Prairie Oaks Institute at Robert Creek and the land on which it sits have a rich history.
In 1905, Herman and Christina Schmidt acquired a 240-acre farm and moved their seven children into the farmhouse that still stands in Belle Plaine, Minnesota. Edward, their youngest son, and his wife Alvina (Nagel) eventually took over the farm. During his time, Edward was known for his outstanding water and soil conservation efforts, receiving recognition from the Scott County Water and Soil Conservation Commission in 1948. Around 1960 Marilyn (Schmidt) and her husband Roger Devine moved onto the land, continuing the family’s land conservation and preservation efforts. In 2005, the farm was recognized as a Century Farm by the State of Minnesota, honoring 100 years of family farming.
In 1999, the Devine family gathered around them a small advisory board to re-imagine the purpose of this precious acreage while continuing the legacy of sustainability begun by Edward Schmidt and advanced by Roger Devine. Encroaching development was threatening to destroy the serenity and bio-diversity of the land. Much of the farm consists of the last remnants of sand-hill prairie in the region. Robert Creek flows to the Minnesota River through pristine landscapes that transitioning from oak savannah to sand-hill prairie.
Roger & Marilyn’s daughter, Tammy Devine, had a vision of developing retreat hermitages to provide a space free of distraction where people could come to find solitude and balance. Devine Valley Ministries was incorporated in Minnesota in 2002 to advance this mission. The untimely deaths of Roger (2003) and Marilyn (2004) shifted the vision of the board from hermitages to the idea of utilizing Roger and Marilyn’s house as a retreat facility, christened Harvest House.
In 2008, Prairie Oaks Institute at Robert Creek was selected as the new name and 501(c)3 tax exempt status was secured. A generous gift from surviving family members, gifted the non-profit with 20 acres of land, including the two houses, barns and outbuildings in 2010. Remodeling of Harvest House which included making the space ADA-compliant was completed shortly thereafter and a conditional use permit granted by the city. Two years later, a project at the Farmhouse added two bathrooms and a sitting area, making the house suitable for larger groups wishing to stay overnight.
As Prairie Oaks Institute has grown into its mission, programs and projects have centered around our three circles: ecology & sustainability, education & leadership development and retreat and renewal. The 5 organic acres that are part of the 20-acre farm campus have been put to use to support organic, sustainable farming. Each summer and fall, Steve Neil’s grass-fed cattle roam the pastures. In 2013 we introduced bee hives on the adjoining Devine farm managed by John Emery of Spotted Duck Apiary.
Prairie Oaks Institute now offers signature Courage and Renewal retreats co-facilitated by board member Chris Johnson, as well as serving as a host for retreats offered by academic groups, faculty teams, non-profits and other organizations. Our first day camp with the Farmers Union was held in 2013 with over 40 youngsters enjoying a day on the land learning about pollinators, farm animals and community supported agriculture.
Learn more about this land:
Experience a unique stretch of oak savannah under restoration at our beautiful retreat center and farm. A picnic table and fire pit inside of a secluded cluster of trees are yours to enjoy during the stay.
Belle Plaine, Minnesota, United StatesTo respect the Host's privacy, the precise address of this land will be provided after booking
Hosted by Prairie Oaks I.Joined in June 2020
2 ratings · 3 reviews
September 8, 2021
Oak Savanna Retreat
Peaceful and green
I fell in love with this place right away. The oak trees are beautiful and the land around is majestic. We were the only ones their and I believe there are three spots to camp. We bought a organic veggie box from the land keeper Sam who was very personable. Bike trails and hiking are close by and getting into town if you want wasn’t a hassle. But honestly you will see me again.
July 27, 2021
Oak Savanna Retreat
Large Oak Trees Everywhere
This is a wonderful farm setting with 2 campsites, one for a large group in a beautiful pasture under very large Oak trees. The 2nd a perfect site for 2- 4 people. The Oak trees are everywhere & visiting cows separated by a large fence. If you are seeking a secluded campsite i recommend Oak Savanna Retreat.
September 8, 2020
Prairie Oaks Institute
Quiet and private site, with room to explore. Highly recommend exploring the walking trails out into the property that overlook the valley!