Historic farm finds new life as a wedding venue
On an old farm south of Hastings, a local couple is taking a new approach to the family business. Paul and Kari Curtis are the owners of Almquist Farm, located right along Highway 316 in Ravenna Township. The farm has been in Paul's family for generations, ever since his great-grandfather, Charles Almquist, homesteaded it.
Charles and his nine children farmed the land from 1878 until 1935, when it was lost during the Great Depression, Paul explained. But it wasn't lost for long. Paul's grandfather, Dave, and his wife, Marian, were able to buy the farm back in 1949 and went on to farm it for almost another 40 years. In 1986, the same year Paul's grandfather died, all the farm's tillable acres were given over to the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), ultimately turning what once was acres of farm fields into scenic rolling landscape. Paul and Kari purchased the farm in 1991 and continue to live there today, but there was one thing that Paul especially wanted to accomplish.
"I've lived here all my life," he said, "... and I've always wanted to make a living on the farm."
Last summer, he got the idea of how to make that happen. Paul and Kari's daughter got married on the family farm, and the event went really well, Paul said. They had more than 260 people on the property, and many of them commented on how well suited the farm was for the occasion. It didn't take long for Paul and Kari to start planning the farm's new life as a wedding and event venue.
"It's great that Paul and I will be able to do this together," Kari said.
Plus, she added, it's a good opportunity for them to get their own children involved in the family farm.
The couple is now working out a few updates to their property to maximize its usefulness. They're renovating a handful of the old farm buildings; the old granary is being converted into a wedding party suite, complete with central air, changing rooms, a private restroom, kitchen, lounge area, pool table and entertainment center. An old equipment shed is being redone as a rustic indoor space with a long wall of French doors to create easy transitions between the indoors and outdoors, making last-minute weather decisions simple. Outdoors, Paul said, they'll be able to seat about 400 people; once the new wedding barn is completed, there will be space to seat 340 guests indoors.
All of it is being renovated in such a way to include modern comforts and features without sacrificing the historic farm feel. The family farm history is important to the family, Paul said, and they plan to feature their historic photos in various places around the venue.
But beyond all the rustic farm architecture and historic charm, Almquist Farm offers some picturesque outdoor settings.
"The other thing that really attracts people is the space," Paul said. "We have space and we have great views."
Rolling hills and oak trees that predate the farm itself are two of the primary natural features. There's also plenty of privacy; although the farm is located along Highway 316, all the event spaces face away from the road, and Paul said they plan to plant a new row of cedars along the roadway to shield the site even more.
Paul and Kari are working this summer to complete renovations, but they said they expect to be ready to host events as early as this August.
For more about the business, go to www.almquistfarm.com.