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Gaining a Second Income From a Barn Turned Into a Wedding Venue

What started as an old barn with a leaky roof has been transformed into the ultimate destination for couples looking to tie the knot.

Dave and Betsy Muehl, who grow marsh hay on most of their 500 acres near Cottage Grove, Wisconsin, purchased the property in 1996.

“The barn roof was leaking. It was either going to be torn down or made into something useful,” says Dave Muehl.

Part of the charm of the 1920s barn is its exquisite view of the landscape from the hay mow. “It was a dark room with two small windows,” he says. “I was sitting on a ladder near the windows and wondering how we could capitalize on this view. It was then that we decided we’d rather make something useful out of this barn.”

Although the barn and shop are still the hub of a custom hay business, on weekends, Badger Farms LLC moonlights as a place to host special events.

During The Week

As a full-time farmer, Muehl definitely keeps busy with the operation during the week.

“We have two small square balers, a big round baler, three tractors, 13 semis, two drop decks, two curtain-side trailers, and 28 bale wagons. We do about 60,000 square bales and 2,000 round bales each year of reed canary grass,” Muehl says.

With this abundance of farm machinery, a large, top-notch shop was important, and one was added in 2003. Pass-through doors are located at both sides of the structure so tractors and other equipment can enter and exit easily.

“The nice thing about doors on either side of the shop is that they allow us to bring in equipment and to drive it out the other side,” he says. “We don’t even have to back it up.”

Tools are located in the barn’s basement right next to the shop. Large access doors were designed for the convenience of going back and forth within the barn basement. “We hooked the shop right to the barn because we wanted accessibility,” Muehl explains.

During the cold winter months, the shop is a great facility for working on equipment.

“We have radiant heat in the floors with space heaters up above,” he explains. “It’s nice and comfortable.”

On The Weekends

In the summer, the shop gets dressed up for events nearly every weekend.

“The shop itself is the banquet hall. It holds dinners for events that take place in the barn, like weddings, receptions, or graduations. We even had a prom here once,” Muehl says. “It accommodates those different life events; especially the meal portions of those events.”

Along with the banquet hall, the barn’s hay mow provides a unique spot to say “I do” or serves as an overflow area from events in the shop. The on-farm scenery is frequently in demand for those planning outdoor weddings.

“Everything is right on site,” he says. “We do many weddings outside. If there’s inclement weather, the special event takes place in the barn’s hay mow.”

When people began renting the facility for events, the Muehls sooned learned the venue needed the right accommodations.

“People wanting to rent this place want to rent a barn, but that’s not all they want,” he explains. “They want all the city amenities of running water, electricity, and bathrooms. The audio-visual system we have is top of the line. We had to spend the money for an elegant venue. To be first-class, we have to do first-class.”

Future Plans

Badger Farms is once again looking to the future and dreaming big.

The couple’s long-range plans include the first FISA Specified Olympic-Class rowing facility in the U.S.

The proposed plan includes a 7,200-foot lake with eight lanes of racing, a 200-foot-wide warm-up channel along with a boathouse, clubhouse, media center, and parking for 2,500. The site can also accommodate other water sports like kayaking. 

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