If you’re planning to live happily ever after, a 27-acre site abutting a 300-acre farm with 800 black Angus cattle, two chocolate Labs and horses named Chip and Widowmaker, all surrounded by 2,000 acres of scenic farm country in God’s own Madison County, is a great place to start.
For newlyweds Katelynn and David Falk, it’s also a great place to help other couples pursue their happily ever after.
The Falks, who were married in October, are building 6,000-square-foot Renback Barn, a wedding venue with an 1,800-square-foot wraparound porch featuring a panoramic view of the bucolic countryside.
The venue’s name is from a combination of David’s grandparents’ surnames, Warren and Greenbacker. The barn will sit on the 27-acre site dedicated to providing brides and grooms a genuine mountain farm experience.
“As we were going through the whole process of looking for a venue for our wedding, we realized a lot of things that [we] thought we could address in a venue of our own,” said David, 27. “We thought we could create for others the kind of venue that would provide what we were looking for and others might be looking for, as well.”
David is a ninth-generation farmer whose family has made its living and its home in Madison County for five decades. Originally a dairy farm, Falk Farm started as a cattle farm in the 1990s by David’s father.
After a successful stint as a high school athlete and basketball star at Eastern Mennonite University, David is ready to return to the farm. For Katelynn, who grew up around horses and rodeos, it’s a chance to mingle farm, family and entrepreneurship.
The couple broke ground for the barn in November and already has booked a few weddings based only on their three-dimensional renderings and YouTube videos of the scenery.
“We learned a lot of things about what to look for in a venue and the venue industry and we were able to apply it to do our own thing,” said Katelynn, 24. “It’s a way to get out on the farm and it allows me to develop my own career. Without the support of David’s family, we couldn’t do it.”
There are dozens of wedding locations in and around Charlottesville ranging from hotels to wineries to bed and breakfast venues.
According to The Wedding Report, a wedding industry organization that provides research to wedding professionals, there were 1,651 nuptials performed in Central Virginia in 2017. The average cost of a wedding in the region in 2017 was $26,861.
In Albemarle County alone, there were 509 weddings in 2017 at an average cost of $32,439.
The Falks used their wedding as personal research and looked deeper into finances and the region’s wedding industry to design Renback Barn.
“We’d pay attention to what we liked and didn’t like,” David said. “The venue for our wedding didn’t have heat and the bathrooms weren’t connected to the barn, so we’ve included them in our barn.”
The Renback Barn’s exposed log construction will provide a rustic atmosphere but feature modern conveniences such as indoor plumbing, heat and air conditioning. A groom’s room and bridal suite are planned and tables, chairs, arbor and hay bales will be available, as well as a warming kitchen for catering prep space.
The barn will include timber harvested from the family’s farm and cut with a friend’s portable sawmill, as well as volunteer labor from friends, family and church members.
Prices will fit a variety of budgets, with Saturday weddings starting at $7,000 and Sunday weddings starting at $5,500.
Expecting to open the site in May, the Falks hope to schedule one event per month through 2019, which will cover their costs. They hope to build the business up to where Katelynn can leave her off-farm job in Charlottesville and work the venue full time.
The plan is for David to take over working the family cattle and hay operation as his father works toward retirement while the event venue becomes Katelynn’s bailiwick.
“Right now, we’re going to focus on the event facility and offer weddings and then we hope to eventually include the horses and other aspects of the farm, if people want to,” Katelynn said. “We’re focusing on Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C., as our customer base so people have an opportunity to get away from the concrete jungle world to the more rural and quieter atmosphere here.”
Getting the business going and running the farm will not be easy, but the Falks say they’re used to hard work.
“We know what it takes to work hard. It is a little risky for us, but it’s something we’re willing to take on,” David said. “We’re just looking to make a name for ourselves, and rather than work for someone else, we want to work with each other to make a life together.”