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Slideshow: The Mayer family restored a Washington County, Wis., barn built before the Civil War.

Fran O'Leary, Wisconsin Agriculturist Editor

March 6, 2019

5 Slides

With their three children graduating from college and returning to the farm one by one, Dwight and Shelly Mayer became interested in buying a 48-acre farm about a mile south of their home farm near Slinger, Wis. The neighboring farm has been in Dwight’s family since before the Civil War.

“My husband’s aunt, Marge Mayer Slaughter, had lived there until 2011,” Shelly Mayer explains. “In 2014, we purchased the land and buildings from her children. Our children are the seventh generation of the family on the farm. We bought it to keep it in the family.”

Slaughter had named the Washington County farm Folk Song Farm.

Labor of love
The two-story barn at Folk Song Farm was in need of major repair. Soon after buying the farm, the Mayers rolled up their sleeves and began cleaning and working on the barn.

“We loved the buildings, and we wanted to restore them,” Mayer says. “The more we worked on it, the more we fell in love with the barn.”

The Mayers soon realized they needed help and hired Amish carpenters.

“They replaced all of the siding, the roof and worked on the structure while we cleaned, scraped and painted,” Mayer says. “People would stop in to find out what we were doing and ask for a tour.”

The Mayers and their children, Devin, Cassie and Dylan, spent hundreds of hours working on the barn. After four years, it was completely restored.

Last June, the Mayers opened the barn doors to the public with their first farm-to-table dinner, and have also hosted numerous community activities and tours. In addition, they have rented the barn out for fundraisers, weddings, receptions, showers and other agritourism activities such as ice cream socials and 4-H group meetings. The barn is available from May through October.

The family has a relationship with the farm, notes Mayer, who also works off the farm as executive director of Professional Dairy Producers.

“It’s fun for us to make the link to agriculture from 1853,” she says. “We make that bridge because the farm has been in the family for 165 years. We can tell the story and explain we are still dairy farming. We can talk to [visitors] about the soil types and the history of the area.”

Visitors can enjoy horse-drawn wagon rides and views of Holy Hill in the distance. There are plenty of trees, wildflowers and rocks on the farm, as well as wildlife at the farm’s pond, which attracts ducks and cranes.

Last October, the Mayers were thrilled to host their daughter Cassie’s and son-in-law Alex’s wedding reception at the farm.

“It could not have gone better,” Mayer says. “They got married at our little church just up the road from the farm. It was absolutely beautiful, and everyone had a great time at the reception at Folk Song Farm.”

If you are interested in visiting Folk Song Farm, the Mayers are planning three more farm-to-table events in June, July and August. For more information, check out folksongfarm.com. Click through the slideshow to see photos of the venue.

About the Author(s)

Fran O'Leary

Wisconsin Agriculturist Editor

Even though Fran was born and raised on a farm in Illinois, she has spent most of her life in Wisconsin. She moved to the state when she was 18 years old and later graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater with a bachelor's degree in journalism.

Fran has 25 years of experience writing, editing and taking pictures. Before becoming editor of the Wisconsin Agriculturist in 2003, she worked at Johnson Hill Press in Fort Atkinson as a writer and editor of farm business publications and at the Janesville Gazette in Janesville as farm editor and feature writer. Later, she signed on as a public relations associate at Bader Rutter in Brookfield, and served as managing editor and farm editor at The Reporter, a daily newspaper in Fond du Lac.

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