Rustic Renaissance: Barn at Crystal Spring Farm a step in agritourism for county

As if planted, cultivated and grown from the Indiana soil, the towering wooden structure sits tucked into the farm fields east of Franklin.

The weathered wood and rusty iron fittings seem at place on a 130-year-old farm. Petite sunflowers, their yellow blooms waving in the wind, ring the nicely mowed grass surrounding the building.

The Barn at Crystal Spring Farm is a reflection of the rural Johnson County landscape and lifestyle, envisioned with the potential to be an agritourism hotspot.

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In one setting, owners hope to offer local residents a chance to buy homegrown produce, learn about life on a multi-generational farm and host events in a space created in tribute of the county’s rural roots.

“There’s nothing else like it here,” said co-owner Jenny Mowrey. “Not having to go to the northside for an event space is a big deal. There’s been the demand in the event-planning industry having something more relaxed, not just a banquet hall. Making it have some character. This is simple, but beautiful.”

Work on the barn started in fall 2015, and the facility opened in June with a farm market.

The market was open to the public Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays throughout the summer, selling Crystal Spring Farm’s produce as well as other Indiana-made products. People could pick up peanut butter made in Zionsville, soy candles from Chesterton and jam made down the road in Franklin.

Later in the fall, it will reopen during pumpkin season.

At the same time, the barn offers an event space that has been sorely lacking in the Franklin area, Mowrey said. The interior was designed to host weddings and receptions, while also being suitable for baby showers, company retreats and birthday parties.

“There is a huge trend in agritourism, and we want to tie into that to some extent,” Mowrey said. “We don’t necessarily want huge events with tons and tons of people on the farm, but we want people to enjoy the farm, because we love it and want to share it.”

Mowrey has deep ties to agriculture around Franklin. She is the seventh generation to work the land of Crystal Spring Farms, and she hopes her children are the eighth.

Instilling those rural values was one of the motivations in creating the barn, she said.

“We want out kids to learn work ethic, and know what it’s like to work hard,” Mowrey said.

The idea for the barn grew out of those roots.

Mowrey and longtime friend Kim Minton, whose family works a neighboring farm, have known each other since they were children. In addition to flowers, they have grown their own produce to sell at local markets under the name the Farmers’ Daughters.

She and Minton have also been growing and selling flowers for the past 10 years. Their floral work has been featured in numerous weddings and different events throughout their careers.

Through that experience, they’ve found themselves in many of the event spaces throughout central Indiana. They started noting what they liked and did not; what worked well for a big party, and what could be improved.

Their observations evolved into a discussion of opening their own facility, where they could put the lessons they’d learned into effect.

In 2015, they decided to do it.

With the help of Linda Norton — Mowrey’s mother — they went to work bringing the barn to life. Key in creating the space was finding the right look and atmosphere.

They envisioned a kind of country chic, with weathered wood, simple lighting and rural accoutrements all fitting into the farm tableau.

“For a long time, we wanted to do an old barn. But there were no old barns that would work,” Norton said.

The next best thing was a new structure implementing reclaimed wood when possible. The beams and planks giving the barn its rustic edge came from Washington.

Other pieces were salvaged from barns in Peru and elsewhere on Crystal Spring Farm. Mowrey, Norton and others scoured online resources looking for reclaimed barn wood that people were selling or giving away.

“It’s new, but we wanted it to look older,” Mowrey said. “Knowing in our heads what we wanted it to look like, that made it easier to look for wood.”

Mowrey, Norton and Minton have started slowly with the barn, focusing on the market and special events this first summer. But already, plans are in place for future projects and activities that can make use of the space.

Floral arranging classes, canning demonstrations and composting tutorials are all possibilities down the line.

“We have ideas of what we’d love for it to be, different things for the community,” Mowrey said. “We want to see what the community wants out of it, too.”

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The Barn at Crystal Spring Farm

Where: 3620 Hurricane Road, Franklin

What: A rural venue designed to encourage agritourism, education and social events.

Who: Jenny Mowrey, Linda Norton and Kim Minton

Opened: June 2016

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