How to Host a Fantastic Farm Open House

Farm partners and suppliers often co-sponsor events at Brooks Farms to save on expenses. ( Brooks Farms )

Want to thank your landlords, showcase a new building, or share pork production practices with your neighbors or consumers? If so, consider hosting an event on your farm. The focus of an event is to build relationships and leave a positive, memorable impression, but to be successful, proper execution is key.

Ron Brooks and his daughter, Zoey, in Waupaca, Wis., have hosted many successful events. Brooks Farms includes 1,500 acres and a dairy herd that is in the process of expanding to 700 cows. It was established in 1855 by Ron’s great-great-grandfather.

“Zoey is the ultimate event coordinator and is my chief operations officer,” Ron says. “If you’ve ever been to a Zoey-hosted event, it’s something you don’t want to miss.”

“I just like to party!” Zoey quips. She admits her penchant for planning a successful event might have something to do with her childhood and growing up with three sisters. “Christmas, birthday parties—you name it, we loved to decorate and throw a party. It’s how we grew up,” she says.

Although she might be the front woman, her off-farm sisters, Alyssa, Kelsey and Sydney, offer assistance and advice for the events.

farm tour

How it began

In 2015, Ron was named Conservation Farmer of the Year, so the family hosted a conservation day. It included hay-wagon tours of the dairy and crop ground and a meal. As the events have grown, the Brookses use their shop and rent tables, chairs and linens. Zoey adds fresh flowers and decorations to make the shop look less like a shop and more like an event venue.

The most recent event was an open house for the new dairy facility last September.

“We had about 800 people out to the farm that day,” Zoey says. When asked where everyone parked, she adds, “Dad’s a pilot and he has an airstrip that runs in between two of our freestall barns. When it’s not wet or soggy, it’s a great place to park cars.”

farm tour

Involve local businesses

Zoey says they couldn’t have hosted their events without sponsorship. For the most recent event, the builders for the new facility sponsored all the beer, and their banker sponsored the roast pig (purchased at the county fair) and other food.

“Sponsorship definitely allows us to take it to the next level,” Zoey says. “We love promoting local products and businesses. The open house was to showcase all the work the builders did—so we encouraged them to bring their displays, signs and handouts to make it worth their while and hopefully get a few more customers while they’re at it.”

The Browns sell milk to Grande Cheese Co. in Brownsville, Wis., and the company provides all the cheese they need for their events.

“Grande will handmake pizzas for us if it’s not too large a crowd,” Zoey says, which means 200 people or less. “I’ve used local B&Bs, restaurants and bakeries, too.”

Ron adds they like to have some surprises at their events. He had his sons-in-law, dressed in Brooks Farms shirts, positioned to open gates and welcome visitors at one event. Half-way through one of the hayrides there was a stop for ice cream sundaes with fresh strawberries.

Don’t skimp when showing your appreciation to customers, says Carolyn Evans, a retail consultant. “Instead, host a cost-effective event by spending wisely. That’s the best way to make the event pay off for you and be special and meaningful for your guests. The purpose is not about lavishing expensive food or gifts; it’s about strengthening the relationship you have with the people you’ve brought to your event.

Importance of transparency

“Nothing on our farm is ever off-limits,” Zoey says. “We have nothing to hide, so when we bring people to our operation they’re able to go anywhere and see anything they want.”

It’s a philosophy they maintain every day, not just when there’s an event.

“I always told my kids, character is defined by what you do when you think no one is watching,” Ron says. “The farm is kind of the same way. You think no one is watching, but people are driving by and paying a lot of attention!”