Jacob’s Farm Expanding Into “Entertainment Destination” With Food, Bar, Concerts & Events
By Beth Milligan | Aug. 13, 2020
After 128 years in business, Jacob’s Farm – home to a popular seasonal corn maze on M-72 in Long Lake Township – is ready for its next big chapter, with two new partners coming on to help expand the property into a “family entertainment destination” complete with a full kitchen, open-air bar, renovated barn for weddings and events, and outdoor concerts, festivals, and movie screenings.
Nate Crane of Rare Bird Brewpub and Troy Daily of Paddle for Pints are joining Jacob’s Farm owner Mike Witkop as partners in the new venture on the 40-acre property. The trio have been working on plans for two-and-a-half years to turn the site into a family-centered agritourism destination, with construction on an expansion – delayed by the pandemic – underway since early spring.
The farm’s U-Pick operations and popular 10-acre corn maze, featuring a different computer-designed layout each year, will still remain as the heart of the business. This year’s maze features a “Michigan Shipwrecks” theme and opens for the season tomorrow (Friday), with operating hours of 10am to 6pm. “The corn maze is still the big draw here,” says Daily. But as soon as Labor Day weekend, visitors to the property will find several new amenities on-site, including a full-service kitchen turning out an “approachable” menu including traditional round pizzas, salads, caramel apples, and donuts, says Crane.
As part of renovations to the property’s historic barn – originally built in 1892 – a new outdoor bar and patio area is being constructed complete with a man-made pond, twinkling lights, restrooms, and table seating extending out into the surrounding lawn. Crane says the bar will have a full Class C liquor license and approximately 12 draft taps, with Silver Spruce Brewing Company and Left Foot Charley contributing exclusive varietals. A select handful of draft cocktails, like margaritas, will also be available. The upper level of the barn is being renovated to include an indoor event space and outdoor deck, which will be open to the public when the 80-capacity venue is not hosting weddings and events.
Elsewhere on the property, the partners plan to build a new disc golf course, beach volleyball courts, and a children’s play area. Hayrides will be offered throughout the season, and a new saddlespan tent with a performance stage will be installed facing a natural hillside amphitheater, allowing Jacob’s Farm to host outdoor concerts, festivals, and movie screenings. While Crane brought his expertise to the property’s bar program, Daily – who runs several local event and tour-based companies, along with festivals including Suds & Snow and Suds & Sun – is focusing on events. “We can probably park 400 cars here and have up to 1,000 people,” says Daily. “We’re trying to do something unique that Traverse City doesn’t have. It will be a family entertainment destination that will have something for everyone in the family. We want a place like Uncle Johns (Cider Mill, in St. Johns) where there are so many activities to do when you visit.”
While 1,000-person events may not be feasible in the immediate near-term future – the partners say that with the exception of a possible concert this fall, they’re currently booking all events and weddings out to 2021 – Jacob’s Farm is uniquely poised to thrive in the pandemic. The property will only operate seasonally, from May to October, and with the exception of the upstairs barn venue, is entirely outdoors. “I don’t want to say it’s a blessing in disguise,” says Crane, “but of any business to open during a pandemic, thank God we have one where it’s all outside.”
The property’s liquor license extends nearly the full 40 acres, allowing visitors to explore the site with a drink in hand (the corn maze will feature occasional “adult-only” evening hours allowing participants to enjoy a libation while touring the 80-90 minute maze). An online ordering system will allow guests to place orders virtually and be notified when their selections are ready for pick-up. The site’s sprawling size offers almost unlimited potential for social distancing, the partners note. While some of the planned new amenities are still to come, the partners expect key offerings – like the bar and kitchen – to be ready by Labor Day weekend.
Crane and Daily say they originally envisioned opening a brewery-focused concept on the farm property – one that would have turned out very similar to Farm Club, which Gary and Allison Jonas and Nic and Sara Theisen just opened 4.5 miles away in neighboring Leelanau County. The partners say they’re grateful they decided to take a different approach, but hope both Jacob’s Farm and Farm Club can help build momentum to market the M-72 corridor area as an agritourism destination. “We’re hoping it can be something where it’s a fall destination, where people maybe check us both out,” says Crane.Comment