Need an idea for a big birthday party or something unique for a rehearsal dinner? With popularity of weekend farms and trips to the farmer’s market, enjoy all that summer has to offer by transforming your typical backyard BBQ. Add farm fresh produce, some bales of hay and your party will take on a whole new feel. Get your grill on this weekend and invite your gang over for backyard barbeque—farm style!


The beauty of a casual barbeque in the backyard is the word casual. You don’t need much more than baskets of fruit or vegetables, a few bales of hay and maybe flowers from the yard for decorations. Instead of setting up a table, I used the back of an old farm truck for our buffet. A picnic blanket, quilt, or burlap can be used for a tablecloth—design your color palette around that. I’m all about trying to use what you have in a new and different way. Drape some holiday lights in the trees or bring your candles outdoors and display them on a wooden or metal tray to add some style to your party decorations. Bales of hay are available at a nursery or from your local landscape company. Throw them around the yard—they add atmosphere and can be used as extra seating, too. Provide colorful bandanas to use as napkins. Galvanized tin tubs are inexpensive and can be used for other household chores (like washing the dog) after the party is over!

Make sure to have a backyard survival kit for guests complete with bug spray, sunscreen, fans, and wipes. Make up a refreshing station: put hand towels in an ice bath so guests can freshen up and cool off if the party is on a hot day. Here’s a link to my article on what to include when you are hosting a party outdoors.


Change up your normal BBQ menu by adding lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, like my famous grilled sweet corn, grilled peaches, and bruschetta skewers with homegrown tomatoes. Remember, the key to great grilling is to use fresh ingredients, have the right tools and plenty of patience. Make sure to let your grill or charcoal come to the right temperature before adding your food. Don’t turn items too soon or too frequently; allow enough time to get that char and those prized grill marks! Here are my recipes for a farm stand BBQ:







I am a big fan of the signature cocktail. Mix them in advance and guests can serve themselves with ease. It is also easier to estimate quantities so you control costs better than you can with an open bar. For this party, I made a lemonade station with regular lemonade for the kids and a ‘loaded’ version spiked with bourbon for the adults. Since it was a hot day, I also iced down lots of beer and lots of bottled water in a galvanized tin tub.


Since this party was actually at a farm, we fished, rode the tractor, and played games until everyone was exhausted. We did get up a quickie game of whiffle ball—that plastic baseball game we used to play as kids. I could almost hear my mom calling me in for dinner as it began to get dark— it really took me back. Some other ideas are badminton, croquet, and horseshoes. 

You can host this ‘down on the farm’ backyard barbeque anywhere. You don’t even have to have a backyard or an outdoor space to create a casual mood. How rustic you want to go is up to you. You may not want to drag bales of hay into your high rise apartment, but by using some of the ideas I’ve shared and adding some country music to your party playlist, you’ll create a laid-back atmosphere— even if you have to grill it up inside