Want to own a 14.5-acre farm in the heart of Maple Grove? Yes, there really is such a thing. Decades before the city developed into the populous second-ring suburb it is today, when the Shoppes at Arbor Lakes was still a gravel pit, Sandy and Ken Tschannen thought it would be fun to have some land.
“It’s something I dreamed about in high school,” said Ken.
Sandy was in graduate school, and Ken was working at his first sales job when they bought the property in 1977.
“We couldn’t afford a home,” Sandy recalled. Driving down a dirt road near Fish Lake they saw a hand-painted sign advertising acreage for sale. The land was raw, with a high ridge that had a beautiful view. With money borrowed from Sandy’s parents, the couple bought the parcel on a contract for deed for $24,000.
They named their spread Sugarbush Ridge Ranch, after a Wisconsin farm that had been in Sandy’s family generations earlier.
In 1980 the Tschannens built a house, a modest ranch-style home with an unfinished basement. Over the years they remodeled their starter home into a 5,116-square-foot, five-bedroom custom home, including two additions that created space for a deluxe kitchen and a spacious owners’ suite, plus a second-floor library with fireplace.
“The back [of the house] is all sliding glass doors and windows,” Ken said. “The view is amazing!” They also added a huge swimming pool, and a spa room with an indoor hot tub and in-floor heat.
“We kept improving and adding,” said Sandy.
The Tschannens also tried their hand at agriculture, first with raising sheep. “We’ve had 1,000 baby lambs,” Ken estimated.
But they didn’t stop with sheep. “Our motto is, ‘When was the last time you did something for the first time?’” said Sandy. “We were always looking for new things to try.”
They raised horses, and built a five-stall horse barn and riding ring. They planted a fruit orchard and a vineyard filled with cold-hardy grapes developed by the University of Minnesota. They started an organic vegetable farm, tapped their maple trees and made syrup, and began keeping bees and producing honey that’s been awarded blue ribbons and multiple Sweepstakes awards at the Minnesota State Fair. “Our honey is well-known,” said Ken, who eventually quit his outside job to farm full-time.
The couple’s home has been festive as well as productive. They designed their property to be party central, a place where they hosted pool parties, cross-country skiing parties, a grape-stomping and a salsa-making contest using ingredients from their farm.
“We never had children,” said Ken. “We built it to entertain our friends.”
Sometimes they hosted wine and cheese tastings on their “tree deck,” a platform built high in the trees that they decked with lights. “It’s really magical,” said Sandy.
And once her book club, which was reading “Harry Potter,” held a spontaneous Quidditch match, using brooms and beach balls, on the riding ring.
Over the years, Maple Grove developed around them. “We had an opportunity to watch the city grow,” said Ken. “When we moved here, we would have to drive to Crystal to go shopping and get gas. Now there are 15 restaurants a mile away. We lucked out. It’s our own little paradise in the middle of Maple Grove.”
The couple has decided to sell their suburban oasis, which is listed at $1.995 million.
“We’ve done it all and had a ball,” said Sandy. “But we’re at an age we need to pass it on for someone else. We would love for someone to take our vision and build on it.”
Sugarbush Ridge Ranch is a certified organic farm and classified as agricultural land under the state’s Green Acres tax-deferral program, which allows farm properties to be taxed at their agricultural value instead of the estimated market value. That keeps property taxes lower ($6,558); both the Green Acres classification and the organic certification are transferable to the new owners.
“If they want, they can pick up where we leave off,” said Sandy. The next owner will get first crack at buying their equipment, which includes a tractor, a skid loader and a golf cart.
“We’ll miss it,” said Sandy of their ranch, especially their view, which fills her with serenity when she rests her eyes on it. “You can feel your blood pressure drop.”
Having that much land and privacy just 20 minutes from downtown Minneapolis is truly unique, Ken said. “We’ve had an incredible run.”
Aimee Morice, 763-742-8509, Edina Realty, has the listing.