Saved by a bride's request: Owners of iconic farm launch new business hosting weddings
Two years ago, Michael and Paula Bushilla had come to a sad understanding. Keeping their historic and iconic Hope Glen Farm, located just north of Hastings at 10276 East Point Douglas Road, was becoming less and less possible, so they put the farm on the market, hoping to find someone to buy the property.
As it turned out, they couldn't find a buyer, so they got to work finding other ways of bringing in enough money to support the farm. They went on the road, team driving trucks across 26 states until Paula's doctor found a blood clot in her leg. Things looked grim.
"We were about to let it go to the bank," Paula said of the farm.
In August last year, though, they got a call from a desperate bride. She had just lost the original venue for her wedding and wanted to know if Hope Glen Farm would be able to host.
"It was hard to say no," Paula said.
Besides paying for the venue, the bride offered Hope Glen Farm all the professional photos from the wedding.
Once they decided to host the wedding, the Bushillas started thinking on a larger scale.
"What would it take to turn this place into a real wedding venue?" Michael said.
They worked with the City of Cottage Grove's Historic Preservation Commission, Planning Commission and city council to get the necessary approvals. With unanimous votes from all three bodies, they were able to make it official last September.
What caught the Bushillas by surprise was how popular their farm would be.
"We were clueless at how popular and trendy a farm/barn wedding is," Michael said.
Since they started booking weddings in September, the Bushillas have already filled the vast majority of Fridays and Saturdays for this summer. There are 58 weddings booked for 2013 and 10 already for 2014.
"And they're still coming," Michael said.
"By God's amazing grace, we found our calling," he said.
There is plenty of work to be done to turn the old barn into the perfect wedding site. The electrical system had to be upgraded to commercial quality, a septic system and bathrooms had to be installed and the back deck had to be designated an emergency exit. They created dressing rooms for the brides and grooms and built a wooden bridge over a dry creek bed.
The big projects still remaining are to build a pavilion and convert the old corn crib into more bathrooms that are handicap accessible.
The Bushillas said they expect to finish the work once the ground begins to thaw, so it's ready for the first weddings in May.
Paula's excited, not just because they were able to find a way to keep the farm, but because the new business will help them share the property more with the public.
The barn has been used in the past for informal events such as birthday parties, youth group meetings and mission projects, square dances, baby showers and more. And although weddings will take up the majority of the farm's weekends, the Bushillas are hoping that it will be used for various groups during the week as well.