Feathered Acres Learning Farm & Inn offers a chance to experience agricultural life.
Many Lake Minnetonka area families with school-age children look for ways to take a midsemester break, and the Minnesota Education Association (MEA) weekend (October 19–22) offers a chance to get away to destinations near and far. We discovered a Minnesota getaway that offers respite and a healthy serving of education—for MEA fun seekers and
the rest of us, too.
As a little girl growing up on a dairy farm in Elrosa, Minnesota, Trisha Zachman created many fond childhood memories—from looking for kittens in the hay bales to racing her siblings to finish feeding the calves. It’s experiences like these she now aims to give visitors to Feather Acres Farm Learning Farm & Inn in Belgrade, Minnesota (north of Willmar in Stearns County).
Visitors, who may have never set foot on a farm before their visit, can walk away with hands-on farming experience along with a new understanding of what it takes to bring food from farm to table. “I take these simple memories and show my guests the joy and fulfillment I got from them,” Zachman says. There’s a duality to the lesson. She says, “I show them how being a caretaker of the land and your animals can be very therapeutic and [also] stressful at times.”
Zachman and her husband, Nolan, run the inn. They acquired the 13-acre plot in 2020 (and rented an additional 13 acres) with plans to farm the land and raise a family. But it soon evolved into an opportunity to create something more once the barn was rented out for overnight stays and guests began to express interest about farming. “I had no intention of teaching people about farming,” Zachman says. “But people were very curious about where their food comes from. I loved that.”
The Zachmans, who both studied agronomy at North Dakota State University, are in the process of transforming the property into a fully regenerative farm. “Regenerative farming is a type of farming that focuses on soil health,” Zachman says. “Nurturing the soil back to health leads to providing more nutrient-dense food. We nurture the whole ecosystem and strive to get it to get it all back in working order. Once our soil and plants are healthy, that leads to healthier animals, water preservation [and] organic food and helps fight climate change.”
“It’s kind of like the old way of farming,” Zachman says. “For me, it just feels so right.” It’s a notion that resonates with customers, as well. But achieving a regenerative farm can be a slow and arduous task. “Farms can’t just become regenerative,” she says. “It’s a five-year process. And the first years tend to be the hardest years.”
In those first years, Zachman took a hard look at the property’s old milking barn. “One part was renovated like a hunting shack,” she says. “So, I fixed it up and put it on Airbnb.” It wasn’t long before they had their first guests. Though she expected to just offer a unique type of lodging, Zachman soon found that their guests wanted more. “We’d be doing chores, and they’d be following us around, asking questions,” Zachman says. “That’s when I started doing tours. People just really loved it.”
Now, Zachman offers visitors a “farm-to-table” education. “We provide a fun, hands-on farm tour to our guests, which helps explain what regenerative farming is,” she says. “They get to actually take part in some chores and see the why and how of what we do. We also teach them about the farm life that few people get the chance to experience—the precious opportunity to care for animals and the land with your family.” Zachman also says that the experiences adds a deeper understanding and appreciation for food.
The farm also provides for-purchase food. “Feathered Acre Farms is a local favorite in our household,” Jonathan Farr says. The area resident is a regular customer of the farm’s bacon and sausages. “Feathered Acre Farms is the perfect example of a small business that cares about their customers, their animals and the environment. We appreciate their commitment to providing top-notch products that are also environmentally conscious.”
Wayzata’s Kathy Halloran is also a regular customer of the farm’s pork chops, sausage and eggs. She appreciates the Zachmans’ vision. “I love knowing that the products come from healthy, well cared for animals, and I appreciate that Trisha and Nolan are creating a regenerative farm with educational classes offered to the public as well as vacation rentals where you can relax and wind down,” she says. “Feathered Acres Farm has a vision that I am happy and excited to support.”
That vision includes the eventual addition of sheep to the existing menagerie of pigs and chickens, a second rental and a future community space in the renovated barn, where Zachman hopes to hold larger classes. “I love how we’re starting to do something different on our farm,” she says.
The farm tour remains the most popular offering, and composting and gardening classes are also offered.
In addition to a standard stay in their lodging, Feathered Acres Learning Farm & Inn offers packages for everything from birthday parties and celebrations of life to bachelorette weekends and a venue for family photos. Looking for something not offered on the website? Just ask, Zachman advises. “We’re trying our best for that perfect harmony,” she says.
Four Principles of Regenerative Farming
Planting many native plants leads to healthier soil.
Keeping soil covered at all times helps stave off weeds and protects it from the elements, including wind erosion.
Maintaining a constant presence of living roots through cover crops feeds the soil and takes carbon out of the air. This helps feed the billions of microbes in the soil and helps maintain moisture in the soil.
Allow livestock to move from field to pasture, gleaning and grazing on a multitude of plants, which fertilize the land with their manure. Follow up with chickens, which eat what was left behind.