Meet ‘CowGrammy,’ the Soul Behind The Farmyard

There is a place in Bulverde, about 15 minutes away from the Stone Oak area, that my youngest son loves and would visit every weekend if he could. It is a working farm called The Farmyard that has been open to the public for more than 30 years.

The Farmyard is like a dream come true for my four-year-old, where he can ride ponies and feed llamas, cows, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, and ducks, among other animals. He feels like a true cowboy.

Originally, I was going to write this article about The Farmyard and everything you can do during your visit, but when I interviewed CowGrammy—as she is known by those who visit her place—I switched my focus because The Farmyard is really a dream come true for her—a girl who has always been a big animal lover and now takes care of the place basically by herself, with some help from family, friends, and volunteers.

Cheri Hallisey is “an Air Force brat,” as she likes to describe herself. She was born in Illinois but also lived in England and Germany, where her dream started. “We used to live across the street from a dairy [farm in Germany]. That’s when I fell in love with the cows.”

Moving around so much, she couldn’t keep any pets and had to find a way to rehome them every time she moved. She used to rent ponies and when she was too big for that, she cared for another family’s horses.

“Everyone was so nice for letting me be around their animals and letting me help take care of them. It filled my heart with so much love and joy that I now do that. That’s one reason I really enjoy families coming here. I see how much fun they are having, and this takes me back in time,” Cheri told me during a phone conversation.

Her family was stationed in the San Antonio area in the early 70s, a place that she has decided to call home since then.

Cheri was a bartender and waitress for over 20 years and had a little café called Cheri’s Char-Rox Café near 281 in Spring Branch. That’s how she met her ex-husband, who was also an animal lover, who came from a family in Missouri that raised exotic animals. Together, they acquired more animals and bought two acres of land on Spring Branch Road, where they started raising animals.

But not only did their family of animals start growing, their human family did, as well. Cheri had three children and now also has four grandchildren, who all help when she needs them.

After some time, her family needed more room and moved to The Farmyard in December 1990. Shortly after that, she started opening the land to the public as a way out of the bar business. “It was so hard when you’re raising little kids,” she mentioned, full of sentiment.

Since 1991, The Farmyard has served the public with visits, trail rides, field trips, and a mobile petting zoo. She still enjoys doing all this, including prepping her animals to deliver to schools, churches, and community events, even though the present circumstances have allowed her to focus more on parties and field trips at the farm.

At some point, The Farmyard was home to over 100 animals. “I quit breeding sheep and goats back in ’08, because the economy had gotten really bad,” mentioned Cheri, remembering how everything has changed.

“It’s hard for me to sell animals too. If they serve us, work with us in the petting zoo, they are part of our family too. They, to me, deserve a forever home; now my sheep and goats are at least 15 years old,” she added.

These days, Cheri only breeds cows, because that’s her passion. “Living across the street from that dairy in Germany just filled it.”

She has different kinds of cows, but Cheri wants to make her way back to only dairy cows and enjoys the benefit of having them.

“Oh boy, I love fresh cow’s milk and I used to milk my goats too,” she mentioned as she described all the types of products she can make, including cheese and goat milk soup.

Cheri divorced in 1998 and since then, she has been running The Farmyard by herself, with the support of her family and friends she has met over the years who help her in emergency situations, including the drop in temperatures during the winter. She also relies a lot on prayers during these times, since she can only do so much.

Volunteers are also a big part of her support and she would like to have a larger volunteer base to help her, because she never knows if she will have visitors and prefers to work hard and try to run the farm by herself, knowing the money goes to the animals.

“The only thing I feel bad about is that because I was a bartender and waitress, I do feel bad when people are waiting. I want everybody to feel at home here and have a good time and I feel bad if people are having to wait,” she said.

Since the pandemic started, she has had many bumps in the road. Her truck broke down, and now in order to do her mobile petting zoo, she has to borrow a vehicle from someone else and so she has limited capability.

“I’m like a bird without wings. With COVID and then the weather there hasn’t been enough money to fix up the trucks.”

But even with all the obstacles, she always has a smile on her face and is ready to greet the families that want to have a fun time and love the animals at The Farmyard.

You can visit CowGrammy during drop-in hours, Tuesday–Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., or RSVP for after-hours during those days. For more information, visit The Farmyard website or Facebook page.

Born and raised in the north part of Mexico, Aidée is a mom of two boys who considers San Antonio a great place to raise kids, even though all her family lives on the other side of the border. She speaks only Español at home and tries to teach her boys about their heritage, learning as well about American traditions and having fun adapting to both cultures. Favorite Restaurant: Palenque Grill Favorite Landmark: Mission San Jose Favorite San Antonio Tradition: Rodeo