In September of 2007, Lori Lovely’s father was terminally ill. During this difficult time, Lovely found solace in taking long bike rides in the country.
“I’d ride and reflect,” Lovely says.
One day she passed by a beautiful, 10-acre piece of property with a “For Sale” sign on it.
“I fell in love with it the minute I saw it,” she says.
Though the farmhouse was in bad shape, something about the land spoke to her.
She went home to her husband Chris and asked about his thoughts on buying it. They were looking to “get out of HOA land” as she says, and this was their ticket out. Because the dilapidated farmhouse, built in 1876, was in such terrible shape, the plan was to knock it down and start over. Once they realized how solidly it was built, however, they decided to preserve what they could.
“These are hand-hewn logs and peg-in construction, so there are no nails,” Lovely says. “To consider the tools they had at the time and how well things were built, it blows my mind.”
The couple stripped everything down and redid the heating and air systems, electrical, plumbing, roof, siding and windows. It was a complete remodel of the house, which is now 2,400 square feet. They took down one pole barn to expand the structure, added fencing, and eventually added another barn. Now there are five barns on the property.
When Lovely went to Danville for the title, she learned that it was the James Brown farm. Brown was a Kentucky veteran of the War of 1812 who purchased the land as part of the federal Land Act of 1820. Because he was the first white settler in the area, the town of Brownsburg was named after him. Lovely, who has a master’s degree in history, was eager to learn more about the Brown family, but despite snooping around libraries, archives and genealogy sites, she found very little.
“I was hoping I’d stumble across a letter or a photo, but no such luck,” Lovely says.
In one of the barns, however, she found initials and dates carved into the hand-hewn beams. Through the years a number of people owned the property. After Brown died, one of his sons inherited it. It later passed through a lot of hands, though the man Lovely bought it from had lived there for four decades.
Lovely’s father was born in Montrose, Iowa, a tiny town on the Mississippi River.
“My dad loved animals,” she says. “There are all kinds of crazy stories that involve him and animals, like taking raccoons on dates. He was such a character.”
Though her father never got to see the farm, he knew his daughter was buying it and was happy for her. The day she and Chris signed the papers, her beloved father passed away. They decided to name it Montrose Farms in his honor.
When the couple first bought the farm, alpacas were not on their radar. They considered growing cash crops like pumpkins or mums, but they weren’t sure they had enough space or equipment to make it profitable. Lovely is vegetarian/vegan, so if they were going to raise livestock, it needed to be an animal that provides an end product that doesn’t require slaughter. The couple traveled all over the country since Chris worked as a mechanic with IndyCar. During one of their trips, they visited a farm in northern Indiana that had a five-day-old alpaca.
“We got to go into the pasture with him and his mom,” Lovely says. “I squatted down, and the baby came over to me and gave me a nose bump. That was it. I was hooked.”
Lovely’s favorite part of running the farm is interacting with the animals, which includes not only alpacas but also chickens, ducks, dogs and cats. In 2016 her husband passed away and the farm became a lot more work. He took care of plumbing, electrical wiring, mechanical components and carpentry. He built fences and furniture, and was basically a jack-of-all-trades.
“He could fix anything,” Lovely says. “He was also really great with the animals. He loved them so much.”
After his death, Lovely halted breeding for three years. In 2019 she began breeding again, which produced a baby alpaca named Whimsy who turned 1 year old in July of 2021.
“She has become the sweetest, cuddliest, most people-friendly alpaca I’ve ever had,” Lovely says. “She’ll snuggle up to you and tuck into your shoulder, then look up at you and give you kisses.”
Several years ago, Lovely began focusing on agritourism, which involves classes, events, educational tours, and bed-and-breakfast stays.
“I borrowed ideas and also came up with some of my own,” she says.
These include alpaca yoga, guided meditation, painting classes, fiber spinning classes and wine tasting. Alpaca yoga involves getting into yoga poses with treats in outstretched hands. In guided meditation, participants lie on mats with their eyes closed as they are led through various mental exercises.
“The alpacas are much more comfortable with that since people are quiet and still,” Lovely says. “All the alpacas enjoy visitors.”
Almost every event is a partnership with another small business. She partners with Hopwood Cellars Winery in Zionsville, Christine Yovanovich with Honor Yoga, Buffe Challand at My Art Indy for painting classes, and Leonard Parker with Life Enhancement Dojo, who does the guided meditation. They also occasionally offer laughter yoga, with certified laughter yoga instructor Christine Eartheart with Joy Potential. She is one of only three certified laughter yoga instructors in the state.
“That’s been very popular with every age,” Lovely says. “I love working with other small businesses and people who bring their passions to me.”
Montrose Farms hosts educational tours for preschools, scout troops, FFA (Future Farmers of America) students, senior groups and masonic groups. In addition, those wishing to commemorate birthdays, impending nuptials or other celebrations are welcome to book an event. She even hosted an acoustic session with Grammy Award winner Bill Miller.
“It’s fun trying new projects, Lovely says. “It makes life more interesting,” Lovely says.
The farm has been the site of engagements, proposals and lots of photo shoots.
“A sunglass company even brought their models out to take pictures,” Lovely says. “There’s always something different going on.”
Lovely, a freelance writer and editor, struggles to find enough hours in the day to get everything done. She especially can use extra sets of hands when it’s time to cut and stack hay, and during shearing day in early May.
“God forbid something breaks – that’s the hardest part of being a one-woman show,” says Lovely, who is reminded daily of how much her late husband helped make this dream a reality. “It was really hard losing Chris. I was so depressed. If I hadn’t had the animals to take care of, I don’t know that I would have gotten out of bed. Running this farm has kept me social.”
She’s also pleased that Montrose Farms serves to help others.
“Life is hard,” Lovely says. “To be able to make people feel good and experience joy is nice.”
Montrose Farms is located at 3750 North 950 East in Brownsburg. For more information, call 317-456-4083 or visit montrosefarms.com.