19 July 2015, 11:07
In 2007, Ron and Diana Mellon erected a handsome cherry-red barn perched on a swath of neatly manicured land. The plan was to use the structure for machinery on their farm, where they run anywhere from 180 to 200 head of Angus-cross cattle, chop silage, rake hay, and raise corn and beans on their rolling 300 acres.
Those plans changed, however, when a couple approached Ron and Diana and asked if they could get married in the beautifully rustic structure. The Mellons’ “Yes” sparked a new venture on the couple’s Lawson, Mo., farm: a booming barn wedding business.
After management and production, land payments, equipment purchases and employing seasonal help, producers and their families often decide to seek out additional revenue streams. Sometimes, it may be agritourism or hunting leases, or even niche markets. The Mellons entrance into the weddings business was a wise one.
Overall, weddings are a whopping $54-billion-a-year industry in the U.S. alone, and $5 billion in Canada. Then, consider that the Bridal Association of America reports 47% of all 2012 weddings were held outside of a church, 35% of which were outdoors. Barns can offer the warm, rustic charm and back-to-basics feel many [wedding] couples crave.
Mellon’s Banquet Hall officially opened for business in 2008. Diana’s already busy days on the farm became even busier. That new barn is now used for weddings, as well as birthday dinners, reunions and corporate retreats.
“We’ve had more than 200 weddings here, not including corporate dinners, birthdays and reunions,” says Diana, who works every event herself. She also hires seasonal employees to help, but laments, “It’s hard to find good help.”
Diana does have terrific help, however, coming from her granddaughters, who pitch in to help, while the Mellons’ grandsons assist Grandpa Ron on the farming side of things.
“The wedding business has become our income,” Ron says, adding that they have a big cattle sale coming up. Farming still remains the bedrock of family life, and, it should be noted, Massey Ferguson equipment helps the Mellons meet their typically tight schedule.
Most Saturdays, Diana can be found checking in with staff, directing photographers and guests, and soothing the jangled nerves of soon-to-be brides.
“Remember, you are working with brides, and trying to keep their stress level down is sometimes impossible,” she says. “When a bride asks, I always smile and never tell them something can’t be done. I just say, ‘Anything is possible; however, there may be a small upcharge.”
Source: AGCO, Massey Ferguson