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For their wedding at Oz Farm in Mendocino County, Kate Schatz and Jason Pontius came up with unusual gift baskets, which included head lamps, flashlights, walkie-talkies and other items better suited for construction workers than teary-eyed guests.

The natural landscape of Mendocino County embraces the wedding of Schatz and Pontius.

But this was a farm wedding, without hotel-like amenities, and the couple from Oakland wanted to make the 30 or so friends and relatives staying the weekend as comfortable as possible.

Unfortunately, they forgot about the bats.

"There were eight bats in our cabin and we had no idea how to get them out," said Julia Mayer, 29, who was rooming with her boyfriend and three other guests. "One of us had a head lamp on, so they were flying in our faces. We opened the window and tried to turn off the lights, but nobody could see anything. We slept somewhere else."

Weddings held at farms are not exactly new, but just as the wine craze decades ago sparked a vineyard wedding industry, the green crusade, with its emphasis on organic and local products, seems to be spurring interest in farms as the ideal venue for vows.

But these weddings are not for every bride and groom. The couple must want not only an outdoor setting, but also a close -- some might say too close -- connection with the land. While working farms may offer romantic sunsets over golden fields, and truly local, organic food and flowers, couples must also be game for some rural challenges, like uncertain electricity and plumbing and the occasional runaway chicken or pig, not to mention a family of bats.

Not for perfectionists

In other words, Bridezillas need not bother.

"If you're the kind of person who wants everything to work out exactly right, I wouldn't let you have it here," said Judy Lessler, the owner of Harland's Creek Farm, a historic site in Pittsboro, N.C., which she is preparing for weddings starting next year. "This venue is for people who like the outdoors, love the romance of it and are willing to be somewhat flexible."

The farm as a wedding site owes much to agritourism. About 50,000 farms, or roughly 2 percent of all farming operations in the country, were open to the public in 2004, offering weddings, lodging, hayrides and horseback riding, according to a survey released last year by the Department of Agriculture. The survey is the first to quantify farm-based recreation.

While some farms hold only a few weddings a year, others can't keep up with demand. Kruger's Farm, on a river island near Portland, Ore., started holding weddings six years ago and as many as 50 weddings are now held there annually. It has requests for three times that many, said Don Kruger, the owner.

"The response has been startling," Kruger said. "It's kind of an earthy crowd, in their 20s and 30s, educated, who have very strong leanings toward the environment.

Millie Martini Bratten, editor in chief of Brides magazine, said that while the majority of weddings still take place in traditional sites like restaurants and country clubs, her magazine regularly receives wedding submissions set in farms and ranches.

"People want a relaxed atmosphere and they want to have fun," said Jane Eckert, an agritourism consultant who last summer launched RuralBounty.com, a database of farms, ranches, wineries and other sites open to the public.

Organic, casual, laid-back

Schatz, 30, and Pontius, 38, who invited 140 guests, were also drawn to the idea that all their organic flowers, salad greens, herbs and apples for pies (in lieu of the wedding cake) were grown at Oz Farm, which is host to a few weddings a year.

"We wanted to support a farm that does this organic work rather than have the money going to a hotel," saidSchatz, a fiction writer who lectures at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Schatz and Pontius, a Web designer, also liked the laid-back attitude. They could decorate any way they wanted, sing karaoke in the barn as late as they wished and generally have the run of the place. "We spent half the time on a river drinking beer," Pontius said.

Farm weddings can cost a fraction of nuptials at more traditional sites, because couples usually take care of services like catering and music. And small farmers like pulling out the hay-covered welcome wagon because it helps them survive.

"This is the future," said Kruger, noting these activities provide a third of Kruger Farm's net income. "It's what farms are doing to try to make it."

At Oz Farm, weddings and retreats provide half the farm's revenues. "It's been a big help," said Shauna Boyd, who leases the business with her husband.

But farms trying to expand their operations beyond the strictly agricultural sometimes face opposition from neighbors or county officials worried about issues like increased traffic, and find themselves battling zoning and land-use laws.

"Crowds can sometimes surprise farmers new to agritourism," said Barbara Berst Adams, author of "The New Agritourism: Hosting Community and Tourists on Your Farm." "People need bathrooms, first-aid kits and a place for trash. City kids don't seem to know the goats aren't video games -- they can bite back. And liability coverage for both the bride and groom and the farmer really are issues that need to have been dealt with ahead of time."

Not every farm wedding is glamour free. George W. Winborn and Glenn Goodfellow, of Portland, Ore., wanted a Kentucky Derby-style garden party with women in hats and chiffon and men in seersucker suits. The couple staged their stylish celebration at Kruger's last August with 135 guests on a lawn surrounded by a field of dahlias, blueberries, a pigpen and chicken coop. The two grooms made the cloth napkins, centerpieces and hand-stamped place cards, while friends made the desserts and party favors.

Homemade glamour

"We're a very do-it-yourself couple and there was a lot of room for us to leave our mark on it," said Winborn, 35, a writer.

The setting was a throwback to the grooms' childhood. Winborn grew up on his grandparents' farm in Arkansas and Goodfellow, 31, a baker, spent summers in farm camps and visiting family in North Dakota. Winborn is an expert chicken coop builder who raised chickens in the couple's backyard when they lived in Dallas.

"People would joke, 'You'll have chicken ring bearers,' " Goodfellow said. "Some people couldn't comprehend that we were having a relatively upscale wedding in that location."

They asked, "'Do I have to wear a tie?' Of course you have to wear a tie," he said he told guests.

Truth be told, some guests must be humored.

Sunscreen and bug spray

Jodi Levy, 29, a designer of gymnastics apparel, and her groom, Darren Stowell, 35, an executive with a nonprofit organization, provided their 140 guests at Kruger's with sunscreen packets and bug spray cans in stainless steel buckets.

"Anybody who would want to get married at a Marriott was worried," Levy said. Yet some guests can only take so much.

Jonah Silas, 30, a computer consultant, and Yuri Futamura, 29, a manager at a social-justice foundation, married last month in the redwood grove at Oz Farm. They said in an interview that some of the guests passed on the offer to stay in the farm's cabins and instead booked themselves at the local bed and breakfast.

Perhaps they reacted to the couple's e-mail warnings, sent before the wedding: "Some of you will have to take a mini-hike to get to your cabins, even cross a river (over a footbridge)!"

Or, "Electronics like laptops, stereos, cellphone/camera chargers and hair dryers need to stay home."

Whatever the hardship for guests, most couples find farm nuptials worth the extra discomfort. Levy was never too concerned about her wedding at Kruger's, even though she had attended another farm wedding where temperatures rose to 110 degrees and, she said, "people were melting."

She brimmed with her memories of vows said under an oak tree, a reception on a grass field surrounded by a garden of dahlias and a sunset that lit up the sky through late evening.

Asked if the mosquitoes ever showed up, she said: "I'm sure. I was oblivious. It was my wedding day."

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