• Get Back to Nature With These Pastoral Minnesota Gems

    FROM THE Spring 2015 ISSUE
  • Get Back to Nature With These Pastoral Minnesota Gems

    FROM THE Spring 2015 ISSUE
  • Get Back to Nature With These Pastoral Minnesota Gems

    FROM THE Spring 2015 ISSUE
  • Get Back to Nature With These Pastoral Minnesota Gems

    FROM THE Spring 2015 ISSUE
  • Get Back to Nature With These Pastoral Minnesota Gems

    FROM THE Spring 2015 ISSUE

Farm-to-table was so last year. Now, instead of just clamoring for farm-fresh food at mealtimes, city folk want to visit rural locations for meetings and events. In farmland all over Minnesota, barns have been spruced up and modernized, ready for a new era of rustic-style occasions (with plenty of modern touches).

The Barn at Dunvilla, Pelican Rapids

Eric Miller knows how to make a meeting planner happy. “Before I owned The Barn at Dunvilla, I ran successful consulting practices in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area,” he says. “Because I’ve got a business background, I know the needs and expectations of businesses in planning their corporate events.” The barn is three-and-a-half hours from the Twin Cities and 50 minutes from Fargo, North Dakota. The main building has a 3,600-square-foot open loft, which seats 250, and includes modern restrooms, two bar/ serving areas and a gas fireplace.

The Barn at Five Lakes Resort, Detroit Lakes

In the heart of Lakes Country, this barn, part of Five Lakes Resort, overlooks the private, pristine Lake Five, which is three-and-a-half hours from the Twin Cities. “Our barn is such a uniquely inviting space,” says Laura McMartin, conference and event director. The barn loft can seat up to 300 people, with four breakout spaces for 12 each. Onsite accommodations include 11 lakeside cabins, which can accommodate up to 82 people. “Clients often tell us that corporate retreats held at the barn just don’t feel like work,” McMartin says.

Berry Hill Farm, Anoka

Farmers Cliff and Amy Rowe own this 100-acre farm and rent out their one-room, wooden- interior barn, which seats 200. “The barn is up on a hill, surrounded by gorgeous wooded acreage, rolling hills and a pond,” says Cliff Rowe, who says that people love the idea of being on a working family farm, especially one that’s only about an hour away from the Twin Cities. The wide-open space is a perfect palette for creative planners. “We’ve had bouncy houses brought in,” Rowe says, “and one group had a hot air balloon for tethered rides.”

Bruentrup Heritage Farm, Maplewood

Reach back into Minnesota’s storied past with an event at the Bruentrup Heritage Farm, which features nine buildings that date back to 1891. Available meeting space includes a historic barn with capacity of 165, and room for an additional 160 in the basement. There is also a historic house with capacity for 30. Located just 30 minutes from the Twin Cities, the space offers some unique features for historic sites: handicap accessibility, including a handicapped restroom in the barn, and ample parking within a short walking distance.

Coop’s Event Barn, Dodge Center

“We hear so many positive comments from folks who plan events here,” says Keith Cooper, owner of Coop’s Event Barn. “While we are still a rustic, rural setting, our grounds are very well-groomed. In fact, one meeting participant thought she shouldn’t drive into our pasture to drop off items because it looked too nice.” The barn has 4,500 square feet of space on two levels. Cooper is especially proud of the cobblestone patio with adjoining fire feature, open spaces for games and restored granary. The seasonally operated venue is about 75 miles from the Twin Cities.

Fairhaven Farm, Fairhaven

At 150 years old, Fairhaven’s Yankee Barn is one of the oldest structures in the area, which is about 60 miles from the Twin Cities. The barn has capacity for 60 people, and as many as 300 can comfortably be accommodated in tents outside. “Our garden is very nice for outdoor events,” says owner Marsha Anklam. The barn includes a commercial kitchen, with all catering provided by local caterer Cottage Gourmets.

Hope Glen Farm, Cottage Grove

It’s not just the beautiful farm setting or the historic farmstead that makes this venue so appealing, but also the fact that it’s all reachable within 20 minutes from the Twin Cities. The farmstead features a 2,400-square-foot pavilion complete with a massive stone fireplace. In addition to the 300-person-capacity pavilion, there is also a restored 1860 barn and a covered wine barrel bar/patio area. “We’re helping to preserve Minnesota’s traditional farm buildings and countryside landscapes,” says owner Michael Bushilla.

Shepherd’s Hill Farm, Montgomery

Not many barns feature a baby grand piano on the premises, but that’s just one of the unexpected delights at this location. “Acoustically, it does well,” says owner Ruthie Beahrs. The 100-year-old barn has been fully renovated, using reclaimed wood from southern Minnesota barns. “We put a lot of heart into the renovation,” Beahrs says. “My wedding eight years ago was the first event we held here.” Located about 50 minutes from the Twin Cities, the barn can accommodate up to 150 guests.

Stonewall Farms, Willmar

Located on the banks of scenic Solomon Lake in central Minnesota, this distinctive barn was built with Minnesota-milled oak. The setting is peaceful and serene, and the presence of beautiful Fresian horses adds to the ambiance. “We offer carriage rides to a nearby 10-acre island,” says owner Kim Holmgren. The barn accommodates 100 guests, and an additional 250 guests can use the farm’s semi-permanent tent. “We recently had a father of the bride, who works as a photographer, tell us the place is even prettier in person than in pictures,” Holmgren says.

Keeping Their Day Jobs

Many of the barns available for rent are part of real working farms. 

BERRY HILL FARM: A family-outing and u-pick destination, the farm features strawberry and raspberry picking, starting around mid-June to the first week of July and around the first of July, respectively. In October, families enjoy pumpkin picking, tours through a tall grass maze and tractor rides through back acres.

FAIRHAVEN FARM: The orchard here is planted with about 5,000 apple trees in more than 20 varieties. Apples and farm-made jams (in flavors like blueberry lime, strawberry balsamic jalapeño, and muskmelon) are available in-season on the property and the Annandale Farmers’ Market. The 50-acre farm also grows grapes, pears, plums, raspberries, blueberries and strawberries.

SHEPHERD’S HILL FARM: Local farmers use the pastures on the farm’s 75 acres for their grass-fed beef, and local bees produce clover honey from its fields.

STONEWALL FARMS: An 80-acre horse breeding farm, this central Minnesota site specializes in Friesians, a shiny black breed which resemble light draft horses, but are graceful and nimble for their size.

Some 35,000 people of Native American heritage call the Twin Cities home, and sites across the area have indigenous cultural roots.

Since winning the 2022 James Beard Best New Restaurant in the nation, Owamni by the Sioux Chef in Minneapolis has brought Native American cuisine to the forefront of fine dining in the eyes of foodies. It is one of many indigenous businesses in the Twin Cities. 


Explore Minnesota Tourism is accepting nominations for the agency’s tourism awards through Jan. 10, 2023. The awards honor people, marketing campaigns, and other initiatives that promote Minnesota as a destination.

To be considered for an award, a form must be submitted for each nomination. Explore Minnesota Tourism requests specific details about each nomination, i.e., goals, results, return on investment figures, accomplishments, etc. Supporting documents and creative elements help the Explore Minnesota Awards Committee score each submission.


The Roger Toussaint Award is the highest honor from the Minnesota Association of Convention & Visitors Bureaus.