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Our Experience with On-Farm Wedding Events
How to deal with problematic town regulations!
One year our farm was featured on a wedding blog as not only a great wedding venue site… but one that had a major historic “look and feel”. The blogger went on to say that our 1782Farm.com site was outstanding, due to it’s pristine nature. In other words, our farm with mountain vistas, stream, two bridges, pond and a wonderful 16+ acres. Our farm site was worthy of a wedding service, or after-party! I should note that our apiary and manure pile were located way, way out back… so as not to be a hazard, or a negative!
This one wedding blog post netted us 99 wedding requests! We were shocked, to say the least. It gave us a new appreciation of farm events as a revenue play.
Up to that point in our 10+ year farm stewardship tenure, the only other eye-opener in terms of education that we had received was related to “PYO events”.
A PYO event stands for Pick-Your-Own. Each fall, on Saturdays and Sundays, we would put up our PYO roadside signs indicating that we would be having a “cut your own pumpkin, squash and gourd” event, that day in our pumpkin patch. We usually drew quite a lot of farm-goers and tourist “leaf-peepers”, if the weather was good.
While managing these events, it became pretty obvious that the experience of being on a farm, and enjoying nature was a big part of the attraction. In fact, parents loved the fact that they could get their kids psyched to actually get outside and harvest some ‘cucurbita pepo and maxima’ (pumpkin and other) vine crops.
This article covers the inside story of what we learned. In future articles we’ll share our experiences of how to deal with your local town regulations as well as how to deal with large PYO and other crowds at farm dinners, weddings, etc.
We will be curating this know-how and guidance information in our “Pro” Track #6; Outrageous Outdoor Eating Events (O.O.E.E.) subscription which you will be able to join in the near future when we launch this educational subscription channel later this year.
There’s a lot to learn, for sure, when it comes to offering a farm wedding event or “field-to-fork” dinner. One of the biggest learning opportunities was knowing how to offer an event and ensure that it was profitable, safe, etc.
As the leaves start to turn to the yellows, oranges and reds we got ready to host many “city folk” who we coming from towns to the east of us (i.e. Boston and surrounding bedroom communities).
The fall is a fun time. After the summer, it’s a perfect time to get-away and explore those outlying farms which you have never seen.
If you’re a farm owner, or manager, you need to “check quite a few boxes” to see if you’re fully prepared as to insurance, proper signage, risk mitigation, etc. The bottom line question is whether your farm team of hired hands have the overall wherewithal to host a PYO, farm dinner, wedding event or barn dance.
The farm site must be prepped. Plus, you need to gear up by dealing with town regulations regarding entertainment licensing, neighbor complaints, noise, obnoxious lighting after a certain specified hour… and a whole lot more.
We learned very quickly that there were a lot of aspects, like nuisance kids, rowdy teams, mad bees, poison ivy, uneven ground and other farm hazards that could be really problematic.
The most important lesson related to our farm classification and ability to offer farm education. This knowledge had compelled us to move from a corporate legal entity to that of an educational 501c3 non-profit organization which allowed us some benefits in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that were a significant advantage to our farm planning and revenue outlook. We’ll get into those details in a future Pro Track #6 posting.
The more we explored the legal situation, the more excited we became. It would take us into new areas and there were a number of new costs and organizational implications, but they proved to be well worth it.
Lot’s more coming on farm wedding and other OOEE events. We’ll see you on Track #6!