Since I was a little girl, I thought it would be dreamy to get married on our family farm. I learned that I am not alone in this longing and many people have asked my parents through out the years if we could host their wedding. We are a working farm with many side businesses happening at the same time and there are special permissions needed to be able to do this so we always politely declined. Two years ago, when I bought my families legacy farm I decided to start the process of applying for a conditional use permit to be able to host weddings on our farm because the farm wasn't making it financially and we needed to diversify in order to save the family farm.
So I started working with the Hood River county planning department and talking with another farmer/wedding venue owner nearby for some gentle coaching. After about 4 months into the process, I had some second thoughts after going to a evening meeting where a sweet couple who had originally been approved to host weddings were shut down. I wasn't sure I wanted to put all the work into the permit process(which was 80+ pages) to only be denied. I already felt crazy busy working 3 long days off the farm as a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner and learning how to run a brand new business(es). So I put it on a shelf and thought I would pick it up this new business idea on year 5 when I have found my groove better as a new farmer.
Around that time a dear friend who is a well known and experienced wedding caterer in Portland visited me on the farm and strongly encouraged me to not be dismayed and put my hat in the ring and the worst thing that could happen is is my permit is not approved. After praying about it I decided it was worth the risk and I started crafting my proposal(with much advice, design help and wisdom from my caterer friend.) I never really was certain if I would be approved or not through the whole process but after 10 long months and many small adaptions and re-submissions, miraculously we made it through the application process and we're approved to host 30 weddings on the farm and 6 farm to table dinners. I had went to see my nearby neighbors one by one and I took their input very seriously and adapted my plans to be mindful of their needs as to be a respectful neighbor. Being approved to host weddings on your farm in the Hood River Valley is quite rare these days because Exclusive Farm use land has many important restrictions and protections. I have to admit I was exhilarated and felt a bit like Rocky, after one of his big fights were he nearly died but then pulled a win in the last round. Unbelievably grateful.
So with my new permit in hand, I started working with a lovely structural engineer and we began designing the structures for the wedding venue. I started working with a business consultant in town who had also launched a wedding venue at a hotel she owned in Dufur for advice because I was so very green and didn't know what I didn't know often and the idea of having new wedding venue was daunting and intimidating to me on top of everything else I was managing. I went to the small business center at the community college nearby and worked with a very kind gentleman to begin my business proposal for the bank. I have been very cautious to take out any debt on the farm and so I wanted to do everything very prayerfully and cautiously. After a few rounds of drafts, I was approved an had a small amount of funding to begin construction based on my farm equipment as collateral. I had heard lovely reports about a classmate who was in construction that I went to school with and so I met up with him because he is known for being hard working, timely and a great communicator. I couldn't be more pleased with his progress and timelines. Because by this point we had already booked 5 weddings based solely on peoples imaginations alone with only a grass meadow in sight. My dear friends helped with the beautiful websites, photography and wedding staging and I couldn't be more grateful to their amazing help.
I honestly didn't always know the right next steps because building a wedding venue is a beastly project and I was trying to mostly cash flow the construction. My dear sweet parents have been incredibly helpful and I couldn't have don't it without their great partnership, encouragement and daily help, I had to ask many questions along the way but I knew one thing, I was not going to let the couples down that I had promised our venue too this 2016 summer. They didn't know me when they booked our venue but I keep my word. Also I found an excellent venue coordinator, Ashley Brown who has exceeded my expectations in every arena to help manage all tours and correspondence with our couples. So thankful to partner with such a stellar friend and business woman. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
Friends, I am so excited to announce that we have completed our 3 spacious buildings, all the plumbing and electrical, the sod laying and they are nearly done with our new roadway that leads to wedding venue that is very private and secluded. We are painting the 26 hand crafted tables and 52 benches this week as well. I am so very grateful to have our wedding venue completed and to host all the lovely couples this summer on our small family farm as well as 3 farm to table dinners. I am a bit tired and feel unsure how I am going to pay for the last big bills in july but so far I have been able to pay all my bills and I thank my generous Papa for that. I never felt super confident and secure in managing this huge project, but I am thankful to all my friends and family who have backed me up on days I was feeling unsure of my ability to launch another business. This journey was full of insecurities, surprises and big unexpected bills but also much joy, love and wild support. I am so thrilled to host all our lovely couples this summer on our farm and I believe it was well worth all the hard work and risk. If you want more information about getting married on our farm please head to his link. So grateful to be done with construction and for all the great advice and help along the way, friends. Bring on the weddings! I really believe this is going to be a lovely addition to our small family farm. A farm that gathers. Where our farm is your farm. xoxo your grateful farmer, Trina