Ministry in Action partner provides homes for at-risk children.

CBA is excited to announce another Ministry in Action partner for this year’s UNITE convention.

Mustard Seed Ranch, a ministry that provides Christ-centered homes for children, joins us as our second Ministry in Action partner. Mustard Seed Ranch will be our highlighted ministry, giving attendees an opportunity to serve the Nashville community through charitable giving.

Thistle Farms, who we introduced you to last fall, will have space in the exhibit hall to share with attendees about the important work they do.

Introducing both Mustard Seed Ranch and Thistle Farms to the CBA community is one of the many ways we’re working to support local ministries—Thistle Farms through product expansion and Mustard Seed Ranch through charitable giving; both hallmarks of our industry that has always defined itself by seeking new ways to share the Gospel and serve our communities.


Mustard Seed Ranch provides Christ-centered homes for children who’ve been neglected, abused, orphaned, or who need a healthy family environment.

“We’re a home for children that have experienced abuse or neglect,” says Executive Director Tammy Depperschmidt. “It costs about $100,000 per year, per home to maintain, and that means the support of eight children in the homes, a set of house parents, and an intern.”

Mustard Seed doesn’t benefit from state or federal funds, which can create a tremendous challenge, says Depperschmidt. “We also don’t charge a fee for the children to live at Mustard Seed Ranch.

“For instance, [other] places like Mustard Seed Ranch typically charge about $125 to $200 a day, depending upon the therapeutic need of the child, and we don’t. Because we’re a Christian ministry, we truly believe that we are called here to do God’s work, and He will provide. And, thus far, He has,” Depperschmidt says, adding that they are debt free. “We have a 113-acre ranch with three homes, which accommodate about six to eight children in each of the homes.”


The mission of the ministry is to provide children with a structured home environment, which is focused on meeting their spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and social needs. When possible and in the best interest of a child, Mustard Seed partners with families of origin and promotes reunification. Founded by Rex and Julianne Buckner, the ranch is a safe haven for children, but it’s not an orphanage or a foster home. Located in Cookeville, Tennessee, the ranch has served 43 children since it opened in 2009. Most of the children are from Tennessee, but the ranch accepts children from out-of-state as well.

“We’re the step before you get into the Department of Children’s Services, the need for foster care, or some sort of residential placement. What’s great about it is the relationship we have with DCS. If they hear about a kid they feel would be a great fit for Mustard Seed—and that we can really help the family prior to the child going into DCS custody—that’s what we do,” Depperschmidt says.


The referrals Mustard Seed Ranch receives are primarily word-of-mouth. There’s not a waiting list, but the ministry constantly receives calls from interested parties. In addition to providing food, shelter, clothing, and a loving, family environment to children, the ranch also provides services to meet the needs of those kids who have often suffered from severe neglect or abuse. Medical professionals work with the ranch to provide children with the health care they need.

“In families where it is applicable, we work with them. And we have reunified 12 families since we opened,” Depperschmidt says.

In maintaining a tie with the child’s family when possible, the child gets to see their family once a month while they are going through the program. They also can visit with them on elective weekends and holidays. Many of the children come from situations where their grandparents are their guardians.

“What the grandparents like about Mustard Seed Ranch is they have a team that joins together with them as a family,” Depperschmidt explains.

Ninety percent of children at Mustard Seed Ranch don’t have their father involved in their lives at all. Typically, it’s a single mother who has gotten involved with drugs, or alcohol-related issues, and the grandparents take over.

“If we show [kids] love, and give them time to take a breath, they realize they’re safe,” Depperschmidt says.


Mustard Seed Ranch is small, but growing. The Christian ministry is at the latter end of a capital campaign to build two new homes, one for boys and the other for girls, to accommodate 12 more children. The organization is $570,000 short of reaching a $1.8 million goal.

Depperschmidt says the children at Mustard Seed flourish, because they feel loved and safe.

Retailers can help Mustard Seed Ranch in a variety of ways. Prayer support is No. 1. Monthly support is also very important. To provide for one child per month is a minimum of $200. The older the child is, especially if they are driving, the cost is about $275.

“No matter what, we need support. If there are goods [retailers and suppliers] would prefer to donate, that’s equally important,” says Depperschmidt. She adds the ranch always has a need for staple goods, such as detergent. The ministry has wish lists ready that can help those who would like to donate. “There’s also an opportunity to allow the house parents to go on vacation by helping to provide a three-day trip to places like the Smoky Mountains.”

UNITE participants have several options for making donations to Mustard Seed Ranch: Online, from the registration page; at the Worship Him! service on Sunday, July 8; at the Ministry in Action booth #200 on the show floor; and at Mustard Seed’s website, (Ways to Help).

—Ginny McCabe