of time Hicks spends working on pieces in her shop each week is variable, depending on what is happening on the farm or with her family. She typically tries to work on projects at least a couple of days each week.
    “During the summer, I’m able to do more in the shop because my big kids are home to help with chores,” Hicks said. “When they are back in school, I spend more time in the barn with chores and milking.”
    People will bring pieces to Hicks, requesting her to refurbish the item. Hicks said sometimes doing custom work is difficult, trying to work to someone else’s idea.
    “Sometimes it’s a little tricky, but when people know my style and the work I do, that makes it easier,” Hicks said.
    Hicks does most of her marketing through her Lynn’s Barnyard Boutique Facebook page and by word-of-mouth. In the past, she has participated in different events and shows, but she prefers not to do too many.
    “It’s kind of a ruckus to pack everything up and transport it,” Hicks said. “I can fit a lot in my Tahoe, but there is a limit.”
    In addition to her creations, Hicks has become licensed by the state to sell Westby Co-op Creamery’s organic dairy products through her shop. This has led her to attending farmers markets, where she also takes a few pieces to sell.
    For an upcoming fall market on Oct. 12, Hicks has 15 vendors lined up, offering a variety of locally crafted items such as soaps, lotions, essential oils, jewelry, home décor, sewn items, metal arts, baked goods, home-canned jellies and jams, and flowers and potted plants.
    “Everything at the market is locally made, handcrafted and homemade,” Hicks said. “There is a lot of talent that local people have, and I love showcasing that.”
    Amish buggy rides will be offered, along with a petting zoo, games and educational activities run by the Flambeau FFA chapter.
    This isn’t the first event Hicks has held at her family’s farm.
    “In the past, I’ve done a big tent sale, and had all the vendors in a big party tent,” Hicks said. “This year I’m going to try more of a farmer’s market approach, with each vendor having their own tent and space. I also want to really focus on agriculture.”
    Sharing the story of her family’s dairy farm, along with her artwork, is important to Hicks, and drives her excitement in hosting events like her upcoming Fall Market.
    “I love telling people about our farm and the dairy industry,” Hicks said. “Sharing the story of agriculture and our family’s dairy farm is something I’m passionate about.”