Farmstay U.S. Blog

Created for and by travelers and the farmers, these posts will cover a variety of topics related to farm stays in the U.S.

Monthly Archives: May 2010

Farm Stay Story - Mariposa Creamery

Our first entry in the Farm Stay Stories contest is brought to us by Helene Garcia of French Foodie Baby. This story about her family's visit to Mariposa Creamery in Altadena, California first appeared on her blog on June 19, 2013.


 

At the goat farm...

 

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The other night, at dinner time with Grandpa and Grandma, Pablo was served some pork chop with mushrooms. He happily grabbed his fork in one hand, and with the other hand, picked a mushroom from his plate. He examined it, and turned to me: “La mer?” Loosely translated as: “Does this thing I’m about to put in my mouth come from the sea?” We then had a conversation about the forest, the place where you can find bunnies, deer, trees, creeks. And mushrooms.

I felt very happy about this exchange, because I realized that Pablo is interested in where his food comes from. He knows it’s not just magically there. Not only does he know a process of shopping, and cooking went into it (which he participates in more and more), but he also knows the food grew, or lived, somewhere. And I have, without giving it much thought, just as part of our conversations at the dinner table during our family meals, pointed out to him where the things he eats do come from. Shrimp, fish, oysters from the sea. Herbs from the garden. Apricots and peaches from our market friend Sam’s trees. Cherries we picked ourselves. Eggs laid by chickens. I am very matter-of-fact about naming the meat we eat as well, whether it’s duck, chicken, lamb, etc.

Way before our children ask us where babies come from, they should ask us where their food comes from. Or at least, let’s hope they do. And let us have a good answer for them (one that does not include an unpronounceable ingredient, as Michael Pollan advises). If we want our children to eat and enjoy real, nutritious, clean foods and give them a lifelong love for them, we must 1/ have, 2/ nurture, an interest in those foods, a curiosity of the what (it is, it tastes like, smells like, feels like, looks like), the how (it was grown, made, prepared, cooked), and the where (it comes from.)

This pursuit of connection with our food, this love and interest for the sources of our food, has been so fulfilling, nourishing, as it were. And it led us a few weeks ago, to Mariposa Creamery Farm Stay, in Altadena, California.

Gloria and Steve, who both have day jobs while running this goat and farming community, welcomed us in their haven for a couple of wonderful days. By wonderful, I mean the type of vacation that makes you wonder whether that should be your full time life. Because then, every morning would be a little bit like this...


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We wake up early and step outside within a few minutes of waking. We hear the birds, and the goats in the distance. Haphazardly dressed, Pablo refuses to put shoes on and wants to go explore the vegetable garden. It exudes free growth. It’s not a perfectly trimmed garden with ranks and beds. It’s a freestyle vegetable jungle. Pablo explores, passed the tall fennel, chards, amaranth, squash flowers, around the artichokes and the shiso.


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I try to follow but his small size gives him the advantage, to explore and find treasures. And a treasure he does find. “Tomate”. There, hidden in the depths of this jungle he’s so simply made his own, hangs a small, perfectly vermilion tomato. He extends his little hand and gently picks it. We both take a bite.

Oh, that bite.

He continues on, feeling the earth on his feet. Steve greets us as he picks some chards for our breakfast. The goats bleat over there, on the other side of the big house where many people of all trades seem to evolve productively.  We walk over there. Pablo stops by the berry bush to pick a blackberry, and we meet the carpenter, whose shop is next to the creamery. He shows us how he spreads the seeds of the wild flowers around every so often. So they keep growing wild throughout the property, and they do. Bright orange and yellow blotches everywhere, which a certain goat might be allowed to exit the enclosure to enjoy, every once in a while...


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We wonder into the chicken enclosure, and find Gloria grabbing some fresh eggs for breakfast. Pablo is eager to hold one. Pablo is eager to hold two. One gets broken, so he holds on to the other one carefully. Lesson learned.

Now for another lesson, a goat milking lesson. The suggestion that I may milk the goat straight into my coffee enchants me. I follow suit.

Pablo is familiar with the milking movement, as it is also the sign for milk in sign language, which we used when he was an infant. This was always his favorite sign ;-) But he is a little intimidated by Brin, the goat we are getting our milking lesson with.


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He decides it is wiser to feed her treats while we learn. He watches baby goat Spike get some milk from Brin.

The fresh milk tastes exactly that. Fresh. It is not gamy as I expected, though I like gamy. It tastes very mild and delicious. Oh the wonderful things that can be made with that milk. And Gloria and Steve do make so many of those wonderful things here. They teach a cheese making course I am hoping to take some day. And yogurt.

We hang with the goats for a while, the 5 months old one are just about Pablo’s height. They are terribly photogenic. Dare I say hams even?

Petting, nudging, observing, climbing, jumping ensues. Kids.

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We get this sense of family. The goats, Biscuit, Apple, Ice Cream, Rhubarb among others, are raised with love and warmth. It radiates.


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It’s breakfast time. What a feast Gloria has made for us. One of our most memorable breakfasts ever. Fresh squeezed orange juice from that tree, right behind us. Homemade bread, with fresh chèvre. Homemade jam, homemade ketchup. Roasted potatoes, fresh herbs. Artisan sausage from a friend of theirs. Pablo discovers a love for sausage. And eggs of course. Sauteed chards with homemade goat feta. Goat milk yogurt. Brand new apricots deposited by a neighbor in the mailbox last night, packed in an egg crate. Juicy as can be.


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This is how people lived hundreds of years ago. This is how some people live today, right here in a suburb ofLos Angeles. And how wonderful, brave and beautiful.

After breakfast, Pablo wanders on the path in the back of the house, among the wild poppies, fruit trees and artichoke plants, holding a piece of cheese in his hand, mumbling to himself “squeeze, squeeze”, the goat milk the cheese came from.

I love that he can experience this freedom here. This rich environment.

Certainly our morning is a very romanticized version of farm life, which is tremendous hard work and commitment. But what a worthwhile venture.


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It sometimes feels like the kind of life that I want, for myself, for Pablo. At the same time, I have no idea how we could get there, or how it would fit with the other stuff our life is currently made of. Sometimes we must make choices. As long as we don’t live by default. Food for thought, for now.


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Words and photographs copyright Helene Garcia / French Foodie Baby 2013.

Tell us your farm stay stories

Travelers! We want to hear from you... tell us all about your U.S. farm and ranch stay adventures and you could win $100 from Farm Stay U.S.!

This promotion is running through September 30th, and there will be three winners - one each in the months of July, August, and September.

Read on for more details...

Walpole Valley Farms - boy with chickens

To Enter

1. Assemble your story -- you can write, put together a photo essay, or film a video all about your overnight vacation at a working U.S. farm, ranch, or vineyard.

2. Send it to us at Farm Stay U.S.

That's it! Your submission may be posted here on our blog, and you'll be entered to win $100.

The Rules & Other Bits of Info You Need to Know

1. Submitting your content to us gives us the right to post it on our website, in our newsletter, and to link to it in various social media outlets.

2. Your submission may be edited for length, content, or clarity.

3. The farm, ranch, or vineyard stay you are sharing with us must be currently operating in the United States, Canada, District of Columbia, Central America, or the U.S. Territories.

4. The $100 prize winners will be selected at our discretion.

We can't wait to read all about your adventures!

(Photo courtesy The Inn at Valley Farms)

Please join us in extending a warm Farm Stay U.S. welcome to Heirloom Blooms at Acres Wild Ranch!

Heirloom Blooms - Collecting Bugs

Take a bite out of history! Explore and enjoy the heirloom vegetables and herb gardens, and the heritage fruit tree orchard. Learn about sustainability through composting, recycling, and energy/water conservation. Take a hike on the nature trail and view some wildlife. It's a "choose your own adventure" kind of vacation.

Heirloom Blooms goats

There are four guest cottages at Acres Wild Ranch, sleeping anywhere from 4 to 6 people, and pets are welcome for an additional fee. Meals are self-prep, and the cottages all have either a kitchenette or a full kitchen. The ranch offers a wide range of amenities, and they welcome children under 12, wedding parties, and other special events.

To learn more and start planning your adventure, visit the Heirloom Blooms at Acres Wild Ranch listing here on Farm Stay U.S.!


(Photos courtesy Heirloom Blooms)

Here's a very belated welcome to M Diamond Ranch, a new member of Farm Stay U.S., who joined the site back in January!

M Diamond Ranch 1

It's "horseback riding heaven" at this 100-year-old working cattle ranch, with trail rides and cowboy cookouts, featuring some of the best views in Sedona. The ranch is completely surrounded by the Coconino National Forest, rural but not too remote, and close to a number of archaeological sites.

The historic, 1930s guest house has a fully equipped, full-sized kitchen, and sleeps up to 10 people. The five bedroom house is updated and comfortable, with amenities like a flat screen tv, wireless internet, and a full size washer and dryer. Even the horses can stay at the ranch's Horse Hotel!

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To learn more about M Diamond Ranch, visit their Farm Stay U.S. listing.

(Photos courtesy M Diamond Ranch)

Cold Moon Farm Ducks Cold Moon Farm Barn

Nestled into a beautiful corner of Southern Vermont, Cold Moon Farm is a relaxing retreat with an array of activities for guests. Owners Ed and Irene Glazer have created an inviting place to vacation, along with activities like learning to bake bread, picking vegetables from the garden, observing the grazing goat herd, and telling stories around a campfire, just to name a few.Cold Moon Farm Kitchen

It’s often said that a kitchen is the heart of the home. Indeed, Cold Moon Farm was designed around its kitchen, which frequently serves as the gathering place for the entire farm. Guests enjoy daily fresh breakfasts, featuring eggs from the laying hens, bacon and sausage from Cold Moon’s own pigs, and raw goat milk from the farm’s herd. Add fresh-baked bread, Cold Moon Farm honey, and farm made yogurt, and you have a hearty morning start for anyone about to launch into a day of exploration.Cold Moon Farm Cooking Class

With professional appliances, all the necessary tools, and lots of storage and counter space, this is Irene’s dream kitchen, and she has generously made it available for culinary events, demonstrations, and classes. Farm stay guests, as well as individuals not spending the night, can pay a class fee and learn to bake bread, make cheese and yogurt, or harvest and prepare a farm-to-table dinner.

Cold Moon Farm AbigailIf you can tear yourself away from the amazing kitchen, there are plenty of farm animals to visit. The Glazers raise a herd of milking goats, and South Down Baby Doll sheep for their wool. Chickens and ducks provide eggs for the farm, and in the summer months there are chickens raised for meat. Finally, a breeding pair of Large Black pigs is expected to deliver their first set of piglets early this summer, which the crew at Cold Moon Farm is eagerly anticipating. Helping guests become acclimated to all this activity is Dave Meckes, AKA "Farmer Dave", the Farm and Operations Manager. He oversees the herd and the property, and takes guests on informative farm tours. You might see some wildlife, too. Georgia LoPresti Meckes, who does Marketing and Development for the farm, says, "Our pond is the perfect place to explore for frogs and to go for a refreshing dip!" Georgia writes a blog for the farm, and is the person behind the farm's social media presence.

Four guest suites make up the accommodations at Cold Moon Farm, and they all feature private baths and luxurious touches like TempurPedic mattresses, towel warmers, and tasteful Vermont decor. There are a variety of room types, for parties of different sizes, such as a Queen Bedroom suite that sleeps 2, a two-room Library Suite that can sleep up to 5 people, and a Family Room that can accommodate 7.

Cold Moon Farm King Room

The King Room

Cold Moon Farm Family Room

The Family Room

Other activities at Cold Moon Farm include "Pick Your Own" weekends, where guests receive a farm tour, and can purchase a special bag that they fill with the freshest vegetables from the picking garden. There are also guided hiking trips, and visitors to the farm will find canoeing and kayaking at nearby Jamaica State Park. Sustainable weddings, and yoga retreats round out the farm's offerings.

To meet Ed and Irene, and learn more about Cold Moon Farm, watch this video slide show from the farm, below, and then visit their listing on Farm Stay U.S.!

(All photos courtesy Cold Moon Farm)

heydenrych-sceneHeydenrych Farms is a 130-acre farm in Canajoharie, New York, 50 miles west of Albany and a four hour drive from New York City. Farmers Magda and Andre Heydenrych moved to Canajoharie from their native South Africa in 2004, with a strong understanding of how they wanted to farm. Magda and Andre raise 100% grass-fed beef and lamb; the sheep and cattle are never given feed, unecessary antibiotics, or growth hormones. The Hydenryches also raise horses, chickens, and one special zebra named Chaka! The animals are all given the opportunity to express themselves in their natural environment. These farming practices earned Heydenrych Farm an Animal Welfare Approval and American Grassfed Certification for beef in 2009.

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In addition to the grass-fed meat, handcrafted, tallow-based soaps are also a Heydenrych Farm specialty. The soap comes in appealing varieties like "Avocado & Strawberry," "Autumn on the Farm," and "Divine Cocoa Butter Vanilla." Magda and Andre have boosted their farm's business by offering their meat and soap for sale by mail in addition to local drop offs.

Heydenrych Farm offers a farm stay in a private, 3-bedroom 1880s farmhouse that sits on its own two acres with a great mountain view. Guests have access to all the house's amenities, including a full kitchen and outdoor grill where guests can prepare the farm's own grass-fed meats and fresh-picked vegetables -- guests are welcome to pick in-season vegetables from the farm's gardens. Many guests also enjoy walking around the nearby pond and helping care for the animals, though helping with chores is optional. Magda will also teach custom soapmaking to interested guests.

Off the farm, there are miles of trails, plus canoeing, golfing, apple picking, and plenty of museums.

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Rates for the farmhouse, which sleeps up to six, are $125/night for two guests, plus $15/night for each additional guest/night. High-speed wireless internet is available for an additional charge.

For more information, visit the Farm Stay U.S. Heydenrych Farms listing or the Heydenrych Farms website.

Photos courtesy Heydenrych Farms.

We'd like to give a warm welcome to a new member of the site, Chestnut Hill Ranch Bed and Breakfast!

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Hosts George and Cher have created a true getaway in Only, Tennessee, just about an hour from Nashville. They provide fresh, delicious meals, romance packages, privacy, and there are lots of activities nearby.

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The 53 acre working farm features a restored 1905 farmhouse with three themed rooms with private baths to choose from. Breakfast is included with the stay. The farm has friendly animals, and beehives for collecting fresh honey!

To learn more about Chestnut Hill Ranch, visit their listing here on Farm Stay U.S.

Stillwaters1Stillwaters Farm, located in Henderson, Tennessee, is 131 acres replete with green pastures, shady wooded areas, small ponds, and grassy hay fields. We spoke with Valeria Pitoni about what makes Stillwaters such a special spot.

Valeria shared with us that although the farm has a "way out" feeling, due to being nestled among approximately 1,000 acres of cropland, wooded areas, and other family farms, it's actually quite close -- only 2 miles -- from the city limits of Henderson. The farm, farm stay, and their animal inhabitants live on the front 25+ acres of the property, while the rest is considered hay fields and natural habitat.Stillwaters2

This "back 100+" acreage is an excellent place for a hike or golf cart ride, and, after being assessed by a semi-local ornithologist, Valeria says they can boast a good population of birds whose species are rated as in-decline. (Bring your binoculars!) Other wildlife in the area are deer and wild turkeys in abundance, an occasional coyote, and once in a great while visitors to the farm may see a red fox, an armadillo, or even otter or bobcats.

When asked what guests typically do when they visit the farm, Valeria said, "while many of our guests arrive with a list as long as their arm, most emerge from the Cottage after a couple of days with hair sticking every which-way, coffee mug in hand, stating -- emphatically -- that they can't remember when they've rested so well!"Stillwaters3

Aside from all that wonderful rest, guests receive "critter tours" to get to know the inhabitants and landscape of the farm, any questions they have are answered, and from that point on, they decide what they'd like to do. Guests are welcome to join in whatever farm activity is happening, whether it be hay season, bringing in the crop, animal feeding and/or grooming, trimming time for horses, gardening, animal babysitting, nature hiking and photography excursions, flower collecting, and much more.

The farm occasionally hosts artist's workshops, where they prepare and paint gourds that are raised on the farm. Off farm activities can include visits to Civil War monuments, such as Shiloh National Battlefield Park, a pearl farm attraction, Casey Jones Village and Museum, a minor league baseball park, and several state parks within an hour's drive. Guests may also enjoy horseback riding, canoeing, visiting the nearby Amish community of Lawrenceburg, or attending events at the West Tennessee State Fairgrounds. The town of Henderson boasts a new day spa, only 4 miles from the farm, where guests can find services like massage, facials, manicures, and pedicures.Stillwaters4

Local food enthusiasts can make their way to the West Tennessee Farmer's Market in Jackson, where dozens of vendors sell a wide variety of produce, grass-fed meats, arts, crafts, and products from Stillwaters Farm. The farm itself also has "The Silo", their very own on-farm store featuring their handcrafted artisan soaps, soy candles, art, photography, and more.

Guests staying at Stillwaters Farm enjoy a free-standing 2 bedroom, 1 bath, 1,000 square foot cottage at the leading edge of the farm. It's climate-controlled with central heat and air, and it offers an outdoor lounge area with views of the diverse gardens and pastoral vistas. A private drive leads to the private parking for Cottage guests. Stillwaters6

Inside, Valeria tells us, "the Cottage is furnished in period antiques, albeit touchable antiques, along with a 1917 cast iron claw foot tub for soaking." The bedrooms are spacious and the beds have premium mattresses for guests' comfort. There is a television and DVD/VCR player, along with a small library of videos, and a stereo hidden away in the living room, but there is no satellite, cable, or Wi-Fi service. A small, but eclectic, library is maintained for guests to use.

Stillwaters5Guests self-prepare their meals, and the kitchen is outfitted with all major appliances, cookware, tableware, and flatware necessary. The Cottage is stocked with coffee, soaps, and essentials like cooking oil, salt and pepper, and spices for guests to use, and guests are encouraged to partake of the fresh, in-season produce from the farm's garden.

To learn more, we invite you to visit the Stillwaters Farm listing here on Farm Stay U.S., as well as their website and Facebook page.

(All photos courtesy Stillwaters Farm)

Please join us in welcoming one of our newest members to Farm Stay U.S., Mavis Manor!

Mavis Manor 1

Specializing in "Farm to Fork localness", Mavis Manor is a sustanable farm stay retreat situated on 33 acres in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of West Virginia.

The farm raises a flock of 75+ happy chickens, a fluffy English Angora Rabbit named Chewy, and a locally famous pig called Sylvia Smackers.

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With three guest rooms in the 1897 Queen Anne Victorian house, Mavis Manor can accommodate up to 9 guests, including children under 12. They provide breakfast and have snacks available, and guests are welcome to help with chores, learn about permaculture, or relax and play yard games.

To see what more they have to offer, visit Mavis Manor's listing on Farm Stay U.S.!

Last weekend, we had a booth at the LA Times Travel Show, which was held at the Los Angeles Convention Center. It was our first time being an exhibitor at a show of this size, and wow, what a response!

If you're here visiting the site after meeting Scottie Jones or Dr. Serina Harvey from Flip Flop Ranch at our booth, welcome. We've always known farm, ranch, and vineyard stays constitute an amazing travel niche, but having a steady stream of folks interested in visiting and, by extension, helping small farms remain sustainable was so gratifying.

We love to tell the story of farm stays in photographs, which we hope is evident by the number of photos you can find here on the site. To that end, we had a slide show playing on our booth's screen during the travel show -- when we weren't demonstrating the site -- and we wanted to share it here with our site visitors. This is only a small sampling of our member farms, but it was so much fun to put together that we'll definitely be doing more of these in the near future.

The members featured in the slide show are: