Things I never thought I'd need to know: Nine hundred dozen donuts will fit into a 12-passenger van...if you squeeze 'em in just a bit.
But that's exactly what we learned last Saturday when we had our baking day for the Friends of Winskill donut fundraiser. In total, we made 930 dozen batches--over 11,000 donuts! With both of our donut machines running, it took us 11 hours to bake and sugar all those delicious rings.
This is our second year fundraising with the Friends of Winskill, and we were happy not only to work with the community members again but also to see this fundraiser grow. We made almost 300 dozen more donuts this year, and in all, helped raise almost $3,000 for the organization. All those donuts will help fund an update to classroom libraries and possibly help purchase a large projector for the Winskill school gymnasium.
Even though we've done fundraisers here and there for local organizations in the past, this is the first year we are offering the chance to bite into an apple cider donut year-round for everyone. Not only will we bake these delicious treats, but we will also take care of the ordering and advertising forms (customized to your liking and with your information) and delivery to your desired pick-up site. As Jim Muench, treasurer for Friends of Winskill, says, "it's an easy, simple, and straightforward fundraiser"—something that is manageable for any school, daycare, organization, or business!
If you're interested in learning more, check out the details below, visit our fundraising website, and get in touch with Morgan at firstname.lastname@example.org!
They say rain on your wedding day is good luck, and Tiffany and Adam had quite a bit of it on theirs. With a forecast of over 10 inches of rain, there was little chance for an outdoor ceremony, so we moved the celebrations completely indoors. This couple took the luck that Mother Nature was giving them with grace and humor, and we didn't need all that rain to tell us that this marriage was going to last a lifetime.
There was a brief clearing in the weather for some amazing outdoor shots, Along with luck, rain gives us dramatic skies and happy flowers (plus adorable umbrellas), which created stunning photo opportunities for this couple, their family, and their wedding party.
Photos by the amazing Ann Gorgen Photography.
The romantic color palette was lovely and Tiffany's dress was beautiful, both in original and in miniature. This mother and daughter duo made all our hearts melt.
The rain did nothing to dampen spirits indoors, and the party was full of laughter and love.
And the best part about rain on your wedding day? At the end, you might see a rainbow. Congratulations, Tiffany and Adam!
This January, Kyle got off the farm and in front of an audience for two ag-tourism conferences.
His first speech was at the Wisconsin Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Growers Conference in the Dells, where he gave a presentation titled "Success: It's More Than Just Growing." His talk focused on expanding business outside of the fields, finding new experiences, and trying out new ideas to keep adapting to a changing customer base and a rapidly moving industry. As Kyle says, in this industry, you have to be willing to completely adjust your whole mindset to keep being successful, a message he passed on to all attending.
At the same conference, he also partnered with Marshfield Farm Safety Institution to talk about crisis and disaster management. They specifically focused on a real-life event that happened here last year, when a tornado siren went off during one of our weddings. Luckily, the tornado did not come anywhere near our guests, but it made for a valuable workshop on how to create plans for unknown or crisis situations and how to plan and prepare for the worst.
Photos by the Wisconsin Agricultural Tourism Association.
Kyle then turned around and headed to Iowa for their Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Growers Conference, where he was the keynote speaker. On Thursday, he gave a presentation about our wedding and events business, chatting with other ag-tourism professionals about all the things we've learned in the past three years, our system and processes, and how to manage a catering and beverage business. At his keynote address on Friday, he talked about our Farm's history and where that history will take us in the future.
Although Kyle really enjoys the opportunity to share our story, he's now happily back on the farm in his yellow t-shirt, planning to get back to where it all started: those sweet Wisconsin fields.
Here on the farm, almost everything (even stuff that most people consider garbage) gets put to use. We take sustainability pretty seriously, so from the buffet food to the buildings, almost everything finds a home (or a mouth).
One thing that is a reality of every event venue is leftover food. We spend a lot of time crafting the best formulas for food preparation, but because not everything can be predicted, we sometimes have food left over from buffets, events, and other activities. We would rather have excess than not enough (we believe you should not leave here hungry!), but all that leftover food just can't go in the trash.
So after an event, we first separate food scraps to feed to the pigs, cats, and other farm animals that are, uhm, less picky about where their plate is set. The remaining food that is not even pig-worthy goes directly to our composting pile, where is breaks down and is later spread in the fields as fertilizer for those delicious berries, good carving pumpkins, and corn for the maze.
We make sure that almost every piece of food that is not eaten by our guests find a purpose, therefore saving on waste and keeping our food items moving through the cycle of re-use!
Even buildings don't go to waste around here. As farms grow older, buildings fall into disrepair or just fall down (from the weight of their own age or by wind, storm, etc). When this happens, every usable piece of scrap wood is saved and stored here on the farm until we have use for them. We have re-purposed old barn wood for the kiddie picnic tables you'll see placed out during fall season, made some wooden spools that have served as decoration at our weddings and events, and re-worked many of these pieces into signage for the fall season and for our events. And of course, the finishes in the barn itself are fully reclaimed as well.
One of the best ways (in our opinion) of reusing these old wood pieces is Bruce Vesperman's new hobby of creating amazing decorative pieces for both the farm and for sale. He's been in his workshop most of the summer carefully cutting, placing, and framing up some of these wonderful items. Some are in our barn now for decoration, but others were sold to customers during fall season (with plans to do this again next year). I know I have a few orders in with Bruce!
Bruce and Kyle have also created some functional pieces for the business, including these great napkin holders and our wine rack!
Kyle takes sustainability even off the farm, rescuing old buildings, shipping containers, and other items that were destined to be torn down, burned, or tossed in a landfill. One of our projects last year was bringing in an old garage that has since been transformed into the backdrop for our outdoor wedding ceremony location, a beautiful little spot that's framed perfectly on the hilltop overlooking the farm. Now dubbed the Schoolhouse because it reminds us of those little one-room schools, this little building will eventually become a bridal room for wedding parties!
As we've expanded our business, we've found we need ample room for storing items like tables, chairs, buffet items, and more. So Kyle found a down-and-out shipping container and re-purposed it as our storage unit. Now we can keep all our things safely out of our way when they need to be, but accessible when we have to set up for that next event.
Next on the docket is this old beauty, which was hauled in from a neighbor's. We're not sure what it'll be yet, but we'll dream of something! After that, there are two more buildings on the project list, but rest assured that each one will find a home at Vesperman Farms!
One thing's for sure: If you have something you don't need, we'll find a use for it out here at the farm!
Our slow-smoked buffet, which features Texan-BBQ-style pulled pork, brisket, and sausage, is our most popular option when clients are selecting their menu for their event. It's not only unique to our venue, but it's an absolute feast: 3 meats, 2 sides, cornbread, and all the trimmings. We have had such a positive response to this menu that we figured, hey, let's do an event to showcase these delicious options.
And the Good Ol' Pig Gig was born.
Now, if you just want to eat, check out our website here, go to our Facebook event (linked below), and check out our menu (click below). But after you're done working up an appetite, scroll down to learn a little behind-the-scenes information on the magic behind the meal.
As always with our business, smoking meats is a family affair. Kyle's cousin Eric is the go-to guy when you want this type of food. Eric started out as a little backyard business with a little smoker, doing some small events and parties around town. He then got crafty and bought himself a refrigerator that he converted into a smoker, welding on a spot to make the fire and catch the grease and drilling in vent holes throughout. That worked well for awhile, but today we keep him busy enough that he graduated to trailer-smoker setup pictured below. He can cook up to 18 briskets at one time in this baby!
On days we serve this menu, Eric and his crew start around 6 a.m. to fire up the smoker using a mixture of oak and apple wood chips.
After the fire is going, the cooking process begins.
First, there's PREP. Eric and the gang take a large brisket, sausage links, ribs, or pulled pork and begin prepping by trimming up the cut to remove excess fat. Then they season with a super-special-secret mix of herbs and spices developed over years of cooking and smoking. Each different type of meat takes a different type of herb/spice blend. And into the smoker it goes.
After the prep, there's the really good stuff: the SMOKE. Meats stay in the smoker for 4-5 hours (the brisket takes the longest, the ribs a little less time, and rounding out the race are the pulled pork and sausage, which take the least amount of time). The smoke until they get that gorgeous, flavorful smoke ring 'round the outside.
After their time is up, the meats are taken out, wrapped in aluminum foil to keep in moisture and popped right back in the smoker for a few more hours to finish cooking. In all, they stay in the smoker for 7-8 hours, so if you plan to make this for Christmas dinner, set your alarm to EARLY.
Finally, we EAT. Once the meats have finished smoking, they are cut to order, shredded, or otherwise prepared to hit your plate. And we and our guests usually make quick work of food that has taken so long to bring to the table.
We're excited for you all dig in and have a good time at our first rib-and-barbecue event. We hope to see you there!
This past December, we hosted two wedding receptions in the barn. I know what you're thinking: "A winter reception in an old, drafty barn - no way!" But our old barn boards don't just provide a warm backdrop for a wedding. We also have in-floor heating that keeps our guests warm and comfortable, even in this recent cold snap!
Riley and Michael's wedding was on a day that was downright balmy for December, which was a blessing for guests traveling for the wedding. We had a lot of fun working with this couple, who are wonderfully creative and experimented with room design and decor, creating a cozy and nicely-layered backdrop for their reception of about 160 people.
They braved the cold and ended the night with an amazing fireworks show and bride/groom send-off that was super fun and super cool.
Congratulations, Riley and Michael! You guys have quite the "spark" and we were thrilled to be a part of your big day!
Cheryl and Daryl's wedding didn't escape the winter weather - quite a bit of snow fell on their wedding day - but lanterns lit the way for an intimate and lovely reception with some truly kind and fun people.
How amazing was this winter wonderland cake by the SweetSpot Bakehouse?
Congratulations, Daryl and Cheryl! We so enjoyed working with you and your family and are so happy for you!
We are a new barn that's been made to look old, so we enjoy some of the amenities that traditional venues have, like temperature control and indoor restroom facilities, but we have all the character and vibe of a remodeled barn.
At Vesperman Farms, you can have both the winter wedding of your dreams and the barn venue you've always wanted. Get in touch with us today by clicking here if a snow-covered farm wonderland is in the cards for you!
Guys, seriously, how amazing is this wedding? Katie and Josh had a gorgeous vision and we loved providing them with the backdrop for their beautiful wedding reception. The soft florals, romantic draping, perfect lighting, and layers of decoration wowed people as they walked through the door. It was a beautiful setting for the start of a beautiful marriage for these two lovebirds.
Photographs by Precious Moments Photography. Decorations by Lueck Weddings.
The florals were done by Country Flowers and Gifts and bakery items were from Take the Cake Desserts. Both added a lot of elegance (and flavor!) to this beautiful wedding.
Although we enjoy every wedding here on the farm, it always take a special meaning when you know the couple personally. It was wonderful to be part of Katie and Josh's day as their venue, but also as friends happy to share in the love and laughter of the day.
Couples at the farm definitely take advantage of the sunsets out here, and a beautiful one topped off the evening for these two.
Congratulations, Katie and Josh. We were so happy to be part of your day!
The donut trend is by no means a new one, but here at the farm, we are able to put our own special twist on what is always a popular alternative to traditional wedding cake. Couples can either cater them in from other vendors, or can choose to go through us for our delicious apple cider donuts. Usually a treat reserved for fall season, these donuts are fast becoming a popular choice for our couples. If you are on the Good Ship Donut, here are a few things you need to know about donuts at weddings in general, and some specific items to consider for our venue in particular!
These donuts are from the heavenly Greenbush Bakery, a preferred vendor here at the farm. They are located in Madison and have some seriously delicious donuts.
THE DEETs on the DONUTs
People have loved donuts for years, but the donut wall hit the trends a couple years ago and people haven't looked back.
Presentation style varies, from the stacking to the hanging to the ever-creative donut pegboard. With donuts, couples and bakers can get really creative with their presentation, offering a unique design, flavor, and statement to their wedding desserts.
Here at the farm, we offer a variety of options for flavors: go "traditional" with our tried-and-true apple cider donuts or branch out to chocolate, vanilla, and caramel frosted donuts (decorated with your wedding color scheme in mind).
We usually stack these delicious treats a mile high, but we work with all brides to help determine the best presentation for the donut of choice and for the unique style and flavor of each wedding decor.
It's always a good idea to think about the accessories, too—do you want hot or cold apple cider to be served or even hot chocolate and all the fixings (especially for those gorgeous winter weddings). We're strong believers that every donut experience should be transcendent, and we'll work hard to make sure your dessert stands out. While the presentation of these beautiful snacks might come in and out of favor, we're pretty sure these donuts are here to stay.
Congratulations! You're engaged! Now what?
The first thing you should do is not a checklist item: ENJOY THE MOMENT. Take some time to love and be loved. Call family and friends. Craft the perfect Facebook announcement. Take the Instagram photo. Or just keep things a secret and relish this next level of your relationship for a little while. This is a fun time--enjoy it!
Now that you've basked, let's break out that wedding planning binder:
1. SET the TIMELINE
The average engagement is about 15 months, but some weddings happen sooner and some later. Ask yourself what season you'd like to get married in, how long you need to save money, how long you'll need to plan, and what major holidays/family events you'd like to avoid. You don't need to set a specific date, but decide on a range of dates you're interested in to sketch out a timeline for your engagement.
2. GET SOME INSPO
Picture your fantasy wedding: Big or intimate? Indoors or out? Vintage, modern, rustic, glam? Upscale or casual? Check out Pinterest, look at wedding blogs, check out wedding websites, take inspiration from a favorite movie scene—knowing your style and your vibe will help you with the details (what do those centerpieces look like?) but also give you a big picture plan and help you with your budget and guest list (coming up next).
3. BUDGET and GUEST LIST PLANNING
Establish your wedding budget and get a sense of your guest list numbers. You and your partner should draw up an invitation list, and then you need to tap your families for theirs. If your family is helping you financially, have a clear and honest discussion about their wedding budget as well as yours.
Now, money and guests are not often the most comfortable conversations you can have, but they are essential to getting yourself off to the right track. If you're budget-conscious (and most people planning a wedding have to be), you'll want to establish these guidelines right away. If you need some guidelines, the folks over at A Practical Wedding know their stuff. Click here to find some advice, tips to stay on budget, a breakdown of costs for a wedding, and a few sample budgets to help you visualize your wedding day budget.
Now is also a great time to choose that wedding party and ask them to be a part of your special day!
4. VENUE RENTAL and THE DATE
The next step for most couples is to research, tour, and book their wedding venue and/or ceremony site. The venue is the backdrop for all your wedding photos, where you can draw inspiration, and influences your food and beverage. Take tours with a few places when looking for venues, and run a budget on each of them. Here at Vesperman Farms, we conduct tours every weekend, and as part of our service, we'll even help you with a price estimate so you leave your tour knowing both how you feel about the space, but what you'll roughly pay. You want your venue to cross off as many items on that wish list as possible, from the look to the feel to the food to the price.
Once you've toured, budgeted, talked, and decided, narrow down that date and book your venue. And congrats! You've gotten a HUGE step of the planning out of the way.
Not sure what type of wedding you want? Go explore! Try out a few types of venues--you'll know when you find the right place.
Not sure what questions to ask? Check out this exhaustive list of all the things you could and should ask when touring wedding venues.
Once you've selected a date and booked a venue, make sure to block off those hotel rooms!
5. BOOK the OTHER PLAYERS
Now that you have a date and venue booked, go looking for those other players that make your day: the DJ/musician, the photographer, the baker, the transportation. If you're not sure where to start, ask your venue. Most venues have a preferred or recommended vendor list that they can provide you, solid recommendations to great wedding players. Get all those players into the pot as soon as you can.
Some people work renting a venue a different way, especially if they have a vendor they really need to work with. If you lock that must-have photographer down to a date, just keep that date forefront when searching for venues.
People plan their weddings in multiple different ways, and all you need to know is that flexibility, compromise, and quick but careful action are things that all couples must confront when planning a wedding.
6. ALL the DEETS
Now that you have the booking part of the process out of the way, you can really start nailing down some of the details. Talk with your vendors about decorations, music playlists, and timelines. Look for the dress. Rent the tuxes. Buy the wedding favors and the wedding party gifts. There are many details to attend to—you'll keep busy, we promise!
If you are looking for a complete timeline, the ever-wonderful theknot.com has a great timeline here for you to check out!
Happy planning, y'all!
Many people have a "To Do List" for their day or week or month to keep themselves on track and to make sure all the things that need to get done, well, get done. I write a To Do List almost daily, so I feel that I'm pretty experienced in this area, but I've never seen ones quite like Kyle's.
These random lists are a typical "day in the life" of this farmer/businessman/amusement park owner/animal caretaker/events coordinator/manager/designer/[add an infinite number of random job titles here], and these lists are actually what inspired this blog. Because we got thinking—with as many types of hats we wear each and every day, how best do we tell our story?
Here at Stories From the Farm, we want to bring you a more complete sense of the Vesperman Farms identity. We want to answer questions about things we do on the farm, such as how we plant the corn maze or how we incorporate sustainability into our farming and events business.
We want to tell our story and our history, and as a Century Farm, we have a lot of stories and a lot of history to tell.
We want to feature the happy days of the couples who choose to get married here and talk about the people who host their events with us. And we want to share our events, like Breakfast with the Easter Bunny and pizza nights. We want to be a source of information and a resource for people looking to hold events, especially for brides and grooms beginning their wedding planning.
We want to talk about our fall season, where it all started. We want to share family stories, give you behind-the-scenes looks at how we make it all happen, and talk about all the things you love about fall.
And finally, we want to have a place where we can write about all the things that don't fit into our other mediums like Facebook or our website. We want to share who we are with you in a more complete sense than some of those other media outlets allow. We want you, after reading some of our posts, to get to know us a little better. And we hope you'll join us here to read more Stories From the Farm, 'cause we have a lot of items on that To Do List that we are excited to tell you about!