Down the Garden Path at LaRocque Farms

By Lauren Eve | Photo credit as noted in each photo’s caption

In 2021, Rob and Amy LaRocque stood under a gazebo on a beautiful, 80-acre farm in Walworth and posed for their wedding portraits. In fact, as it turned out, the land they stood upon that day would play an important role in their shared life together. Just 48 hours earlier, the couple had signed the closing papers that made them the new owners of the picturesque farm where they were, at that moment, commemorating forever the day they promised “to have and to hold.”

Rob LaRocque, originally from the Chicago suburbs, and Amy LaRocque, originally from Milwaukee, met in hospitality school at the University of Denver. Like many couples, after they got engaged, the couple began searching for the perfect wedding venue in a convenient location that would bridge the gap between their hometowns.

However, unlike many newly engaged couples, Rob and Amy were not searching for wedding venues in the traditional way, via or by attending a wedding expo. Instead, they were looking for a piece of property that they could buy and turn into the perfect wedding venue, using their combined skills and experience in the hospitality industry.

The LaRocques discovered the 80-acre Walworth farm on a real estate website and were deeply drawn to the beautiful landscape. With their shared background in hospitality, they immediately recognized the potential of the property. The site was positioned conveniently between Milwaukee, Chicago and Madison, making it the perfect wedding venue. Although the farm was not quite ready in time for the LaRocques’ own wedding ceremony, they did use the site for their wedding photos and spent some of their wedding weekend enjoying the property, which would become their future business and home as well. They named it LaRocque Farms.

When the LaRocques purchased the farm, it included a rustic red barn, a silo, an expansive prairie, forests, gardens and a farmhouse where the LaRocques currently reside. Shortly after they were married, the couple moved in and got to work preparing the farm as a rentable wedding venue.

“Our wedding weekend was so special,” says Amy. “We wanted to offer our property to couples so they could customize their own special day too.”

First, the LaRocques hired local contractors for the restoration of the barn. White siding and new barn doors were added to the exterior. New gallery windows throughout the barn provide panoramic views of the surrounding prairie. The barn’s interior underwent the largest overhaul, allowing for the addition of modern amenities including bathrooms and the “silo lounge,” transforming the barn into a multi-purpose space while maintaining its rustic charm. The LaRocques chose to preserve the original wood that dates back nearly 150-200 years, utilizing it for various purposes, including repairs throughout the barn and restoring the original wood flooring.

Next, the LaRocques added a 27- foot sailcloth tent equipped with flooring and canvas siding, providing a comfortable and aesthetically pleasing semi-outdoor space for entertaining. The tent serves as a permanent structure during the summer months next to the existing barn. “We include tables and chairs in the tent,” explains Amy. “We try to make the planning process easier for couples with less to worry about.”

But what initially drew the LaRocques to the property was the expansive landscape — the rolling prairie hills, the exquisite gardens and acres of mature trees and fruit orchards. They knew these were valuable natural resources that were not easy to replicate with new landscaping.

The landscape of the farm is diverse and enchanting. It features apple, cherry, peach and pear trees as well as natural, untamed prairies containing beautiful native plants like purple coneflowers, phlox and asters. The LaRocques wanted to breathe new life back into the property. “Everything [the gardens and fruit orchards] was already here,” explains Amy. “It just needed some love.”

They discovered a one- acre organic garden planted by the previous owners and decided to cultivate additional produce and herbs, including raspberries, pumpkins, beets, carrots, tomatoes, mint and basil.
Amy manages the garden throughout the summer and says she continually introduces new varieties of produce and herbs to enhance its diversity.

The couple designed LaRocque Farms as a truly personalized experience for everyone involved — couples, guests, and vendors included. Chefs and bartenders are encouraged to explore the flower and herb gardens and orchards to select fresh produce and herbs to incorporate into their menu offerings for wedding guests to enjoy. Brides are encouraged to explore the property and gather wild prairie flowers, which they can use for their ceremony and as decorations for the wedding.

“We want couples to make their special day personal to them,” explains Amy. “It can be DIY or fancy. We wanted to see what people could dream up with our space.”

Choosing to use these natural resources not only contributes to a unique and meaningful wedding experience but connects everyone who visits with the beauty of the farm. “We want everyone who comes [to the farm] to really experience it,” explains Amy. “What better way than to use what the farm has to offer.”

The farm also provides plenty of beautiful spots for couples and guests to capture photos. There’s a garden gazebo, plus areas with large river rocks, wildflowers and even a gentle waterfall that pours into a small pond near the barn. A simple white pier in the pond echoes the distinctive white piers of Geneva Lake nearby and provides a stunning backdrop for photos as well.

Guests are encouraged to explore the garden paths and trails that wind throughout the property in a two-mile-long loop. The rustic trails lead over prairie hills, past expanses of wildflowers and alfalfa fields, through forests and across a charming bridge that leads to the entrance of the farm. This allows guests the freedom to immerse themselves in the natural beauty of the surroundings, say the LaRocques, adding to the experience of attending a wedding at the farm.

One of the unique challenges that the LaRocques encounter is making sure the farm landscape continues to grow and thrive after the winter season. Each spring they schedule a controlled burn as part of their land management strategy. This important step helps maintain the health of the prairie grasses and wildflowers, preventing overgrowth caused by invasive plants. “It is very important to us that we maintain the integrity of the land,” says Amy. “Doing this each year brings more life and growth to the entire farm.”

Couples who rent LaRocque Farms for their wedding day enjoy exclusive access to the entire property, allowing them the freedom to create a unique and memorable experience tailored to their preferences. “We have no requirements,” says Amy. “We learned from our own search that most wedding venues only allow one-day reservations. Here, we allow setup and cleanup in addition to the ceremony and reception, Friday through Sunday. You get the whole weekend.”

Throwing themselves into their new business, the LaRocques choose to work every wedding themselves, making use of their education and expertise in hospitality and event planning. They hope to continue to add even more plantings and gardens to the property as the years go on. But for now, the couple says they are thrilled with the opportunity to be a part of such an exciting occasion in people’s lives. “We are in the dream business,” says Amy. “It’s not work.”

Author: atthelake

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