By Jim Hagerty
ESMOND – Michele Roberts dreamed of a self-sustaining, four-season experience, growing her own food and restoring natural balance to the soil and environment.
The physician assistant became involved in a local food initiative five years ago, but only had experience with the gardening basics – growing tomatoes in her backyard. The natural next step followed, and she took the local movement to the next level and learned to grow food on a large scale. There was only one slight hangup. Her house in town was anything but suitable.
So, Michele bought the five-acre Nada Farm in 2014. But Nada was not just any farm. Already already known for its barn sales, it had also attracted the attention of publications like Midwest Living Magazine, Prairie Style Weddings and Country Sampler.
Armed with the lyrics of a Nat King Cole song and new friendships with a horse called Jordan and Lacy, the pony, Roberts renamed her slice of country paradise Paper Moon Farm and a new enterprise took shape.
It didn’t take long for expansion though. This year, the farm will double as a premiere wedding venue. Just a half-hour south of Rockford, Paper Moon Farm now offers wedding packages among its elemental landscape that meanders through gardens as sheep and horses graze in what cultivates a time-honored Midwestern scene.
“We wanted others to be able to enjoy hosting a wedding for their friends and family here,” Roberts said. “The beautiful views and old buildings and gardens are perfect for photos and we tried to create a lovely event space in the barn with expansive views of the countryside. Weddings are such a joyful time, and I truly value beauty. I wanted to be able to help couples create a beautiful event that they can be proud of and enjoy treasured memories of for their life time.”
With packages starting at around $3,300, Roberts calls it an affordable option for a unique and memorable occasion. The Wedding Barn provides flexibility for outside catering, even food trucks for barbecue and tacos. Then there’s the in-house amenities. Available Saturdays, the barn includes a bar, chandeliers, romantic lighting and dance floor. There’s valet parking, shuttles to local hotels, a late-night grilled cheese menu and interaction with animals.
“When we decided on the details of the wedding barn, it was important for us to be able to offer guests the option to decorate the way that they wanted and to show off their unique styles,” Robert said. “We wanted to provide the basics of a gorgeous, neutral space that people can decorate – whether their style is vintage, casual, or lavishly elegant.
“We love this business, because it gives us the opportunity to work with other local wedding vendors and help them to be able to work in the areas that they are passionate about.”
Paper Moon Farm will be on display from 2-6 p.m. this Sunday, May 21, at the Whimsical Wedding Festival, which will kick off the 2017 wedding season, the first for Roberts. The day will include live music, food by Rochelle’s Hick’s BBQ, floral arrangements and a host of wedding vendors.
“We love promoting other businesses and seeing people succeed. There are so many creative and talented people in our community and supporting local business keeps the economy in our area strong and gives people like me and other local florists, photographers, musicians, caterers, artists and stylists the chance to contribute their remarkable talents as well.”
Paper Moon Farm is at 2423 S. Woodlawn Road, Esmond. For more information, call 815-246-2180, or visit the farm’s website at papermoonfarm.com.