For Kyle's cousin Kelsy, Vesperman Farms is all about family.
"I remember times when the fall season wasn’t so big. My family worked there - my uncles drove the tractors and us kids would just run around. We kind of had the run of the land and we just explored. It was so fun to be there and hang out and spend time with family."
"Oh," she adds, laughing as she remembers. "And there was this crazy llama. We spent a lot of time with him."
Kelsy was around for the early years of the pumpkin patch as well. "I don't remember how old I was when we first started selling pumpkins," she said, speaking of the pumpkin market the Vespermans used to run on their grandparents' yard on the corner of Madison Street in Lancaster. "No one really 'staffed' it," she said, " I remember playing with this old lock box that people would drop their money into when they were done shopping for their pumpkins."
"The pumpkins would just cover my grandma's front porch," she remembers.
When Kyle moved the pumpkins to the farm in 2002, Kelsy spent a lot of time with her family running around on the farm and making memories. She remembers, "There were the old horses, the llama, and maybe some pigs. We had this old fridge for water and soda and we'd keep candy bars in there to keep them cool in the hot summer. It was so fun."
Then in 2011, Kyle added a lean-to on the old white barn and opened the Snack Shack. He bought a donut maker and started selling more food. In a small 10x10 room, Kelsy, her friend Katrina, and Judy would sell snacks and make donuts. "Making the donuts was so fun. We had this old machine that could only cook a few at a time - not like the set up Kyle has now that can cook a lot more at one time - and sometimes we'd have to flip the donuts because the machine was rickety and we had to help the donuts along."
Over the next few years, Kyle kept adding more and more to the farm: games, food - a lot of things you see today in the fall season. "Kyle goes after his ideas, and moves towards them. He's done so well and we're all really proud of him."
She adds, "When I was a kid, Grandma's house was where we could all meet and be a family. When Grandma moved out, we sort of lost our family base. But at the farm, Kyle has created a space where we can all be a family together again. And the best part is that he's created a space where other people can have that too. It’s so special for our family that we can use the land and the space for something so positive and beneficial. We are so happy to share our history and carry on our future with all the people who visit the farm every year and make memories there."
When she was a kid, Kelsy never would have guessed this is where the farm would be today, but it is so exciting for her and her family to keep seeing the farm evolve and change every year. But as far as her relationship with Kyle goes? Well, that's stayed the same.
"I love him," she says, "but we're cousins. He can really be a pain in the butt."
This story is part of our 15-Year Features series. For more stories, click on our 15-Year Features category!
All in one weekend of May 1982, Donald and Margaret moved off the farm and Bruce and Judy moved in. While the next Vesperman generation put down their roots at the farm, Donald and Margaret settled into a house on Madison Street, the same one Kyle's cousin Eric lives in today. And for a few years all was pretty quiet at that house.
But in the late 80's, the front yard became a small market from September through Halloween. And this little farmer's market had one product: pumpkins.
Beginning in the early 80's, Bruce and Judy diversified their farming operation, raising more vegetables and selling them into smaller markets. As part of their diversification, they started a pumpkin patch and began looking for ways to sell pumpkins to people for carving, cooking, and decoration. The decision to sell pumpkins at Donald and Margaret's house in town came down to the old tried and true real estate maxim: Location, location, location. The visibility of the Madison street house made it a great location for a local market...and they knew the people living there.
The house, with its wrap-around porch and good-sized front yard, could hold a lot of pumpkins, and it filled up quickly. In those days, the family worked on the honor system. They would load up wagon after wagon of pumpkins, drive into town, and just cover the front porch and yard with orange bulbs. Sometimes they would put a "Pumpkins for Sale" sign up...sometimes they wouldn't. Sometimes they would staff the yard...sometimes they wouldn't. "Really, it was usually just an old metal coffee can with a hole in the lid," Kyle says. "People would pick up their pumpkins, leave their money, and that was kind of the whole operation." In that sea of pumpkins, the Vesperman family found something really special, something that seems to only exist in small towns: a unique event; a trust between buyer and seller; and a fun, special experience for many local (and sometimes not so local) families.
One thing that was pretty constant (besides all the pumpkins) was the presence of Kyle's grandparents, who thoroughly enjoyed pumpkin season. Donald especially found joy in porch sittin' - on crisp, sunny afternoons you could usually find him in his chair, chatting with the families that stopped by, thanking everyone for their business, and wishing them all a happy fall. And when it got to the final few days before Halloween, you could bet he'd throw in an extra pumpkin or two for ya, no charge.
When Bruce quit farming in 1995, Kyle, then in high school, still had an interest in raising crops, and he mainly focused on sweet corn and pumpkins. Even though back in those days he was busy with school and football practice, a lot of his fall weekends were spent picking pumpkins and taking them up to the house. "Sometimes I'd take up two or three wagonfuls, and in between loads I could tell people had been there. I'd be putting more pumpkins on bare spots that just an hour ago were full," he remembers.
After graduating and going to college, Kyle found a little more time in his schedule, and that's when his ideas for the pumpkins and for the fall season really began to take off. In 2002, he kept the pumpkins in the patch and invited families to come out to the farm to pick their own, marking the first official fall season and beginning a new chapter in the farm's history.
In many ways, though, Kyle's approach to his projects has remained the same. He still operates the fall season very similarly to the way he operated his small pumpkin market as a 14-year old: with some background and knowledge in the area, a lot of hard work and time, a (sort of) clear vision, and a lot of energy, he continues to create and share experiences that have the same magic of that little pumpkin operation. And even though it's on a much bigger scale now, 15 years later, the fall season at its heart is all about building relationships, spending time with family, and throwing in that extra pumpkin.
This story is part of 15 Year Features series to celebrate 15 years of Vesperman Farms' fall season. If you'd like to read more, click on the "15 Year Features" category!
With the weather warming up in the last few weeks (ha, just kidding), the last thing I want to do is reflect on winter - but I'll make an exception to gush about the beautiful winter ceremonies we celebrated on the farm this past January...and to show some love to our amazing preferred vendor, photographer Tanya Schwendinger of Precious Moments Photography, LLC.
Although some couples shy away from the cold and snow, these two and their families warmed up the barn with their fun, their love, and their excitement to begin their married lives together.
Tanya finds beauty and emotion in every shot. "I always like to capture the whole day as story-telling material...what I look for most is emotion between loved ones - the first look between the father and the bride, tears between the mother and her son or daughter, the first kiss, and the love between the bride and groom," she says.
Those cold Wisconsin winters don't faze us: in-floor heating keeps our guests warm and comfortable on even the chilliest of days. And even thought it might be stark outside, the barn provides a great backdrop for any vows.
"I am always amazed at how beautiful and unique the place can look for any style of the ceremony/reception," says Tanya. "There are nice places to step outside for beautiful sunset pictures and there are great textures in the old barns that give the photos a look that is both captivating and timeless!"
Congratulations to our lovely couples!
This September wedding was the stuff of rustic venue dreams. Brittney and Brent kept true to their theme and mood throughout the day. From the romantic hues of the wedding party dress to the sweet and fun family and friends they brought along with them, they embodied a farm wedding.
Photographs by the amazing Copper Antler Photography.
We loved the fall colors in this lovely bridal party and were head over heels for this gown.
Brittney and Brent's ceremony was short and sweet and focused on their family. Plus, can you not get enough of Brent's face as he sees his bride walk down the aisle? This sweet look is one of my favorite captures of all times.
The barn was bright and beautiful, decorated with burlap (right down to the wedding party flowers, all handmade) and excellent lighting. The desserts were a highlight: Brittney and Brent made an amazing display piece for some seriously yummy cupcakes by Steph's Sweet Treats.
It was so clear to all of us that these two share an amazing bond, a great sense of humor, and a true love. From the first look to the last dance, Brent couldn't keep his eyes off Brittney. Thank you both for letting us be a part of your day - we couldn't have been more honored to be there. Congratulations!
The bunny has been busy! The Easter Bunny visited us this week and helped us prepare for Breakfast. From sweeping the floors to stuffing the goody bags, the bunny helped us get all ready for Easter!
We'll be serving up our breakfast on Sunday, March 25 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. We hope to see you at the farm for our third Breakfast with the Easter Bunny! For more information, check out our event website.
Have a lovely Easter season, all!
Booking a venue is a huge step in your wedding planning. It's also a huge part of the look and feel of your day...and often the most significant portion of your budget. When looking for venues, you want to make sure you cover all your bases, so it's good to ask a lot of questions. In tours and throughout the planning process, I field a lot of questions and I'm happy to do so, because each one clarifies a little piece of the whole venue rental package.
From our own experience, we've put together a pretty long list of questions for you to consider when looking for a venue. Although by no means exhaustive, this list is a starter guide when talking with a site contact or venue coordinator. Check it out and ask away!
A couple of tips:
If you have questions specific to our venue or if you're looking for more information, I'm always here to help! Visit our bridal site to fill out our information request or email me at email@example.com. Looking forward to talking with you!
A decade or so ago, the farm workshop was a pig farrowing barn. But today no swine smell lingers. Now when you walk through the doors, you catch whiffs of cut wood, Danish oil, sap, and wood glue. No oinks, but the whir of saw blades and the scratch of sandpaper. And instead of pigs, you'll meet Bruce, the farmer turned artist, working away on his latest wood project.
"Well, I was bored," says Bruce with his big smile. "I retired and I needed something to do and to keep out of Judy's (his wife's) way."
What he found was a hobby that keeps him both busy and challenged. His shop is littered with scrap wood, printed versions of project ideas he's found on Pinterest, pieces of paper with scribbled dimensions and important notes, and a variety of stains and paints he's been experimenting with. His shop isn't messy, man - it's creative.
Since he started, Bruce has become an expert in Pinterest, browsing the idea site for anything new and challenging, for things to make just for fun and for things that make practical sense for the farm.
Some of our favorite pieces are his mosaics, which are made from old pieces of scrap wood. He painstakingly cuts each small piece to size and shape, then glues them all together according to a preset pattern. These projects can take a few hours or a few days, and Bruce has created them in a variety of sizes and shapes, from the large barn quilts that hang in the barn to smaller pieces in a variety of designs, including a feather that hangs in my house. (And upon visiting his shop to write this blog, I found more feather pieces, which means I'm going to have quite a few Bruce originals in my house!)
And the practical projects he's worked on have been just as great. Bruce made napkin holders for the tables that we use for our public events, sanded and stained some beautiful old pieces of wood for our bar menu, and made all of our high chairs. So many of the pieces we use on a daily basis have come right from Bruce's shop.
In the past few months, Bruce has been working on smaller projects to sell during our fall season, and also spent about a week making a grand throne, which the Easter Bunny will have the honor of sitting in at our Breakfast at the end of the month!
For Bruce, tinkering away at projects and coming up with new ideas is a great way to stay busy and have fun. But like most of the Vespermans, this hobby is also about finding a way to contribute to the farm's business and history, and so many of his pieces reflect his attention to and care for the farm where he's spent his life. From re-purposing old barn wood that keeps this history of this place alive to making pieces that enhance the experience of people enjoying the farm now, Bruce isn't just one of the most useful guys on the farm, he's also one of the sweetest.
This story is part of 15 Year Features series to celebrate 15 years of Vesperman Farms' fall season. If you'd like to read more, click on the "15 Year Features" category!
Sometimes you meet a wedding party who just know how to have fun, and Cassie and Josh's closest friends and family knew how to have it in oodles. This group of people were a blast. From the minute they got to the farm to the last dance, they celebrated the love...and made sure we enjoyed ourselves, too!
Cassie and Josh embraced a lot of barn wedding essentials for their day: casual attire (we love the jeans on the groomsmen!); boots, especially for the bride; bright colors and florals; and an overall easy-going vibe that allowed everyone to cut loose and enjoy themselves to the fullest.
Photos by Shannon Ready: Photographer.
The delicious cake and cupcakes were made by Mrs. B's Bakery in Boscobel.
Yellow is always a favorite summer color, and this wedding party was bright and celebratory.
Congratulations, Cassie and Josh. We hope you keep dancing the nights away!
When Louis Vesperman purchased a 160-acre farm outside of Lancaster, Wisconsin, in 1900, he probably didn't know that more than 100 years later, the farm would still be in the Vesperman family. And he almost certainly couldn't have predicted that today, five Vesperman generations later in the hands of his great-great grandson Kyle, that same farm would become a fall fun destination for thousands of people every year. To Louis, this land was good land, farming was a good way to provide for his family, and, as so many people say when buying a farmstead, the house wasn't bad either.
On this very day—February 26—in 1900, the history of Vesperman Farms began when Louis purchased the farm for $62.50/acre, a price that is shocking by today's standards. Today, in their 118th year of farming and 15th year of fall season, the Vesperman family has a lot to celebrate, and we're doing so with a series called "15 Years on the Farm." Over the next months, we will share a lot of stories from the farm, but we need to begin with the most important: the beginning of the farm itself and the history that brought Vesperman Farms to its present day.
The beginning of the farm was one that was pretty typical of the day. “Back then, you just lived off the farm. You had one or two cows to feed the family, some chickens, a big orchard behind the house, and a small crop operation,” said Kyle, Louis’ great-great grandson and the current operator of Vesperman Farms.
It was during the first 20 years that Louis established his farmstead and built the original red barn, a two-story traditional post and beam barn that first housed the family’s mules, horses, and milking cow and later took in the family’s pigs and kept hay and straw dry in the second-story loft. This red barn stood on the property for decades until 2012 when straight-line winds all but flattened the structure. Today, the barn still stands on the property, but in a different form: many of the beams, posts, boards, and even the original stone is built into the design of the new red barn, which was built in 2015 to accommodate the crowds during fall season and serve as the event venue.
It was also in the 1920s that Louis’ son Earl began to become much more involved with the farming. In that decade the farm was passed down to Earl, who farmed the property for about 20 more years until his only son Donald became a third-generation owner when he returned from serving as a dental assistant in World War II. Over the years, “well, they grew pretty much everything,” said Kyle. From harvesting crops like soybeans, corn, wheat, and peas to raising a variety of livestock, including beef cattle, chickens—even sheep!—the Vespermans were never shy about undertaking new projects and trying new things, a family legacy that to this day drives the energy and life on the farm. In fact, in the 15 years since Kyle has operated the farm, it has grown from a small family pumpkin stand to a thriving agro-tourism and events business, growth that has a lot to do with the family’s enduring experimental and can-do attitude.
It was after the war that Donald and his wife Margaret also began a family, eventually having seven children in the height of the Baby Boomer generation. It was his middle son, Bruce, who became the fourth-generation owner and operator of the Vesperman farm in the 1970s. In the early days, Bruce and his wife Judy raised hogs and beef cattle and farmed about 500 acres of cropland, but in the late 1980s, they paid close attention to a growing farm-to-table and local farming trend and began to diversify. They started a large garden and began to sell produce directly to the customer in the front yard of Donald and Margaret’s home on the Lancaster main street. “Truck farming, we call it,” says Kyle. Over the years, they sold more than produce: they raised chickens and sold eggs; planted a strawberry patch and sold pre-picked berries; sold sweet corn; and, probably most importantly, Kyle (then a high school student) started a pumpkin patch and began selling pumpkins in his grandparent’s front yard.
“It was a hit,” he says. “It was a fun creative outlet for me and my family really enjoyed it, especially my grandpa and grandma—they loved selling pumpkins.” Kyle credits his parents’ decision to “truck farm” as the beginning of the road that eventually led the farm into the agro-tourism business. Through their direct sales, he began to see how people could experience farm life without actually living on a farm, something that was growing in popularity throughout the state. Kyle paid close attention as agro-tourism began to grow while he finished school and continued his small pumpkin business.
In 1995, Bruce got out of farming full-time, selling the animals and minimizing his crop business, and it was a few years later that Kyle became the fifth generation Vesperman to run the family farm. His vision for the place, however, was entirely different from any of his ancestors. He took his pumpkin business back to the farm in 2002, offering his customers the opportunity to spend a few hours on the farm, take a hay wagon ride, and pick their own pumpkins. And in 2003, the first official fall season opened with its very own corn maze, leading the Vesperman family down a new path and establishing a new history for the farm.
The family has come a long way since those early days, and Margaret, who is now 98, often comes and visits during fall season, watching all the families interact with and enjoy the farm her family started all those years ago.
This is the first story of our 15 Year Features to celebrate 15 years of Vesperman Farms' fall season. If you'd like to read more, click on the "15 Year Features" category!
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!