Buttonwood Campground

In the early 1990’s, Denny and Nancy McFarland fell in love with a picturesque piece of property outside the village of Mexico in Juniata County. The scenic site not only boasted a two story brick farmhouse, a 19th century bank barn and several acres of rolling hillside but it was across the street from a campground that overlooked the Juniata River. 

Once the McFarland’s purchased the property, they immediately put the barn and grounds to good use by boarding horses, while working out a future vision that would enable them to turn their beautiful piece of land into a robust incoming producing property.

The owners of the campground across the street had allowed the site and facilities to fall in to serious disrepair. Many long-time guests were leaving to find better camping facilities. The McFarland’s seized the opportunity and installed fifty level campsites, built a bathhouse and picnic pavilion, and remodeled the barn into a game room. It was nearly an overnight success thanks to their excellent customer service and attention to detail. In fact the popular venue enjoyed 100% occupancy for much of the camping season. They realized to continue to serve their customer base, which included a long waiting list, they needed to expand. 

However, it soon became apparent that lenders were unwilling to see the potential in their vision as they received one rejection letter after another. The seasonal nature of the business was worrisome and no one seemed able to grasp that with a significant investment, their campground would become an even more attractive facility where loyal patrons would visit for years to come while new patrons would add it to their vacation plans.

The McFarlands first met with the Penn State Small Business Development Center (SBDC) during the summer of 2000. At that time, they asked for assistance in securing the financing that they needed to install more sites and another bathhouse. The SBDC helped them prepare a written business plan and financial projections to show the impact of the expansion project. Thanks to a solid business plan and reasonable projections, financing was secured for the expansion and to refinance existing debt. 

This initial expansion was the catalyst of nine years of tremendous growth for the campground. The McFarland’s would periodically approach the SBDC for assistance and guidance. Most recently, during the fall of 2009, the SBDC helped analyze and prepare financial projections for another significant expansion project. 

Today, Buttonwood Campground is a leading destination for campers in Central Pennsylvania. Due to the expansion projects, as well as the 2008 acquisition of the riverfront campground property across the street, they now offer 270 state of the art campsites for guests in a variety of price ranges. One weekend, the now 40 acre campground was at an amazing 98% occupancy.

Thanks to significant investments into amenities, including a swimming pool, laser tag course, pedal carts, cozy cabins, a mini-golf course, and incredible landscaping, the entire McFarland family proudly offers campers a spectacular vacation venue. They now employ their adult sons full time in the business as well as many others, some who are seasonal campers and others who are local residents. 

In 2010, the McFarland’s were awarded matching grant funds which allowed them to invest in solar panels. Some of the panels heat the water for the bathhouses and others help power the campground. This project is the first step in creating a green campground.   

Recently, their facility was one of only 31 campgrounds in the US awarded an ‘A’ grade in guest satisfaction by the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds. Thanks to the McFarland’s vision and assistance from the SBDC, each year Buttonwood attracts thousands of guests and brings in countless tourist dollars to Central Pennsylvania.