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Cooking RetreatOur First EVER Cooking Retreat!A Fantastic Foodie Experience!hosted by Darin WarlingMarch 14–17, 2024

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About This Retreat…

Come join us at Big Raven Farm for our first ever cooking/foodie retreat! Four days and three nights of instruction in the culinary arts, led by host Darin Warling. We’ll explore a wide variety of foods and cultures and cooking techniques and equipment. We’ll learn how to make fresh pasta from scratch, proper knife handling and maintenance, sanitation rules, sous vide tricks, explore the tastes of Thailand, and take an (optional) excursion to our local distillery, among other things. (And since the weekend runs from Pi Day to St. Paddy’s Day, there may be both dessert pies and shepherd’s pie involved!)

What to Expect

Expert-Led Workshops

Our immersive, hands-on workshops are designed for all skill levels. Whether you’ve never turned on a stove or you cook 7 nights a week, you’re sure to learn new, useful techniques that you can take back home with you, you’re going to meet new, interesting people, and you’re going to have fun doing it!

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Beautiful Accommodations 🌿

Stay in our charming and comfortable home, surrounded by inviting spaces and serene landscapes. Our luxurious and spacious rooms are equipped with all the modern amenities (including great wifi!) to ensure a restful night’s sleep to rejuvenate your spirit.

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🌾 Farm-to-Table Dining

Savor delectable gourmet meals prepared by our in-house chef using fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Our farm-to-table dining experience caters to all dietary preferences and requirements, with a focus on wholesome, nourishing cuisine.

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Relaxation & Self-Care

During your time here, take advantage of our on-site hiking trails and yoga studio. Participate in optional activities such guided meditation or yoga, or simply curl up with a good book in one of our many cozy nooks.

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Community & Connection

Forge lasting friendships with fellow retreat-goers as you bond over shared experiences. Our intimate setting allows for meaningful conversations and easy, comfortable relationships both with us and with each other. This will be an experience you’ll never forget!

Your 4-Day Retreat Package Includes…

  • 4 days (3 nights) at our beautiful country estate.
  • Daily farm-to-table breakfast , lunch, and dinner.
  • Unlimited access to our yoga studio.
  • Complimentary high-speed wifi and free parking.
  • Optional evening social events and entertainment.

Escape the daily grind and immerse yourself in our 4-day, all-inclusive retreat — a tranquil haven where rest and relaxation come together in perfect harmony. Book your spot today and have an amazing experience in a truly inspiring setting!

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Supplies & Materials

What’s Included

  • Incredible chef-prepared meals and home-baked desserts!
  • Delightfully comfortable beds topped with luxurious memory foam mattresses and smooth, silky sheets.
  • Optional yoga classes accommodating all levels of experience from “never-tried-this-before” to “can-tie-myself-into-a-pretzel-while-standing-on-my-head”!
  • Optional birding trails for those so inclined. (Deer, turkeys, pheasants, grouse, foxes, raccoons, opossums, and turtles are all commonly spotted, and if you listen closely you’re likely to hear coyotes calling back and forth across the valley after sunset.)
  • Inky black night skies and fantastic star gazing.

What To Bring

  • Yourself, and maybe a friend or three!
  • Your favorite kitchen knife. If you don’t have one or don’t want to bring one, we will provide!
  • Any other kitchen tools you like to use!
  • An open mind and a sense of adventure — this is your time, and we are here to make it fun, restful, and relaxing. (Everyone has a tendency to linger on the last day because they don’t want the experience to end, which we think is great!)
  • House slippers! We don’t require guests to remove their shoes, but we do have a flock of beautiful and inquisitive free-range chickens who roam the property, so you may want to switch between indoor and outdoor shoes!
  • An appetite for tasty meals and delicous desserts!

What We Share

  • Good food, good stories, and newfound friendships: We hope you leave here with more friends than you came with, and we hope you’ll already be looking forward to your next retreat with us!
  • Our home: Big Raven Farm is our workshop, our retreat center, and our home, and we want you to feel welcome and comfortable here with us! If you need something, or you need special accommodations, please ask and we’ll do our best!
  • Our friendly dog, Auggie: He’ll try to lure you into playing ball with him (and might try to hop into your car to go home with you).

Location

Big Raven Farm, Spring Grove, MN

Google Maps Link

From the moment you walk in the door, you will be swept away by the classic charm of our Italian marble floors, open staircase and remarkable hand-built craftsmanship throughout!

We have free-range chickens, a family dog (Auggie), outdoor cats (Tony, Kevin, Todd, Steve), and breathtaking views. You will most likely see deer, turkeys, pheasants, bald eagles, and lots of squirrels, rabbits, woodchucks, and the occasional fox.

We have an on-site yoga studio, office, gift shop and an incredible dining hall with 13-foot ceilings and an abundance of natural light that serves as our studio during craft retreats.

We’ve got great wifi, with a high-speed fiber optic connection linking all the buildings to the outside world. Bedrooms do not have TVs but if you bring a portable device our high-speed network will allow you to stream without interruption.

We have a 2+ mile hiking trail that surrounds our property and we have great patios and porches, and best of all we have no mosquitoes — you can hang out on the porch all night and never see or hear or feel a single mosquito. (We live in the Driftless area, which is defined by steep valleys, rivers, and running water. There’s almost no standing water in which mosquitoes can breed.)

Guests are invited to explore all parts of our property, aside from our private bedroom and the workshop below the yoga studio where we print custom yoga mats through our Big Raven Yoga site. In particular, guests are welcome to use the great room (living room), music room, kitchen, kitchen annex, dining hall, game room, and all outdoor seating areas.

Spring Grove is home to the highly acclaimed and well-regarded RockFilter Distillery, Spring Grove Soda Pop, Fat Pat’s BBQ & Brewery, Heart Rock Coffee Roasters, the Norwegian Ridge Birding Trail, and the Giants of the Earth Heritage Center. Main Street also features a number of gift shops (The Turquoise Tomato, West Main Boutique) and an art gallery (Bluff Country Artists Gallery).

Nearby airports include Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP), La Crosse Regional (LSE) and Rochester Regional (RST), but we are an easy drive from nearly anywhere in the Midwest!

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Meals

Breakfasts

Breakfast items we commonly serve: house-made granola, Greek yogurt, fresh fruit, sour cream coffee cake, cranberry oatmeal bake, avocado toast made with farm-fresh bread and freshly laid eggs, spinach quiche, hashbrown egg bake, baked French toast, cornmeal-dusted waffles, turkey sausage, banana bread, strawberry muffins. (Varies by season and the whims of our cooks and bakers.)

Lunches

Our lunch menus tend to be crisp and fresh and extremely satisfying! We have lots of lunch options but our guests really love our quinoa salad with avocado and orange dressing, vegetable quiche with fresh fruit compote, chicken barley protein bowl, apple gado-gado salad with Thai lettuce wraps, and spinach salad with strawberries, walnuts, & feta.

Dinners

Dinners at Big Raven Farm are designed to be the perfect end to a remarkable day. Some of our favorites include: turkey cranberry chili with cornbread, chicken wild rice soup with Parmesan focaccia, spinach lasagna with salad & rustic house-made bread, asparagus ham fusilli, and creative, gourmet pizzas such as BBQ chicken, cheeseburger, and arugula and prosciutto. Desserts include blueberry plum upside-down cake, black bean brownies, rhubarb crisp, butterscotch chocolate chip cake, Earl Grey pound cake with lemon curd, and spicy mango oatmeal bars.

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What Our Guests Say…

Dana Keller

Dana Keller

“I loved our retreat experience so much I am making the trip again in November! Top notch! Joleen oozes creativity and her chef of a husband, Darin, makes us all feel like royalty! Typically when you attend events like this there is a concern that things will be awkward and a little uncomfortable. That doesn’t happen at Big Raven Farm — Joleen and Darin have created an environment where the moment you walk through the door you feel like you’re home… but better. They will spoil you rotten!”

(Dana lives in Missouri and has now made the 6-hour trip FIVE times so far and has become one of our very best friends. We only wish she lived closer!)

Jennifer Maroney

Jennifer Maroney

“Where to begin?! Oh yes, at Big Raven Farm! Walking into the main house is like a big warm hug! You are immediately immersed in a welcoming and cozy environment, surrounded by art and beauty. The food was amazing and each meal was part of the experience. Our art instruction was inspiring and so much fun! And the farm animals — the most adorable dog and friendly cats, plus chickens who like to come up to the house to check things out! The yoga studio was an oasis of serenity — perfect for any level of practice. You owe it to yourself to stay here and experience this place and the amazing couple who will host you!”

Amber Bridgeman

Amber Bridgeman

“My favorite thing about attending retreats at Big Raven Farm is the feeling of being taken care of. Joleen and Darin are excellent hosts. The accommodations are extremely comfortable. The food is delicious and plentiful. The retreat is a rare opportunity to use my creativity. I love being able to practice yoga and create beautiful artwork that I can proudly display in my home. I leave the retreats feeling whole and relaxed. I very much look forward to visiting Joleen, Darin, and their beautiful farm again soon!”

(Amber and her sister live in Duluth and have been back for three retreats…so far.)

Accommodations

You will be staying at beautiful Big Raven Farm, a 15-acre retreat center in the heart of the Driftless region, where Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa meet.

Featuring 6 guest rooms that sleep 14+, a 1200 square foot event center and yoga studio, an 800 square foot ballroom that accommodates 60, a commercial kitchen, and a 2-mile walking trail, we are conveniently located only 2½ hours from Minneapolis-St. Paul, Madison, and Dubuque.

Room selection is on a first-come, first-served basis. Rooms are double occupany, with the exception of one quad, which sleeps four. We are happy to provide king-sized beds for couples or individuals who book an entire room for themselves!

  • Premiere Suite with Private Bath (Black)
    Premiere Suite with Private Bath (Black)

    Our premiere guest suite, this double-occupancy room on the second floor features two twin XL (extra-long) beds (optionally convertible to a single king-sized bed), leather sofa, and private marble bath with tub. Please note that you will be sharing this room with another retreat guest (unless you book both spots); if you and a friend intend to share the room, please be sure to coordinate your purchases.

    $350
    (Programming,
    room & board )
    No Longer
    Available
  • Private Room with Private Bath (Pink)
    Private Room with Private Bath (Pink)

    This double-occupancy room on the second floor is part of a 2-room suite that features a private bath with a shower. This room is attached to the bath; the second room will have access to this bath through this room. Both rooms feature two twin XL (extra-long) beds in each room, optionally convertible to single king-sized beds. Please note that you will be sharing this room with another retreat guest (unless you book both spots), and will be expected to share the bath with guests in the adjoining room; if you and a friend intend to share this room, please be sure to coordinate your purchases.

    $350
    (Programming,
    room & board )
    Spots Remaining:2
  • Private Room with Shared Bath (Grey)
    Private Room with Shared Bath (Grey)

    This double-occupancy room on the second floor is part of a 2-room suite featuring a private bath with shower shared by both rooms. Access to the bath is through the other room, but a second shared bath is accessible from the hallway. Both rooms feature two twin XL (extra-long) beds in each room, optionally convertible to single king-sized beds. Please note that you will be sharing this room with another retreat guest (unless you book both spots); if you and a friend intend to share the room, please be sure to coordinate your purchases.

    $300
    (Programming,
    room & board )
    Spots Remaining:2
  • Private Room with Shared Bath (Blue)
    Private Room with Shared Bath (Blue)

    This double-occupancy private room on the top floor shares a bath with all top-floor rooms. It features amazing lighting and incredible south-facing vistas of the surrounding countryside. This room features two twin XL (extra-long) beds, optionally convertible to a single king-sized bed. Please note that you will be sharing this room with another retreat guest (unless you book both spots); if you and a friend intend to share the room, please be sure to coordinate your purchases.

    $300
    (Programming,
    room & board )
    No Longer
    Available
  • Private Room with Shared Bath (Cobalt)
    Private Room with Shared Bath (Cobalt)

    This double-occupancy private room on the top floor shares a bath with all top-floor rooms. It features tree-top views of the surrounding woods and fields. This room features two twin XL (extra-long) beds, optionally convertible to a single king-sized bed. Please note that you will be sharing this room with another retreat guest (unless you book both spots); if you and a friend intend to share the room, please be sure to coordinate your purchases.

    $300
    (Programming,
    room & board )
    Spots Remaining:2
  • Private Room with Shared Bath (Silver)
    Private Room with Shared Bath (Silver)

    This quadruple-occupancy room on the top floor shares a bath with all top-floor rooms. It features tree-top views of the surrounding woods and fields. This room features four twin XL (extra-long) beds, optionally convertible to single king-sized beds. Please note that you will be sharing this room with 3 other retreat guests; if you and a friend (or friends) intend to share the room, please be sure to coordinate your purchases.

    $300
    (Programming,
    room & board )
    Spots Remaining:4
  • Everything But the Bed
    Everything But the Bed

    This entitles you to everything but overnight accommodations — supplies, classes, programming, yoga, and meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner). Great for those who live near Big Raven Farm or those who plan to find accommodations on their own!

    $194
    (Programming,
    room & board )
    Spots Remaining:4

Want to see more of Big Raven Farm?
Check out our Photo Album!

FAQs

  • What if I attended a previous retreat? Will this one be different?
    Yes! The format will be similar but the activities will be different. Please come back — we would love to see you again!
  • Can I bring my significant other at a discounted price?
    Yes — if he or she is just “tagging along” and is only here for the room and board (sans programming), we offer a discounted price to cover room and board, but not programming. Please contact me to arrange this!
  • What kind of meals do you serve?
    All of the meals and snacks are made in our commercial kitchen at Big Raven Farm. Both Darin and Joleen hold culinary certifications: Darin spent a year in Bangkok training with chef Danielle Kattan, and Joleen has earned a Baking Certificate from the Culinary Institute of America—Hyde Park, New York. (That’s right — Joleen was trained by the CIA.) We don’t serve soda but we do make sure that water, coffee, brewed iced tea and sugar-free Arnold Palmers are available all day long. To give you more of an idea of what to expect, check out the “Meals” section, above. You will have a happy belly — the food is nummy!
  • Can I use your kitchen to prepare my own meals?
    You can store items in our fridge, but our lawyer and insurance agent both say no, you cannot wield knives or fire up the stove. We do, however, have a guest pantry with microwave just off the kitchen that is stocked with snacks and a full cookie jar — please help yourself! Joleen’s most requested and loved ginger snaps are usually found lurking in there.
  • What if I need special meals?
    There will be a follow-up email sent to you that contains driving directions and details about retreat logistics. If you need vegan, vegetarian, kosher, halal, or gluten-free options, please reply to that email and let us know! If you have menu requirements different from those posted here, just talk to Joleen — she’s really nice and loves to help!
  • Can we talk about your coffee?
    This is a great question. In fact, a really important question! In our commercial Bunn coffee maker we brew and serve locally sourced and roasted coffee. This tasty option IS included with your registration. We also serve espresso and lattes, but these options are NOT included with your registration. Our fancy coffee bar beverages have an additional fee (but you can run a tab and we’ll settle up at the end of your time with us!)
  • Can you tell me more about Big Raven Farm?
    Big Raven Farm is a fully functional bed & breakfast with a retreat center, yoga studio, print shop, gift shop, nature trail, summer house, and outbuildings. It is owned and operated by Joleen Emery & Darin Warling, who live on and manage the property full-time.
  • Does the Farm have common spaces and places to hang out besides guest bedrooms?
    Absolutely!! We have a beautiful “great room” with couches and chairs, a dining veranda with tables & chairs, patios off the front of the house, and the yoga studio has a huge wrap-around porch with incredible views of our valley! There are lots and lots of places to settle in and enjoy the serenity of the farm.
  • Do you serve alcohol?
    No — we are a coffee, tea, lemonade, iced tea, Arnold Palmer kinda joint.
  • Can I bring my pet?
    Our home belongs to the pets we already have… chickens, cats, and our family dog, Auggie.
  • Wait, is this your family home?
    Yes! We have our own personal bedrooms and living spaces, so you can’t shake us — we are ALWAYS here!
  • Are there TVs in the rooms?
    No, but we have excellent wifi if you want to stream from your electronic devices. (Plus, we often do a big-screen movie night during retreats if people are in the mood.)
  • What’s your refund policy?
    We’re sorry we don’t offer refunds for live events. This policy gets us out of the sticky business of deciding what’s a good reason versus what isn’t. However, if you absolutely cannot make it, we may be able to accommodate you at a future event at no additional cost!
  • What’s your weather policy?
    Like the postal service, we deliver regardless of snow or rain or heat or gloom of night. We wish we could provide refunds due to inclement weather, but so much of the work that goes into our events occurs before the event even begins — cooking, cleaning, linens, setup, prep, etc., and most of it — especially the cooking and meal prep — simply won’t carry over to the next event. If you truly cannot attend because of weather, please contact us and we can hopefully slot you into a future event!
  • What is your COVID-19 policy & protocol?
    Everyone who lives and works at Big Raven Farm is vaccinated. Given that retreats occur largely indoors, bedrooms are double occupancy, and we enjoy family-style dining, we strongly encourage our guests to be vaccinated for the safety of all participants and staff. However, masks are no longer required.

Questions?

If you still have questions, feel free to reach out to me!