Driftless Stories -

Annie Coleman + Red Clover Ranch

By Lynsey D. Moritz | Spring 2024 Inspire(d)

Annie Coleman never forgot the summers she spent growing up at her grandparents’ Golden Horse Ranch resort in Westfield, Wisconsin.

Annie at Golden Horse Ranch. Throwback photos courtesy Red Clover Ranch.

Situated about 60 miles north of Madison, the ranch hosted guests for a full week. Days were filled with horseback riding, archery, and boat races, with evenings saved for square dancing and campfire songs. “It was a very community- and family-oriented experience. There were fourth and fifth generation families that had been coming since the late 1940s and early 50s,” says Annie, who currently splits her time between Chicago and the Driftless. “It was a really special place.”

The closure of Golden Horse Ranch in the 90s was heartbreaking for the guests, Annie, and her family. “I always had in the back of my mind that it was something I wanted to recreate. At first, I wanted to rebuild the exact same place. But, as time goes on and you live your life, you become more developed as an adult and human… the idea shifted and changed.”

The Golden Horse Ranch, based in Westfield, WI, was Annie’s grandparents’ resort, where she spent her summers as a kid.
It closed in the 90s, but was the inspiration for Annie’s retreat center in Soldiers Grove, WI: Red Clover Ranch. / Photos courtesy Red Clover Ranch

The first step in turning her dream into a reality was finding the perfect location. After years of searching Annie finally found it: 79 acres of land near Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin

“I was living in New York City and I drove up to upstate New York. I thought, ‘If this was just in the Midwest this would be a dream!’ When I moved back to Chicago, I started searching – I would look in Michigan and Indiana. But I wasn’t looking in Wisconsin because I thought I knew Wisconsin,” Annie says. “I remembered my grandmother saying that the artists lived over in the west part of the state. So, I went over to visit western Wisconsin which, of course, is a part of the Driftless area. I immediately fell in love!”

Annie purchased the property in 2009, but it would be years before Red Clover Ranch would open for guests as a retreat center and event space. They officially started construction in 2020 and hosted their first season in 2023.

“It still took me quite a while to figure out what it was exactly I wanted to do, position myself to be able to do it, and finally, to face the fear of taking on the task,” Annie says. “I always felt compelled to create some sort of retreat center – sharing our space with other people and showing them how beautiful it is to be close to nature. That was one of the experiences that my family’s ranch provided. It’s really powerful.”

Inspiration for the name was rooted in Annie’s memories of the Golden Horse Ranch, where her grandparents, who were both blind, bonded over their creative out-of-the box thinking and the joyful freedom of horseback-riding. The beloved horses at the ranch grazed in red clover pastures and her grandparents’ initials are both RC: Robert and Ruth Coleman.

“It was a seed that was planted so long ago. When the ranch closed, I took a bunch of pictures of the red clover as a reminder,” Annie says. “I also discovered red clover is such a wonderful medicinal herb. Now that the name has been out there, people are like, ‘do you know red clover is really good for hormones? Red clover is really good for this! Red clover is really good for that!’” 

Left: Dani Lind was the owner of Rooted Spoon Culinary/Kitchen Table, a farm-to-table catering business and bar, restaurant, and event space in Viroqua, WI. She lives on an organic pastured beef farm and has extensive gardening, foraging, and food preservation experience. Dani crafts meals from healthy, nourishing whole foods so guests will leave Red Clover feeling better than when they arrived. Right: In 2009, Annie Coleman bought the 79-acre Soldiers Grove, WI, property that has now become home to Red Clover Ranch, a retreat center and event space in the heart of the Driftless. Annie is the founder of LivingRoom Realty, a boutique real estate brokerage in Chicago. She is also a musician and a ceramic artist. For the past 16 years, she’s headed a 7-piece honky tonk ensemble, the Golden Horse Ranch Band. Photo by Jim Klousia

Building Red Clover Ranch

Of course, building this creative space in the Driftless would take more than just a little bit of magic. Annie laughs as she reflects on the sheer number of obstacles she encountered along the way.

 “I think a lot of people have dreams of doing something like this. And any dream that you have is challenging – especially when you’re creating something new,” Annie says. “Financing was challenging. Construction was challenging. Making all the decisions was challenging. Keeping my enthusiasm up and figuring out how to make it all happen while also working a full-time job was challenging. But, you know, things that are worth doing are really challenging!”

The screened-in porch has a summer kitchen and lounge area – the perfect place to sip a coffee or watch a sunset./ Photo courtesy Red Clover Ranch 

Her goal was to create a place that honors and protects the land, fostering a harmonious coexistence between humanity and nature. During construction, they had to clear some planted pine trees. A neighbor milled the trees so Red Clover could repurpose them for siding on cabins and the bathhouse that were built in that same area. And the old barn on the property was lovingly restored to become a spacious yet intimate event space for up to 75 guests, with a full-commercial kitchen, a brick oven, a bar, a screened-in porch, and two spaces for gathering.

Their cabins and bunkhouse provide lodging for up to 19 guests. The Japanese- and Scandinavian-inspired shared bathhouse features an outdoor shower and sauna, as well as a screened-in porch with a summer kitchen and lounge area – the perfect place to sip a coffee or watch a sunset.

“The Driftless Region is endlessly unique, making our valley and ridge tops one-of-a-kind. We created our buildings to be in harmony with the land, with a balanced mix of rustic and modern amenities,” Annie says. Red Clover Ranch runs operations on 97 percent electric, using very little gas, with the hope to move away from dependence on fossil fuels and convert to solar-powered energy in the future.

Chef Dani Lind creates dishes almost too beautiful to eat. / Photos courtesy Red Clover Ranch

The Ranch Experience

Folks can come to Red Clover Ranch for a variety of holistic health, creative, and nature based Driftless experiences, like yoga retreats, biking, business, art, or writing workshops, and more. They also offer collaborative dinners with guest chefs, dance parties with live bands, company offsite events, and a few weddings, too! 

In addition to all of this, people can simply come for the “Weekend at the Ranch” cabin package, inspired by Annie’s grandparents’ week-long stay at Golden Horse Ranch. The Red Clover Ranch team provides meals and some onsite activities, a list of fun things to do in the area, or guests can simply spend their day hanging on the screened-in porch, playing games, taking naps, picnicking in the high pasture, sitting in the sauna, making a campfire, or hiking on trails.

One of the main goals of any Red Clover Ranch events is to highlight the many talented farmers, makers, and artists in the area. 

Chef Dani Lind at work, making amazing local spreads./ Photo by Meagan Shuptar 

The kitchen and food program at The Ranch is run by local chef Dani Lind of Rooted Spoon Kitchen and Table. Dani is an expert in local and seasonal farm-to-table cuisine – committed to sourcing at least 75 percent of her ingredients from nearby farmers and producers.

“Dani has formed really great relationships with these farmers. It is incredible to have this connection and network, because it is so inspiring for guests when we can say, ‘almost everything on this table is local!’” Annie says. They also strive to use Wisconsin-made beer, wine, and non-alcoholic beverages. “The fact that we have access to that level of expertise and industry in this area – it blows peoples’ minds!”

“And Dani’s food is just so memorable,” Annie continues. “She is such a treasure to the Driftless Region and to Red Clover Ranch.”

The old barn on the property was restored to become an event space for up to 75 guests. / Photo by Marta Sasinowska

First Year Reflections and Faith in the Future 

After a year of welcoming guests to Red Clover Ranch to form unique and lasting relationships with not only one another, but also with the environment around them, Annie expresses gratitude for all the help she got along the way. And she realizes sometimes you just have to jump in and have faith.

Red Clover Ranch offers a variety of fun and creative retreats. / Photo by Meagan Shuptar

“Faith in yourself. Faith in your belief system. Faith in making it all happen and getting to the end. It truly takes an act of faith to believe in your idea and build on it… You really have to stoke that faith – it is powerful,” says Annie. “You don’t know if anyone is going to believe in it or show up and then you have all these wonderful people not only show up, but also bring their talents, their kindness, and their support. I would not have gotten this done alone. I really would have run out of steam if I didn’t have all of these amazing friends from Wisconsin and Chicago pushing me forward – they knew how exhausted I was. I have a really deep sense of gratitude for them.”

As they move into their second season, Annie reflects on one of her favorite experiences of their first year – a memorable night featuring one of her favorite bands: “There was this moment as the music started fading out, you could hear the frogs, an owl hooted, and we started hearing the nature surrounding us. I get shivers just thinking about it again,” Annie says. “Community, creativity, and nature. I think those three things together create a certain kind of magic.”

Lynsey D. Moritz

Lynsey D. Moritz is a Decorah, Iowa native who has planted roots in rural Southwest Wisconsin. She is a graphic designer, freelance writer, and budding herbalist. Lynsey enjoys learning traditional skills, adventuring with her husband, and being a part of this inspiring Driftless community! lindenfern.com – Instagram: @LindenFern

Check out upcoming retreats and learn more about Red Clover Ranch at redcloverranch.com