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Gathered Oaks: Minnesota's Popular Countryside Grain Bin Airbnb

Originally published Dec. 29, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Minnesota is in the middle of the heartland, and farming is a big part of what we do. So what happens when you combine agriculture and Airbnb?

"We're loving being here in Alexandria. It's called 'God's Country,'" said Dave Larson.

It's also known as "lake country," and of course, "farm country." The evidence can be found on homesteads across Douglas County.

"There are so many fun things to do. And the countryside is so beautiful," said Anne Larson.

Adding to that picturesque countryside is a farm-grown concept so unusual, even farmers do a double-take.

"I grew up building forts in the woods. That was like my [laughs] funnest thing to do. I should've been an architect," said Anne.

In a sense, Anne became one. A few years back, she and her husband Dave came across the idea to transform old grain bins into getaway destinations.

"We just decided we had to try something special like that," said Dave. "These four bins came from Anne's aunt's place close to their homesteaded farm about 15 miles from here."

The bins are about 90 years old. The Larsons were able to create eight cozy rooms out of those four bins. Daughter-in-law Tessa Larson has become an expert on this cylindrical concept.

"Our lower-level rooms are sheet rocked. They're kind of like a light-bluish gray, and then they have like old doors as headboards," said Tessa.

Grain Bin Airbnb in Douglas County -- Finding Minnesota
(credit: CBS)

Like the bins themselves, much of what you see is repurposed with modern amenities. A country feel in a country setting. But it doesn't seem like you're inside a building once used for farming.

"Lots of people are like 'My husband's a farmer, he's gonna get such a kick out of this!" said Tessa.

Who says geometry classes don't pay off down the road? The builders had their work cut out for them. They're used to working with square floor plans -- not this cylinder. It forced them to cultivate new ideas.

"It was really fun to watch them work on it. There were times when they kind of cursed us and there were times when they said this is really fun [laughs]!" said Dave.

In the summer, the venue known as Gathered Oaks typically houses wedding parties, with ceremonies taking place by Little Charlie Lake. An old repurposed barn is used for receptions. When there isn't a wedding, guests come from all over for a mini-vacation.

"Originally I thought it was gonna be cold. You know, a grain bin, just a piece of metal. But they're really comfortable, clean, really nice rooms," said guest Michelle Venter.

Venter and Ronnelie Grobler are guests who are originally from South Africa. When they sent pictures back home, friends and family couldn't believe it. That's the best guest review the Larsons could receive.

"We are loving it. It's so beautiful. The weather's great. There's so much to do. The people are awesome. It's just a fun place to be," said Anne.

The Larsons said they got really busy when the pandemic hit.

They say Gathered Oaks is popular in the winter because the area is known for ice fishing, snowmobiling and shopping. Plus, there's a winery close by.

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