For the Byrne family, an event barn means an opportunity for family celebrations.
Not just their own, but for others, too.
Rich in farming history, traditions, work ethic, and a welcoming hospitality spirit, the family opened Pheasant Valley Barn, hidden in a scenic valley on the backside of the family’s dairy farm on King Road just southwest of Brooklyn.
Duane Byrne, who established the venue with his wife Kris, said the renovated 1890s barn and surrounding land includes multiple outdoor event sites and photo opportunities.
The event barn is “about a mile from the daily activities of our 85-Holstein dairy operation,” Duane said. “The Byrne family emigrated from Ireland in the 1870s and started farming in Wisconsin. We are the fourth and fifth generations of dairy farmers.”
While growing up, his brother Jim recalls that the barn was a great place to play basketball, shoot pool and just enjoy, “or a great place to hide when avoiding chores.” Jim co-founded Raspberries Greeting Cards and is responsible for marketing Pheasant Valley Barn and designing the website; friend Andrea Noble also assists with marketing and social media.
In 2003, the family decided to renovate the barn, which was in disrepair and needed a lot of work.
“The barn had been used as shelter for dairy heifers and hay storage,” said Duane. “We added a metal roof and restored the interior of the barn; the family spent years working on the restoration.”
To celebrate, the family held a barn dance for their parents Jim Sr. and Pat’s 40th wedding anniversary.
“This was the start of ‘The Party Barn,’” Duane said with a laugh. “Our mom Pat has a green thumb and helps us enhance the barn venue with wildflowers, annuals, and perennials. When our family is together, she prepares the best home cooked meals in what she refers to as ‘Grandma’s Café.’ Our dad enjoys driving tractor and does most of the field work.”
Since the inaugural celebration, the family has hosted parties for anniversaries, graduations, family reunions, 4-H gatherings, sporting events, and some neighborhood celebrations.
“In the fall of 2018, our son Cory married his fiancée Jenny,” said Kris. “It confirmed our idea of starting a barn venue and sharing our barn and farm with others.”
Growing their business, the Byrne family wants to provide the public with the space to host the important events in their lives.
“The attire and food vary with the theme and personality of each event and the breath-taking natural landscapes provide photo opportunities,” Kris said. “The barn is often decorated with wildflowers, wagon wheels, mason jar lights, vintage farm equipment and hay bales. You’ll find walking paths, great scenery, wagon rides, a fire pit and music to bring it all together.”
Duane and Kris’ daughter Lindsay thinks it’s a wonderful place to gather. After college, Lindsay worked off the farm for a few years and then decided to return.
“I’m usually the first point of contact, and I take people on tours of Pheasant Valley,” said Lindsay, who also is responsible for the day-to-day operations and social media.
Lindsay was recently engaged, and already knows the perfect venue for her September 2020 wedding.
“We’ll do everything we can to help people’s dreams come true, we’re open to all kinds of suggestions, and if we can help, we will,” Lindsay said.
Ag tourism grows
According to an annual survey from The Knot, an online wedding-planning platform and magazine, in 2017, 15% of couples chose a barn, farm, or ranch for their wedding reception, an increase from 2% in 2009.
“Today, young couples, see a wedding as an expression of their identity,” said Sheila Everhart, president of the Wisconsin Agricultural Tourism Association. “A barn wedding typifies a simpler life.”
Everhart explained that during recent economic times, Wisconsin farm families are integrating agricultural tourism offerings such as farm tours, life celebrations, value-added food products, farm-to-table dinners, and farm-stays to their farm businesses.
“Agricultural tourism presents a unique opportunity to combine aspects of the tourism and agriculture industries to provide financial, educational, and social benefits to tourists, producers, and communities,” Everhart said. “As people look for unique experiences, farms also are benefiting from an increased interest in other forms of agritourism. Event barns are hosting craft nights, farm-to-table dinners, and concerts, in addition to weddings, birthday parties, and corporate retreats.”
Steve Nagy, owner of Homestead Meadows Farm in Appleton and a member of the Wisconsin Agricultural Tourism Association, pointed out that the barn wedding isn’t a new phenomenon.
“Homestead Meadows Farm has hosted more than 1,500 weddings and more than 4,700 other group since 1981,” said Nagy. “The popularity of farm weddings grew slowly at first but has accelerated tremendously in recent years.”
Pheasant Valley Barn is fully accredited and insured, centrally located between Madison, Janesville and Monroe.
Jim added that the family is very excited to share their Pheasant Valley Barn venture.
“We are so happy that we restored our barn,” said Jim. “As more barns and farms are lost, our barn is preserved and can be shared with others to create a memorable and special day for your event.”
Pheasant Valley Barn provides amenities including: panoramic natural views; multiple ceremony sites; 300 plus indoor seating; 14 feet by 33 feet deck overlooking the valley; scenic walking paths; large parking lot; handicap and wheelchair accessible; numerous photo opportunities; tables and chairs; men’s and women’s restrooms; bridal dressing room; groomsmen dressing area; heat and air conditioning; rustic farm props; caterer preparation area; elevated stage for a DJ or band; rustic live edge wood bar; spacious dance floor; romantic string lighting; stellar acoustics; quiet natural setting and event clean-up.
Along with pheasant, deer, turkeys and sand hill cranes that stroll through the valley and the natural springs, the Byrne family wants to add some of the rustic machinery that worked the fields and harvested the crops when their grandparents and parents owned the farm.
“We have a threshing machine that belongs to my dad,” said Duane. “He loves old farm machinery and the simpler times associated with it.”
One thing that makes Pheasant Valley Barn special is that everyone brings a different skill set to the new event barn venue, Duane said.
“Each of us plays a unique role,” said Duane. “There is a strong sense of family woven through the tapestry of the project and a synergy that arises from it.”