My husband and I bought our Oregon farm 14 years ago. We were Phoenix urbanites looking for water and a change of pace. That’s about as far as we delved into what exactly being a farmer entailed. Our farm came with a mixture of smaller livestock, some rusty equipment, a century-old apple orchard, and a peacock. It seemed like an idyllic life choice with beautiful scenery and the requisite historic barn. We thought, “How hard could farming be?”
In hindsight, a business plan might have squelched that naiveté, but idealizing farming isn’t new nor are we the only ones to have gone down that path, even marketing the myth (Does Pepperidge Farm really exist?) Regardless, this is actually a great reason to visit a farm. After all, this is where the food in your fridge starts out - be it livestock or produce, even something simple like eggs (Fair warning: egg-laying chickens are well known as a “gateway livestock”!) Farming is physically demanding; it requires skill and education, and even a bit of luck. It’s a risky business. It’s also a 7-day-a-week job that some will joke is a lifestyle, not a living. But it also brings clarity to pricing at your local farmers’ market. Exactly how much time and labor does it take on the part of the farmer to get those eggs to your fridge?
Most small farms ($100K or less in sales) require off-farm jobs to support the family. We were no different. Which leads me to the creative thinking required to make a living on a farm, also known as ‘value-added’ (thanks USDA). That would be the jam, goat cheese, wool, or soap you’ll find on Etsy, at the farmers’ market, or at the roadside farm stand. For us, it was the addition of a ‘farm stay’ to our operations. Farm stays – overnight lodging provided on the farm for a fee – are as varied as the farms offering them. You might find yourself in a tent on the back-40, a cabin, a yurt, even a room in the farm house; and, often your stay includes a farm-fresh breakfast and a rooster alarm clock.
Yup, we farmers are looking at diversification strategies (wow, we sounds like hedge fund managers) that include the hospitality business and inviting strangers to experience our lifestyle. It helps pay for tractor maintenance, but it also allows us to share our vistas as well as our challenges with urbanites and travelers, often disconnected from the natural world in ways that would have our grandparents shaking their collective heads. We know. We were those urbanites - until we weren’t.
And, it’s not dirty and boring the way you might think. Okay, well the lodging isn’t dirty, although helping around the farm might involve some dirt. Boring never factors in because… farms aren’t boring. Maybe you’ll help collect eggs, brush the donkey, even hold a baby lamb. Maybe you’ll sit on the farm house porch and read a good book, drink the local brew, unwind and unplug. You’ll be our guest for a weekend or a week and you never had to buy the farm!
This is why you would want to stay on a farm. It’s a bridge to the country. It’s a boon to the farm (it saved ours). It’s fun and unexpected, and your friends will think you are crazy, until you return home with tales of feeding a baby goat, and then they will want to go too. You’ll be protecting small-farm America that at one point built this country. You’re a patriot! Okay, bit of a stretch, but at least you have found a unique, relaxing vacation spot… and are now contemplating chickens for the back yard!
Easter is coming up this weekend, and that brings up the annual issue of cute baby animals given as gifts for the occasion. Baby bunnies (known as kits), chicks, ducklings, and other cute creatures require a big commitment. They need special diets and housing and... well... these types of animals tend to poop wherever they feel like it. Ask anyone who lets chickens free-range in their back yards! Just no decorum, I tell ya.Instead of risking the need to re-home these animals when they grow out of the cuddly baby stage and turn into a long-term responsibility, we highly recommend visiting animals on a farm instead. (Of course!) Create memories that will last a lifetime... not a lifetime of chores.
As you know, we love promoting farm stays. But we also love the fact that there are all kinds of events taking place on and around farms that don't necessarily mean staying over night. That's why we're so excited to announce the newest feature of the Farm Stay U.S. website... event calendars!Up above, in the menu bar across the top of the site, you'll see Event Calendars at the far right. The drop-down menu is broken down by region, to help you find special events where you live or plan to travel. When you click on "more details", you'll be provided a link to the farm's listing and have the option to add the event to your own calendars.
Select the region you are interested in. Not sure? Click on the main "Event Calendars" page and you'll be given a list of all the states represented in each region.
Once you find an event you're interested in, you can do a few things:
Want to make sure you never miss an event? Find the region/calendar you're interested in, and scroll to the bottom of the page. Click the button to add to Google Calendar.
When Google Calendar opens, you'll be given the option to add the calendar to your "Other Calendars" section.
This is a brand new option for our farm, ranch, and vineyard members to promote special events, so be sure to check back now and then for new additions to the calendars!
Flint Hill Farm in Coopersburg, Pennsylvania is known as a Farm Educational Center. Located on 26-acres, this multifaceted farm is a working Alpine goat and Jersey cow dairy that procudes milk, cheese, and yogurt. You can pick up these products in their on-site store or enjoy them with your breakfast when you stay on the farm.
Guests and visitors to the farm can also opt to sign up for a cheese making class, where they learn to make chevre, mozzarella, or cheddar cheese. They also give the option of milking the cows and goats in the morning before class!
Overnight guests have the option to be "farmer for a day", which includes hands-on egg-collecting, feed and water the ponies and horses, feed and milk the goats, and observe cow milking. Draft horses help with much of the everyday farm work during certain seasons.
The farm itself dates back to about 1850 and run by two famlies until Kathleen Fields purchased it in 1997. Vacationers can choose to stay in the farm house, where there are two rooms with queen beds, plus a room with twin beds, or stay in a mobile home/RV that is situated in the six acres of woods on the property.
Camps are offered during the summer, including Farm Camp, Horse Lovers Camp, and Kindercamp. More information can be found on the farm's website.
Start planning your trip to Flint Hill Farm today!
Enjoy a closer peek at Flint Hill Farm through this video:
“Life follows the rhythm of the seasons."
This is not your ordinary campground. Located on a certified organic farm in the rolling hills of northern Illinois, Kinnikinnick Farm’s Feather Down farm tents (part of the Feather Down Farms franchise) offer guests a charming and authentic farm stay experience.
From spring through fall, guests can stay in the spacious wood-floored tents and enjoy beds made with European style linens; wood stoves, along with kindling and wood to cook and keep warm; and fresh, local foods. With no electricity inside the tents, evening light is provided via oil lamps and candles. Hot showers and flush toilets are located in a nearby bathhouse.
The farm was originally founded in 1849, and has been in continuous production since. David and Susan Cleverdon purchased the farm in 1987 and began their organic garden in 1993. Now, they sell their certified organic produce directly to farmers market customers and Chicago-area chefs, as well as partnering with a program that helps feed Chicago’s homeless.
Food and Chores
Guests are welcome to help out with some of the farm chores, like collecting eggs, feeding animals, and harvesting crops, or they may choose to simply explore the countryside and relax.
At Kinnikinnick Farm, guests can purchase meal components like meats, eggs, and produce, then grill outside or cook over their woodstove. The farm also offers “arrival meals” for the first night, and during particular times of year, the outdoor wood-fired oven is available for build-your-own pizza nights.
For folks who want to carry on the fresh, seasonal cooking back home, the farm has a recipe page on their website.
To learn more about Kinnikinnick Feather Down Farm visit their listing here on Farm Stay U.S., then head over to their website to book next year's vacation!
(All photos courtesy Kinnikinnick Farm; Coral VonZumwalt)
If you visit a farm that raises livestock, you may encounter livestock guardian dogs (LGDs). LGDs aren't your usual pet dogs, which people don't always realize. We've heard stories of well-meaning neighbors accusing farmers of mistreating these working animals, or worse, threatening to remove the dogs!
We asked one of our Farm Stay U.S. members, Ruth Pepler of Dogwood Hills Farm in Arkansas, about her experience with LGDs.
Some of the things I have discovered about these amazing dogs over the years I have learned the hard way. Our very first Pyrenees, Maya, was given to us because she would not stay way out in the pasture with the goats. She kept coming to the farm house. Our set up was much more to her liking with our farm house in the middle of the hub of pastures. She was an excellent guardian and could be completely trusted with moms delivering, chickens and baby chicks, and our guests. She knew that the guests belonged there and watched over them as well! They say it's not good to let them socialize with people or they won't do their job. We have not found this to be a problem. When visiting a farm with livestock guardian dogs, it's always good to know the ground rules. These dogs have a very specific job to do, and you would not want to distract them. The rules at Dogwood Farm, for example, are:
LGDs may work alone, if the farm is somewhat small, or there may be several dogs working together.
At first, I didn't know that it's hard for them to be the only LGD if the predators are thick. Our dogs run 72 acres, not a large farm, but surrounded by numerous coyote, big cats, an occasional wolf, and bear. We now have a team of 3 adults and 3 puppies. They work very well rotating and training the younger ones.
One of the things I have noticed as the younger ones step up into a more active role, is that they will dig out a hole or several holes in prime locations for watching their charges. If I can't find a dog, the first thing I do is look out where the goats are, then check the opposite hillside and there, dug into the side of the hill, is a watchful dog.
Winter is a whole other topic. The barn is open on either end. The dogs have access to hay, heated water, and cozy goats to snuggle up with. Where do they sleep? Smack in the middle of the driveway, out in the snow, with a paw over their nose! We've discovered that ice blocks make great toys! They carry them all over the place.
Thanks very much to Ruth for sharing some great photos and talking with us about these special "farm hands"! Do you have questions about livestock guardian dogs? Leave it in the comments.
(Photos courtesy Dogwood Hills Farm)
Farm and ranch stays are generally a very family friendly vacation, and we tend to focus a lot of our attention on that. Travel Blogging Moms want to share the farm stay experience with their family-focused readers, and other writers often base their inquiries on the best places to enjoy vacation time with multiple generations of family.
But kids aren’t the only ones who can get something great out of a stay on a working farm. Whether single, part of a couple, or with a group of friends, there are plenty of farm vacation ideas for grown ups:
1) Wine Tasting & Tours
Rustridge Ranch and Winery, St. Helena, CA
Sakura Ridge Farm and Lodge, Hood River, OR
From well-appointed tasting rooms, to farms situated near world-class wine regions, wine and farm stays often go hand-in-hand. Rustridge Ranch and Winery is a rustic Napa Valley vineyard, winery, and thoroughbred racehorse ranch. Gather in the B&B kitchen in the evenings for hors d'ouevres and sampling Rustridge wines. During the day, learn about wine making and growing grapes, or about breeding and training racehorses.
Sakura Ridge Farm and Lodge in Hood River, Oregon, is located in the heart of the Columbia River Gorge. Cherry, pear, and apple orchards bloom and beckon, and you'll be in great proximity to wineries and tour opportunities in the Mt. Hood region.
Find more farm stays with wine tasting/touring activities.
2) Cheese Making or Tasting
Flint Hill Farm, Coopersburg, PA
Mountain Farm, Burnsville, NC
Cheese goes with wine, after all! Whether you want to learn how to make cheese at home, or just sample some farm fresh goodness, farm stays can hook you up. At Flint Hill Farm in Pennsylvania, the "Cheese Artist Package" will give guests a 2-night stay in their 1850s farmhouse, and hands-on immersion in the process of making cheese, from milking to packaging of the final product for sale.Mountain Farm is the smallest certified dairy in North Carolina, and a member of the Western North Carolina Cheese Trail. They make unique aged goat cheeses, soft flavored cheeses and marinated Feta, and as they are only occasionally open to the public for special events, your stay will be peaceful and private.
Find more farm stays offering cheese making or tasting.
3) Cattle Drives or Cattle Sorting
Western Pleasure Guest Ranch, Sandpoint, ID
Horses N Courage Camp, Lennep, MT
Whether you're a bonafide "city slicker", or you've spent some time on horseback, authentic cattle drives or cattle sorting activities are experiences you won't soon forget. At Western Pleasure Guest Ranch in Idaho, put on your game face and participate in competitive team cattle sorting. They even offer five-night adult only getaways during select weeks in the summer.
At Horses N Courage Camp in Montana, you'll ride alongside the Hereim family while you herd and move cattle. Their cabin, tent, or teepee accommodations, along with camp cooked meals and songs around the campfire will give you a taste of Montana's backcountry.Find more farm or ranch stays offering cattle drives or cattle sorting.
4. Cooking School
The Inn at Crippen Creek Farm, Skamokawa, WA
Bean Tree Farm, Tucson, AZ
Watching a chef (or even just a talented cook) prepare a meal is a delight. Taking it to the next level and actually learning from such a person is something really special. Hosts Don and Kitty Speranza at The Inn at Crippen Creek Farm in Washington owned and operated a successful catering company in Portland before turning to the farm life. These days, they will teach farm guests how to make artisan bread, pasta, and comforting country Italian meals. And then you get to feast on your hard work!For something really different - and really interesting - check out Bean Tree Farm in Arizona and learn to identify, harvest, process, and pepare seasonal Sonoran Desert foods. You might harvest and process barrel cactus fruit, saguaro fruit, dragonfruit, paloverde seeds, and much more. They even make a desert kimchi!
Find more farm stays offering cooking classes.
These are just a few getaway ideas that adults can enjoy, but almost any farm, ranch, or vineyard stay will fit the bill. From relaxing in a quiet farm cottage with a good book, to throwing yourself into farm chores, taking in the night sky, or learning some new skills - alone, or with a friend or partner - these vacations aren't just for kids!
Last week, National Geographic published a list of the top 10 most visited national parks in the United States. We have several USFSA members who have identified themselves as being near national parks or forests. So, if sharing a crowded campground doesn't sound like your cup of tea, check out these farms and ranches that offer a good "home base" for your explorations!
At Liberty Hill Farm, you can walk out the door and have access to miles of cross country trails, surrounded by the beauty of the Green Mountain National Forest. Enjoy hiking, cross-country skiing, fishing, hunting, snowmobiling, horseback riding, mountain biking, or watching the wildlife... then head back to the farm for a homemade meal at the farmhouse table.
On the northern side of Yellowstone National Park, you'll find many of the ranches represented by Montana Bunkhouses. At 28,000 square miles, with tons of activities, there is a lot to explore. Go "be a Montanan" for part of your stay and experience the ranching way of life that so well defines this area of the country.
It's only a couple of hours from South Carolina's Thus Far Farm to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee, making the farm a great lodging choice on your way to or from your park visit. After roughing it in the woods, see if you have what it takes to rough it on the farm with one of their "grid-down" weekends.
Lucky Goat Family Farm is in Big Sur, surrounded by the Los Padres National Forest. Spend the night and enjoy the oecean views, take a goat cheese making workshop at the farm, and then hit the maintained forest trails - there are 1,257 miles of them!
Seven Oaks Farm is situated in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, between both the Shenandoah National Park, and the sprawling George Washington and Jefferson National Forests. The farm is an ideal place from which to begin some fall leaf-peeping adventures; try Skyline Drive, with 105 miles and 75 overlooks from which to take in nature's splendor.
Check out all of our farm and ranch members around the country who have identified that they are near national parks or forests, and see what they have to offer. You're sure to find a great combination for your next outdoor adventure vacation!
Netherfield Natural Farm, located in Fontana, Kansas, offers two types of stays in their restored 1882 Victorian farmhouse. You can opt for a traditional B&B style stay (which includes breakfast, of course), or a farm stay with all family style meals included while you're on the farm.
Up on a hill, with great views and plenty of privacy from neighbors, this rural farm has 14 acres, a fishing pond, two story barn (check out their BAR/N - a saloon inside their working barn!), fire pits, picnic areas, and walking trails.
Innkeepers Scott and Matt have honored the history of the original homesteaders by naming the farm's four guest bedrooms after the Vance family. The accommodations are cozy and inviting, giving travelers plenty of private space while the shared living room and dining room spaces offer opportunities for visiting. The bedrooms have either queen or full-size beds; two with private baths and two sharing a bath.
Other amenities include a full kitchen, laundry faciliites, library, internet with free wifi, fire pit, bbq, and a pond. During the summer months, enjoy the new swimming pool!
At Netherfield Natural Farm, guests can enjoy interacting with cows, free-ranging chickens, a turkey, a livestock guardian dog (LGD) and a "house dog", and barn cats. When there are animals that need to be bottle-fed, guests are welcome to pitch in and lend a hand.
Same goes for other chores around the farm, including the garden, where you can potentially help with planting or harvesting, depending on what's needed during your stay.
The farm's stated goal is to be, as much as possible, a self-sustaining place for vacationers who are looking for a temporary rural agrarian experience.
Children under 12 are welcome at Netherfield, as well as parties, family reunions, corporate retreats, and weddings or elopements. If you want to bring pets or your own horses to ride, they can accommodate you! Check out their listing here on Farm Stay U.S., and start planning your Kansas getaway!
Photos courtesy Netherfield Natural Farm
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