Agri Leader

Weddings on Florida farms can provide elegant or down-home feel

Farm weddings are popular — and here in Florida, we’ve got plenty of farm-wedding offerings for husbands and wives to be.

Farm-based weddings give local growers another income stream, although it’s one that comes with some planning and investment. Consider the story of Mixon Fruit Farms in Bradenton, which is into its seventh year of offering weddings.

“Our groves had taken a hit with weather and diseases. We invested millions into this, hoping and praying it would work,” said Sheri Gooby, who manages weddings and event sales for Mixon. Within the first year, the farm did 20 weddings. You’d never know from visiting Mixon that they have a booming wedding business, as the wedding area is nestled in the middle of its orange groves. It has a huge waterfall, a pavilion for 300 people, and what Gooby said is the largest koi pond in Florida.

Over at The Lange Farm in Dade City, owner Tom Lange bought the farm in 1988 and hosted at one point an employee picnic for Tampa-based Moffitt Cancer Center. That evolved into hosting fundraisers and even a rodeo. People started to ask if they could get married on the picturesque property. In 2003, Lange built an air conditioned venue for weddings on his 80-acre property and hired a coordinator to handle wedding details; he now works with a handful of coordinators. Couples enjoy the farm’s rolling hills, large oak trees, and the horse farm that’s on the property, said Lange. They can use the antique barn or the garden house for the big event.

Down in Ft. Myers, the idea of hosting weddings at Buckingham Farms grew out of a conversation between event coordinator Anna Edmonson and her cousin who owns the farm. Buckingham Farms is a 50-acre hydroponic farm, and part of the appeal for couples is the farm-to-table experience that Buckingham can provide if they are interested, said Edmonson. They’ve hosted eight weddings since venturing into the wedding business 10 months ago; there are 30 booked through this year and early 2016, said Edmonson.

So why would someone want to have a wedding on a farm versus the typical Florida beach wedding? “Most brides want something that’s different but that’s still Florida,” said Gooby. “They want something that’s easygoing but elegant.”

The couples and their families also enjoy having unique pictures taken, such as the bride sitting on a tractor, said Gooby. At The Lange Farm, there have been couples who have arrived by horseback or by a horse-drawn carriage.

Since weddings are usually held on the weekends when farm visitors are not around, the people I interviewed said that farm life doesn’t interfere with wedding planning. What does take some extra work is planning for a large mass of visitors to come to the farm for a wedding and getting the respective permits from the local government to hold such events, as well as any necessary insurance, said Lange.

The farms also have to establish relationships with caterers and other businesses that typically are used during weddings, said Lange.

There aren’t so many farm weddings in the summer because of the sweltering heat, but spring and fall are busy times for the farms to host weddings.