Attempts to save rural charm angers the neighbors

The idea of creating an event venue in rural areas threatened by sprawl seems like a novel idea. Afton, for example, has experimented with the idea of allowing a zone of former farms to serve as a buffer to keep Woodbury, the city that never saw a shopping center it didn’t like, at bay.

Who could be opposed to the idea of keeping the rural character of a soon-to-be-suburb? Neighbors, the New York Times reports today (“Neighbors Say Barn Weddings Raise a Ruckus”).

Take Scott Jordan, for example. He owns 50 acres in Grant, Minnesota, and spent more than $300,000 to restore a barn on his property to rent out for weddings.

He said the neighbors ganged up on him, sparking a series of meetings in town intended to stop the project.

“We moved out here for the rural nature, the quiet aspects of it, the open space,” Tom Windisch, 47, told the Times. “So do I want a band cranking music out of that building several times a week? No, I do not. Anybody would have reacted the way we did.”

It’s a scene that’s played out in decades all over America. People move to an area for its rural character, then fight the natives who are the ones who provide the rural character, but have to make a buck to maintain it. The dispute, we suppose, is one reason landowners give up and sell to Walmart.

“The people who have these barns have a passion to protect the history of the land,” Steve Corrigan, who owns an event barn in Wisconsin, said. “When you drive through the countryside, you’ll see deteriorated barns that have fallen into disrepair. When they’re gone, it destroys the skyline.”

The wedding-in-a-barn-boom doesn’t appear to be slowing down. In Wisconsin alone, there were 44 such locales last year and 8 more were planned this year.

“As a preservationist, I feel it’s been a godsend for some of these barns to be saved like this,” Bill Bruentrup, the chairman of Friends of Minnesota Barns, tells the Times. “Some of them were beautiful old barns, and if it wasn’t for this to generate some income, they wouldn’t exist. But I’m not the neighbor who moved out to the country for peace and quiet and has to hear a band playing till 12 o’clock at night.”

Related: Fighting for an American Countryside (Minnesota Public Radio News)

  • jon

    Simple solution: Regular and repeated use of manure as fertilizer.
    No one is going to want to get married in a barn next to the field that is covered in animal feces.

    • There are lots of stories of city people moving to the countryside, then once they get there, complaining about the smell of manure. Wedding barns are the new manure.

      • John

        Sort of like moving in next to the airport and complaining about planes flying over, I guess.

        Some friends of ours (who have farmed for 2-3 generations or more in the area they live in) had someone purchase a farm nearby. This person started some sort of farm (I forget exactly what – a supplier of textiles anyways – sheep, llamas, alpacas . . . something like that), and then was sending nasty notes to all the neighboring farmers, complaining about the dust they were kicking up while driving down the gravel road.

    • Jack Boardman

      “…Take Scott Jordan, for example. He owns 50 acres in Grant, Mn.,and spent more than $300,000 to restore a barn on his property to rent out for weddings…”

      It’s highly unlikely that people who moved out to the country would want anything to do with “…Regular and repeated use of manure as fertilizer.”

      It is unlikely there would be a field next to the barn for the intrepid peace
      & quiet city-slicker to unload a load of crap—er—manure upon.

  • Guest

    I empathize with the neighbors being subjected to noisy bands late at night. The Strib quoted the venue owner as saying that the neighbors couldn’t possibly hear a band from 1000 feet away. Ludicrous. In my suburban community I routinely hear bands from events at a bar two miles away!
    The manure would sure keep me away from booking a venue.

  • Kassie

    Farms are loud places. Are these people ok with dryers and heavy machinery running all hours during harvest? Because that’s as loud as a wedding, and not just on Friday and Saturday nights.

  • BReynolds33

    Your Awesome Job Title of the Day: “Chairman of Friends of Minnesota Barns.”

  • My paternal grandparents’ farm had two barns, one of which had a permanent stage for music performances: Barns have always been used to raise a rumpus.

    • Matt K

      Not to mention the noise of braying animals, guns, tractors, trucks, etc.

  • Jerry

    The problem is that people moving out into the country confuse “rural” with “wilderness”. Farms are a business. Farmers didn’t build those barns and plant those fields to give people something pretty to look at out their windows. If farmers turn their barns into event spaces it is just another way to make money. The neighbors should be glad. A farm hosting weddings is not one that is also a feed lot and rock music tends to be preferable to a manure lagoon.