GILBERT, AZ- John Volken Academy Ranch (the old Marley Farms) will be hosting Gilbert Days Rodeo in November 2013, bringing this historic event back to the town of Gilbert. The new owners of the ranch are hosting a free neighborhood BBQ to get to know the neighbors on Monday, May 20 from 6:00-8:00 pm. Guests can enjoy a delicious BBQ dinner, pony rides, bounce houses and western entertainment. Meet owner John Volken and local supporters, including former County Supervisor Don Stapley, Carson Brown and Jason Barney. The ranch is located at just north of Hunt Highway.

John Volken Academy Ranch is to be a landmark family destination, a retreat from hectic city life with a backdrop of the San Tan Mountains. A guest is to relax on The Back Porch and enjoy some BBQ at The Kitchen made from farm-fresh ingredients. The kids could play in The Back Yard while parents shop at The Living Room for unique home furnishings. The Pantry would provide local culinary treasures, like farm-fresh cheeses, produce and vinegars. Existing equestrian infrastructure will be added to, which include 150 horse-stalls, two arenas, a petting zoo and a feed store; Higley Feed will open their doors soon. Horse-riding lessons, event hosting and other services are currently available.

Gilbert Days Rodeo is put on by the Gilbert Promotional Corporation (GPC), which was founded in 1978 to preserve the western heritage unique to Gilbert. Since 1983 GPC leased the Gilbert Rodeo Park as the venue for Gilbert Days and other events. In 2011 the lease could not be renewed, leading the GPC to host the rodeo at Vertuccio Farms in Mesa.

John Volken Academy Ranch was purchased in June of 2012 by the John Volken Foundation, a non-profit organization based out of Vancouver, Canada. The foundation dually supports the John Volken Academy, which has two other locations, and Lift The Children, which supports 92 orphanages in Africa.

John Volken has a rags-to-riches story, starting as an orphan in East Germany to creating over 150 furniture stores in the U.S. and Canada. He was named “Entrepreneur of the Year” for Canada’s Pacific Region, among other awards. Having surpassed his financial goals, he looked back on a lifelong desire to help others. He remembered his orphanage days and decided it was time to give back. In 2003 he sold his furniture business and put his fortune in a foundation with the sole purpose of helping others help themselves.

Volken is married to Arizona local Chawna Brown Volken, whose valley roots run deep. Many of her eight siblings live in Gilbert and the rest in Chandler and Mesa. Strong community and family support has brought them to establish this third John Volken Academy to benefit the area and create a vital destination for families to enjoy. Don Stapley, Carson Brown (Chawna’s brother), Jason Barney and many others volunteer their time to help build John Volken Academy Ranch into a benefit to its visitors and neighbors.

Students in the Vancouver academy work in a public, Costco-style grocery store called PricePro and live in homes in the adjacent neighborhood. In Seattle, Washington, students work in a furniture store, called PriceCo, and live in a housing building next door.

Gilbert academy students will work on an equestrian facility and farm as they learn diverse career training, personal development and healthy living practices. Students between the ages of 18 and 34 voluntarily commit to this two-year-program and are subject to a mandatory, zero-tolerance substance-free policy. Students and the full-time program director currently live at John Volken Academy Ranch. Lessees of horse-facilities also live at the ranch.

Lift the Children supports destitute and needy orphanages in Africa, mainly Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Sierra Leone. The foundation covers 100% of its operating costs and Volken and board members are unpaid, which allows every penny to go directly to benefit the children. Their ultimate goal is to help each orphanage become self-sufficient and to provide each child with as much education and life-skills as possible.

For more information please visit or contact our Ranch Manager Josh Smith at (480)895-1010