Fair Oaks Farms, already the nation's largest agritourism destination, plans to enhance its appeal with a $15 million, 99-room hotel that's shaped like a barn.

The upscale Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott at Fair Oaks Farms boasts 31 suites, including eight Silo Suites with 505 square feet for visiting families, business travelers and bridal parties. A 100-foot-long walkway will connect the new hotel to the 17,000-square-foot farm-to-table Farmhouse Restaurant, Pub & Conference Center as Fairs Oaks looks to boost its special events and conference business.

"Fair Oaks Farms has worked closely with Marriott, the best hotelier brand and reservation system in the world, to make our Fairfield Inn & Suites at Fair Oaks Farms a very special hotel, which contributes to the unique sense of place on our campus," Fair Oaks Farms Chief Strategy Officer Michael McCall said. "Architecturally it is a one-of-a-kind red barn hotel complete with silo rooms; programmatically it goes significantly beyond the prototypical hotel, with larger and better appointed public spaces, including the pool with indoor/outdoor hot tubs; and, as the hotel will directly connect to our existing Farmhouse Restaurant, Pub & Conference Center, the total package will provide guests with the attributes of a full service hotel for the moderate price of a select service hotel.”

Fairs Oaks Farms, just off Interstate 65 at 856 N. 600 E. in Fair Oaks at the border of Newton and Jasper counties, employs about 400 workers and draws 500,000 visitors a year. It's hosted many weddings since opening the conference center in 2014, but had no hotels for wedding parties in the immediate vicinity.  

The brainchild of Mike and Sue McCloskey, Fair Oaks Farms' goal is to educate an increasingly urbanized public that's becoming disconnected from farming about where their food comes from. The hope is that the farm's "edutainment," such as live cow births and the chance to see modern farming operations up close, will eventually bring in 2 million visitors a year, Chief Operating Officer Julie Basich said.

To that end, it's been adding new attractions frequently in recent years, including the farm-to-fork Farmhouse Restaurant, the Pork Education Center, the Crop Education Center and a feed barn. 

"It's amazing how quickly we've grown, and frankly I'm a little tired," Basich joked.

As the agritourist attraction has grown, visitors, members of academia and others have inquired about a hotel that would make multiday visits more convenient.

The new hotel will cater toward visitors, wedding parties and the business market, McCall said. 

"My title has the word strategy in it, and I've found the simpler the strategy is, the more potent it is," he said. "We're going to build a premium select service hotel. Select service is a category, but we're going to make it premium so it will be bigger and better in areas."

Amenities will include a large swimming pool, a gym, a spa, whiteboards for business meetings, whiteboards where kids can write on the wall in suites, bridal party rooms with full-length mirrors and makeup stations, and a 2,100-square-foot outdoor patio with fireplaces.

Crown Point-based DVG is handling civil engineering on the project, and CORE Construction's Shererville office is building the hotel, which will be managed by Valparaiso-based Good Hospitality Services. 

Construction is already underway, and the hotel is slated to open in 2019.

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Business reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.