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: April 2012

Perry Family Farm - Northfield, Vermont

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Welcoming, comfortable and green; three words that describe Perry Family Farm quite well. Originally from England, the Perry family moved to Vermont for the rural lifestyle. They purchased farm land and started building what is now a beautiful farm house on a working farm. Their goal is to produce locally grown food for their community and provide a memorable experience for their guests all while embracing good environmental practices. This small diverse farm can be found nestled in the Green Mountains of Central Vermont.

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FARM STAY ACCOMMODATIONS

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Perry Family Farm offers a fully equipped one bedroom apartment with modern conveniences. There is also the option of a bunk bed in the main living area for children and another room on the top floor with a private bathroom. One of the greatest treats of their apartment is the beautiful view from the private deck and upstairs bedroom.

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SEASONAL HIGHLIGHTS

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No matter which season you’re planning your next getaway, you’ll find enjoyment here at Perry Family Farm. Come in spring and you’ll get to see and play with the new piglets, lambs and calves in the field. Summers offer fresh farm cooked BBQs, garden produce, warm evenings and starlit nights. Does waking up to a brisk and colorful autumn morning sound like the perfect getaway? Then you’ve found a great place to enjoy the chilled mornings and beautiful fall foliage. If snow shoeing, skiing and a warm and cozy romantic night in is your ideal vacation then Vermont’s snow covered winters and a stay at Perry Family Farm should be next on your list.

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FARM FRESH

Perry Family Farm offers a variety of meats and produce for purchase including pork, lamb, beef, chicken, duck, goose, guinea fowl, eggs, honey, pullets and preserves.

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FARM GUESTS

Eco-friendly, relaxing and country charm are just a few reasons guests appreciate a stay at the Perry Family Farm.

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“The Perry Farm is absolutely beautiful! Plenty of warm water, heat, wonderful kitchen for cooking, and they provided delicious Vermont coffee and milk. A nice scenic drive through the back roads of Warren and you're at Sugarbush.” – Rachel

“I cut the duck into parts, slow roasted the carcass for about 2 hours to render the fat out. Then I cooked the legs and the wings slow and low until the meat was falling off the bone. There is nothing better than duck cooked in its own fat. Then I pan seared the breast, finished them in the oven to medium rare and served with a blood orange, ginger, balsamic reduction. Served the whole thing with fresh steamed green beans and a medley of roasted carrots, parsnips and butternut squash. You would have been proud. It was fantastic!” – Rebecca

“We loved staying on James and Laura's farm -- only wish the stay could have been longer! The apartment was so comfortable with a great gas range stove, big refrigerator, plenty of living space and an ultra-comfy bed. We had access to their veggie garden and they provided us with farm eggs, coffee & bread for breakfast.” - Julia

 

GREEN EFFORTS

green Perry Family Farm LLC is committed to protecting the environment, the health and safety of our employees, and the community in which we conduct our business. It is our policy to seek improvements throughout our business operations to lesson our impact on the local and global environment by conserving energy, water and other natural resources; reducing waste generation; recycling and purchasing recycled-content products; and reducing our use of toxic materials or production of toxic products and byproducts. We are committed to environmental excellence and pollution prevention through continual improvement and meeting or exceeding all environmental regulatory requirements.” green2

 

For more information and reservations visit the Perry Family Farm Stay profile or their website.

Photo Credit - Perry Family Farm

Justesen Ranch - Grass Valley, Oregon

Just south of Grass Valley, Oregon lies the spacious and relaxing Justesen Ranch. Located on beautiful Oregon farm country, Justesen Ranch offers a wide range of outdoor activities. With six cozy and welcoming cabins surrounded by nature and wildlife you’ll wake up every morning with acres to explore.

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Farm Stay Cabins

Justesen Ranch Recreation offers six lovely cabins to choose from; great for anyone looking for a relaxing vacation to getaway and unwind.

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White River Lodge – Accommodating up to eight guests, this three bedroom two bath rock and log cabin is great for the whole family. There’s also a patio where concerts occasionally take place near White River.

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Barn Between the Rivers – This refitted barn comfortably sleeps six guests and has a recreation room with a pool table and shuffleboard court. It’s located in Tygh Valley and sits between two flowing creeks.

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Davis House – This small farmhouse can sleep up to six guests with a living room, kitchen, one indoor bathroom and an old-fashion outhouse. With 10 fishing lakes nearby, this cabin is a popular choice among fishing enthusiasts.

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Grass Valley House – Big game hunting, lake fishing and waterfowl hunting activities are all within a short drive from this cabin. With four bedrooms and two bathrooms this cabin is perfect for friends and family.

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Trout Lake Lodge – This restored hand hewed log home has four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a large kitchen, dining area and living room. It can sleep up to 9 adults and is great for group getaways. It’s located at Trout Lake, Washington and the foot of Mt. Adams.

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The Grainery – Located five miles southwest of Grass Valley, this small fishing cabin is near two very popular fly fishing lakes and can accommodate up to four adults.

Ranch Activities and Local Attractions

Justesen Ranch has a number of outdoor recreation activities available for their guests including: hunting, fishing, horseback riding, hiking, trail riding, farm tours and bird watching.

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There are plenty of rivers, creeks and lakes in the area for trout and bass fishing. You’ll need to bring your own fishing equipment and all fishing in the area is catch-and-release. If you’re interested they will gladly provide guide services. Justesen Ranch offers guided deer, duck, geese and a variety of other animal hunting excursions. They also provide trail riding services throughout beautiful White River Canyon and Tygh Valley that take you through forests, canyons and rivers. You have the option to bring your own horses or ride one of their friendly steeds.

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If you’re an outdoor enthusiast and looking for an adventurous vacation Justesen Ranch is a must stay if you’re in the beautiful state of Oregon. For more information and reservations you can look through their Farm Stay profile, Justesen Ranch Recreation website and Contact Information.

Photo Credit: Justesen Ranch

Hull-O Farms - Durham, New York

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A farm that began in 1786 is still being run today, seven generations later, by Frank and Sherry Hull and their sons. The Hull-O Farm and family have dedicated over 200 years to their farming heritage and have been recognized by New York State as a National Bicentennial Farm. With hundreds of acres under cultivation, they grow forage for their own livestock and provide feed for wildlife that often can be seen from their wrap around porch they've recently added to their farmhouse.

FARM STAY

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Accommodating to friends and families, Hull-O Farms and Family Farm Vacations offer three private guest houses. Guests have the option to share the family farm experience and join for a country-style breakfast, dinner or dessert in their 19th-century upstate New York farmhouse. Most guests don’t pass up on all you can eat buttermilk pancakes that melt in your mouth, farm fresh produce and all natural grass fed meats. You’re also invited to hayrides for the whole family, fishing in their farm pond and bonfires with s’mores under the starlit sky. For more information and frequently asked questions you can visit their FAQ section of their website.

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(The Rose) - A short walk from the barns is this inviting two bedroom country home. It’s equipped with a full kitchen, full bath and living room with fully finished pine floors (lumber used was harvested from their own forests).

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(The Austin, named after Grandpa Hull) – Located on the hill at the very edge of their 300 acre farm you’ll find their country chalet with a private floor just for you. This two bedroom home comes with a full bath, living and dining area. There is no formal kitchen, but a microwave and small refrigerator are provided. Make your way up to the 32-foot second story deck overlooking their scenic Durham Valley, an image you will cherish long after your visit.

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(The Gifford, named after Grandma Hull) – This two story four bedroom country-style home is walking distance from the barns with a deck that overlooks their grazing cattle in the meadows. Equipped with a full kitchen, full bath, sun porch and living room the Gifford makes a fantastic stay for the whole family.

FARM ACTIVITIES AND EVENTS

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A farm stay at Hull-O Farms isn't just a vacation; it’s an educational experience for you and the whole family. Don’t worry learning on the farm is fun! Adults and children love the hands-on experience they receive interacting with farm animals and helping with daily chores. Did you know that you hold the bottle differently when feeding baby goats than you do for lambs?

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The Hull-O family love having guests, but so do their farm friends. You’ll get to meet and interact with a number of farm animals: Cattle, heritage pigs, pot-bellied pig, jersey calf, goats, lambs, turkeys, ducklings, red deer, horses and even cuddly kittens and puppies.

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Life on the farm isn’t all work and no play. After chores are finished there are plenty of downtime activities from hay rides, a mystery corn maze and badminton to hammock resting, nature walks and relaxing around the campfire.

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LOCAL ATTRACTIONS

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If you plan to venture off the farm, there are a number of nearby attractions. Ranked among Americas top five “show caves”, Howe Caverns is only a 45 minute drive away. If water parks are your thing, Zoom Flume, New York’s #1 family water park is just a minute drive from the farm. Horseback riding, cruises, shopping, casinos and many historic attractions are also fun options for Hull-O Farm guests.

Plan your next farm and family adventure at Hull-O Farms. For more information and booking visit the following: Hull-O Farm Website,Farm Stay Profile,Reservations.

Photo Credit: Hull-O Farms

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Chantilly Ridge Alpacas Farm lies on twelve acres of farm land located 10 miles from Daytona Beach in beautiful Port Orange, Florida. The owners, Fran and Vern, have lived there for about 15 years now. They had been talking about raising alpacas for a long time, but it wasn’t until eight years ago that they decided to go for it and purchased over 100 alpacas. “They are the sweetest animals,” Fran said during our phone interview. You could tell by the sincerity in her voice that she and her family love what they do. Now, as a family run full service alpaca farm they pride themselves in educating their many visitors about Alpacas and creating a farm experience they won’t forget.

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Alpaca farming is still fairly new in the United States, but the industry is rapidly gaining popularity. Native to South America, alpacas are used for meat, leather and fiber; however, in the United States they’re solely used for their fiber material, fleece. At Chantilly Ridge Alpacas Farm they carefully raise and breed their alpacas to ensure the best possible genetics. They offer alpacas for sale and a variety of fiber products.

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Visit the Farm

Chantilly Ridge Alpacas are involved in a number of events, tours and community oriented activities giving you multiple options to learn more about the farm, get to know the local farmers and gain the farm experience. Located out in the country, but only a few miles to I-95, Chantilly offers a great place to get away from it all but still gives the option of visiting Florida’s many tourist attractions.

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They are involved at multiple farmers markets, one every Thursday at the local Port Orange market and another every Saturday. You can also find them at the county fair, which they are invited to participate in for the whole ten days of the event. Volusia County also puts together a free farm tour in November where guests can visit multiple participating farms and ranches and meet the local farmers who provide the tour of their farms. Chantilly Ridge Alpacas Farm had over 350 visitors during last year’s county farm tour. They also love giving back to the community with visits from children groups, schools, churches and boy and girl scouts. The scouts love to camp out in their pasture!

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Farm Stay

If you desire a more personable experience, Chantilly Ridge Farm offers a Farm Stay that has room for up to six guests. With a king suite and the option of a twin bedroom with a joint bathroom, it’s great for couples or family getaways. They also have a pool and pool house for relaxing or family fun. They are currently in the planning stages of turning their pool house into a one bedroom apartment to expand their farm stay options.

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With chickens, two pot belly pigs, a donkey, ducks, bunnies and of course alpacas this farm has a variety of farm animals for kids and families to enjoy and play with!

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Attractions

You can enjoy a peaceful farm getaway and still enjoy the many attractions Florida has to offer. From the sand between your toes and family fun beach activities, to adventure tours and wildlife sighting to community events and nightlife, you’ll find it all in the beautiful state of Florida.

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For more information visit Chantilly Ridge's Website or Farm Stay Site. For booking information call Fran or Vern at 386-767-0577

Photo Credit: (Chantilly Ridge Alpacas Farm, Visit Florida)

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Four miles south of Galena, completely surrounded by 500ft ridges and away from bright city lights and traffic you’ll find Ruth and Frank Netzel’s working Adventure Creek Alpaca and Goldendoodle Farm. Sitting on 45 secluded acres their farm has 12 hand-made log cabins perfect for a relaxing getaway. The farm's central location makes for an easy trip to tour the Mississippi River and Casper Bluff.

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Local experts in relaxing, Ruth and Frank invite you to come and do the same! Experience beautiful sights, spectacular sunsets, soothing sounds and smells of nature and their star lit sky at night all in one stay at Adventure Creek Farm.

Farm Stay

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Each cabin is 800+ square feet. With queen beds on each main floor, a double bed in the loft, a gas log fireplace and a large separate bathroom with a double whirlpool bathtub you get to call this warm and cozy cabin your home for the duration of your stay. Their cabins offer the rustic look and feel with modern conveniences including: satellite TV, refrigerator, microwave and central heating. At night take a look out the four foot skylight and enjoy the night sky illuminated with stars.

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Cabins are all hand-chinked hewn logs of cedar and red pine with pine floors and ceilings. Major parts are constructed without nails and loft beams are exposed to give a natural feel and cabin experience.

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The Netzel’s love showing and answering any questions their visitors have about their alpacas. Their quiet, friendly and curious nature makes them great with families and children. Upon arrival and throughout your visit these alpacas are here to welcome and entertain you. You also have the option of hand feeding or taking them for a walk, which tend to be farm favorite activities for both the guests and alpacas.

Ruth and Frank also raise and breed goldendoodles, which are hybrid dogs. They breed male golden retrievers with female poodles to create these adorable, loyal and lovable dogs. If you’d like you can check out one of their litters of 11 puppies from this short video available Goldendoodle Pups Video.

If you happen to visit in the early spring, morel mushrooms pop up for a few weeks. They go for about $75 per pound at your produce market! Yes, guests have found them on their property and yes guests are allowed to pick them as long as they tell the owners where they found them.

Activities

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Adventure Creek Farm offers a number of activities on and close by their property. From hiking the winding creek that passes through their 45 acres and enjoying nature and wildlife along the way to touring the nearby Mississippi River, Casper Bluffs and local wineries and towns.

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Famous for its beautiful fall colors and rolling hills, storybook winters and star gazing and adventure seeking springs and summers, Jo Daviess County and Adventure Creek Alpaca and Goldendoodle Farm is the perfect destination for anytime of the year.

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Around the World Reviews

Adventure Creek Alpaca & Goldendoodle Farm have had guests from all over the world with nothing but good things to say.

"Having the opportunity to meet you during our trip was one of the more remarkable moments of it. You both are kind and pleasant folks. If someday you drop by our country, give us a call! Best regards,"  E. E. M. & H - Brazil

"What a superb place for a family celebration. Frank & Ruth, a very big thank you for your hospitality. A memorable weekend. We will travel back to England with fond memories."  T, C, P & A - England

"This place is a wonderful getaway! Our time here was too short. We danced under the moonlight, got cozy by the bonfire, fed the alpacas, and breathed in the fresh air --- rejuvenated our souls. Thank you to Ruth & Frank for providing this great experience. Looking forward to visiting again. Good things..."  C & B – US

"We want to appreciate you for all your kindness! The cabin is beautiful; it's so cozy and warm, I felt like I'm at home. We had great breakfast; it was so nice of you to bring that lovely basket with food! The cabins are close to ski resort where we spent unbelievable day of snowboarding."  O, A, A, V & Z – Lativa & Moldova

For more information and reservations visit their Farm Stay Site or website Galena Log Cabins and if you’ve already made your decision you can Book Now. From relaxing getaways to family vacations to couples retreats, Adventure Creek Farm Stay and its surrounding areas offer a destination for just about anyone.

Photo Credit: (Adventure Creek Alpaca & Goldendoodle Farm, Galena Log Cabins, Galena.org)

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Rustridge Winery & Ranch is the getaway from getaways as one of their guests called it. Rustridge is a vineyard, winery, thoroughbred racehorse ranch and a bed and breakfast. Just 20 minutes from Napa Valley’s Silverado Trail, the once large racehorse ranch is now a combination of the owners, Jim and Susan’s, two passions wine and horses. They continue to breed and race thoroughbreds and have over 20 years of experience producing award winning wine.

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Cooler nights and higher elevation allow for a later harvest than most grapes in Napa Valley which gives the distinct quality and flavor you’ll have to try and enjoy for yourself!

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Rustridge Ranch & Winery is known for their organically grown grapes and award winning wine. They offer a variety of wines through their Rustridge, Racehorse and Library selections including Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Zinfandel. The Rustridge wines are their current barrel selected premium wines that bring out the best elements of the Chiles Valley. Their Racehorse selection includes their everyday wines. The Racehorse Red is a blend of Zinfandel and Carbenet and the white is a Chardonnay with a touch of oak. A collection of both Rustridge and Racehorse wines make up their aged Library wines.  More information on their selections, wine purchases and Rustridge Wine Club memberships can be found at their website (Rustridge.com).

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In order to exercise the young horses they run them through the vineyard aisles. Fifty acres stretching down the valley make for a great run. For strength, they run the horses up and down the steep hills that ring their valley.

Visits & Tastings

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When visiting the ranch, make sure you take advantage of the wine tasting, property tour and the many other activities they have to offer. The tastings are by appointment so make sure you plan ahead of time and reserve a spot (Schedule Your Tastings). If you’d like, you can learn about breeding and training horses or the process of growing grapes and making wine. Another option is to take a hike through the vineyard and the surrounding hills and enjoy beautiful views and bird watching or bring a bottle of wine, set up a picnic and just relax.

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B & B Farm Stay

If you’re looking for a romantic getaway you’ve found it. The Rustridge Bed & Breakfast offers a sunlit breakfast room with a ranch-style breakfast to start off the day right. Tennis, hiking, barbequing and other fun farm activities are available throughout the day. Take the edge off lounging in the sun by the pool or relaxing in the eucalyptus sauna. Then gather in the country kitchen for an evening of Rustridge wine sampling and hors d’oeuvres.

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The B & B offers several options for overnight stays including bedrooms with comfortable queen size featherbeds, private bathrooms, adjoining rooms, beautiful views and direct access to the pool and sauna. For more information and availability look at their options here (Rustridge Bed & Breakfast).

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It’s hard to beat a nice warm and cozy fireplace in the bedroom, a private deck looking out over some amazing views and access to a relaxing sauna.  Add a bottle of wine and you’ll think you’ve found paradise.

Your getaway from getaways is here at Rustridge Ranch and Winery. For more information on the ranch and booking information here is a link to their Farm Stay profile.

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Photo Credit: Rustride Ranch & Winery

Some Real Talk About Agritourism

Pretty BootsOver the July 4th weekend this year, a young friend came to visit the farm. He'd been following my Instagram account for a while, and was looking forward to seeing the animals and participating in a few of the chores... a big departure from his day-to-day life as a suburban kid from Southern California.

 

As we prepared to walk through the loafing shed and let the sheep out into the pasture for the day, he asked me to tell him what was poop, so he could avoid stepping in it.

 

"It's ALL poop," was my (unhelpful?) reply.

 

A Wedding at Weather Lea FarmThe boy gazed down at his shoes for a moment, then shrugged and followed me out.


Real talk? It's all poop. And mud and itchy straw and blood that accompanies not just wounds but birth. It's tender plants burnt by the sun, and hay fields ruined by unexpected rain. Or, you know, plants nourished by rain and haystacks perfectly dried by the sun.

 

Why are we having some real talk here? Recent articles in Grist and Modern Farmer claim that agritourism is romanticizing farming to a degree that becomes harmful to the sustainability of our small farms. Both articles focus heavily on farm weddings and professional photographs of brides and grooms lounging in straw (itchy! sneezy!), and how dirty and smelly a farm can be. The Modern Farmer writer bemoans "the glorification of the quaint farm aesthetic". That's pretty funny coming from a magazine that sells a twelve dollar jam spatula and limited edition muck boots in their online store.

 

Both writers seem to be implying that a farmer cannot be both grower and hostess, while maintaining the integrity of her farming operation.

 

The Grist writer says she tries not to idealize in her writing, concerned that a pretty picture of farm life does a disservice to the visitor or reader, hiding the financial, social, and environmental complexities of farming. We think a farmer's story should be an honest one, yes, but we also believe that diversifying income for small farms only makes sense. The old idiom "don't put all your eggs in one basket" comes to mind. Weddings, overnight guests, and farm-to-table dinners are simply another chapter in the farmer's story. That would be the chapter where the farmer gets to keep the farm because he's not depending solely on good market prices for his products.

 

Too Clean!Back to the weddings for a minute. COME ON. We aren't immune to gently poking fun at photos that show very clean people performing farming chores, but wedding photographs are always quixotic and romantic. WEDDING. It doesn't matter if the event takes place in a barn or on a beach (yuck, all that sand everywhere), the photographs are going to be pretty and golden-hued. That's what a bride wants, and that's what a venue wants to show future guests. It's memory, and promise, and beauty in the rustic, and should a farmer apologze for providing a setting that people want?

 

Photos of brides kicking up their cowboy-booted heels with just a touch of lens-flare halo kissing the hay field... well, we say that's as legitimate a story as unrelenting blood and mud. And smells. Yes, sometimes the actual experience includes the aroma of livestock wafting over the newlyweds and their guests. That's real.

 

We've been working on Farm Stay U.S. (now known as the U.S. Farm Stay Association) for four years now. It's been our experience that most farm stay guests are disabused of lingering notions of romantic farm life once they see the hard (smelly, dirty) work that goes into growing produce and livestock. But they still love their time on the farm. Many return year after year, happy to visit and learn and lend a hand. They're happy that their vacation dollars are infused into a rural economy.

 

They keep their romantic views of the peace and quiet, the stars at night. They gain an understanding of the cycle of life and death and an appreciation for the beauty of the natural world that surrounds us every day. Farm stay owners want to share this with urbanite travelers because we think that what we have is pretty special - even all that compost. Er... poop.

 

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Nearly a mile high in the Southern Cascades, 440 acre Willow-Witt Ranch offers an experience you won’t forget. Whether you’re there for the spectacular views, a family-friendly farm stay full of activities, an event hosted  on the ranch, or simply to just get away and relax, you’ll find it all at this off-grid ranch.

Through sustainable agricultural and forest management, energy independence, and wetland restoration, Willow-Witt Ranch has created quite the traveler’s dream of a rural getaway. This family-friendly ranch is a great place to bring friends and the kids along, but also offers a peaceful secluded location for couples and adults who just want to get away from it all.

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Before Suzanne Willow and Lanita Witt took over stewardship and named their Willow-Witt Ranch, dairy cows and beef cattle grazed this ranch valley for more than 100 years. Restoration included fencing livestock out of critical wetland habitat, prioritizing forest planting and re-growth, and practicing sustainable farm management. In 2009 the ranch was recognized with the Watershed Friendly Steward Award.  For a more in-depth history of the ranch, you can visit its website here (Ranch History)

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Farm Goods & Good Eats

The ranch offers an array of goods, including farm-fresh eggs, goat milk, a variety of meats and organic compost.

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Willow-Witt is a community supported agricultural ranch with sustainably-raised and organically fed livestock. If you spend the night at one of the multiple farm stay options, make sure to request a grocery list of farm-grown meats and vegetables and your fridge will be stocked for your arrival. Willow-Witt is hugely involved with the Ashland Growers’ Farmers Market. You can also browse through their online farm store and get a look at what they have to offer (Online Farm Store).

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Family-friendly Activities

From birding and hiking miles of wooded trails with pack goats to farm stays, tours, and the occasional weekend event hosted on the farm, Willow-Witt is full of family-friendly and community-oriented activities.

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Kids and adults are more than welcome to help out with chores, which they often end up enjoying. Who would have thought that doing chores could be so much fun! Playing with the farm animals and gardening are two other farm favorite activities for guests on the ranch.

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Willow-Witt offers a variety of ways to stay on the farm: a furnished farmhouse studio with loft, the Meadow House, deluxe platform tents, and, if you want to pitch a tent, there are private campsites nestled within the trees.

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The Farmhouse Studio sleeps up to six, features a wood stove and full kitchen and overlooks beautiful meadows.

The Meadow House, a beautiful three bedroom two bath is available for farm stay or just the day for events.

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Glamping, or glamorous camping, is another vacation option on the ranch. Platform tents and campsites come with the use of a fully equipped kitchen, hot showers, towels, bathrooms, and a complimentary tour of the farm.

Your next adventure starts here. Plan your trip and (Book Now). If you’d like more information, check out their (Farm Stay profile here).

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(Photo Credit: Willow-Witt Ranch)

Westgate River RanchWestgate River Ranch is located on 1700 acres in Central Florida, just an hour from Orlando. Not your typical cattle-wrangling operation, Westgate provides plenty of family opportunities to enjoy the outdoors with everything from a petting corral and rodeo to swamp buggy rides and trap and skeet shooting.

We fired off some questions to the ranch to find out exactly what they have to offer.

Can you tell me a little about the history of Westgate River Ranch?

Believe it or not, Florida actually served as the original birthplace of the American cowboy. Long before cowboys became the symbol of the American West in the late 19th century, Seminole Indians, Spanish colonists and American settlers called “Crackers” herded cattle in Florida. Westgate River Ranch is located on some of the same land that those first cowboys roamed years ago.

In the early 1700s, American settlers began migrating to Florida out of the Carolinas and Georgia. These early settlers quickly took advantage of the wild cattle roaming the state. They often were called “cow catchers” because they would capture the wild cattle and build herds from them that they would drive to the seaports of Florida and sell to the Spanish that were sailing in from Cuba and Puerto Rico. The cattle would be taken back to Cuba and Puerto Rico to stock the ranches of the Spanish islands and be used as a food source.

These first American cowboys eventually became known as “cracker cowboys” and the Spanish cattle and horses that they made their living with were called “cracker horses” and “cracker cattle.”

The area that became known as River Ranch once served as a stopping point along the trail for the cracker cowboys during their cattle drives across the state. They would meet each other here at certain times of the year and bring together the small herds of wild cattle that they had caught into one large herd. By doing that they could help each other get those cattle to market.

Westgate River Ranch lodging

River Ranch was originally built in the 1960s by Gulf American Corp. (GAC), then one of the largest land developers in the state, as the centerpiece of a huge proposed development in the area called “River Ranch Acres.” In 2001, Westgate Resorts purchased River Ranch and Westgate River Ranch reopened its doors the following year.


What is the area like and how do people get to you?

Westgate River Ranch, which has evolved into the largest dude ranch East of the Mississippi, lies on 1,700 beautiful acres and is surrounded on all sides by approximately 400,000 acres of state and federally protected wetlands. We are located about an hour south of Orlando – easily accessible by car and RV.

Westgate River Ranch bedroom

What is the lodging like – can you describe a few of the options?

  • Standard and Deluxe Lodge rooms featuring queen beds and in room kitchenette.
  • One and Two Bedroom Cottages, sleeping up to 6 guests. These cottages were completely renovated in 2013 and feature full kitchens.
  • The Saddle Club – these feature studios, one bedroom deluxe cabins, one bedroom grand cabins and two bedroom cabins – these units were all completely renovated in 2013, and feature new dark wood furniture and luxurious lighting and linens.
  • Glamping – ‘Glamorous Camping’ – set in a beautiful wooded area, each tent is set on a platform and is fully furnished, in addition they come with heating/air conditioning, features 2 rocking chairs on the deck, plus each tent has its own grill and picnic table and comes with a key to a private bathroom and shower. The Glamping site also includes a personal concierge service.Westgate River Ranch Glamping Tents
  • Tent Camping - Escape to nature and relaxation at the Westgate River Ranch campsites, which are nestled in a beautiful wide-open area. We conveniently carry firewood, charcoal, and most other camping supplies in the General Store if you happen to need extra comforts you may have forgotten. Westgate River Ranch Glamping Tents Interior
  • RV Site - Each RV Site offers power and water hookups.
  • As of August 2013, we now have shared bathroom facilities with showers within a short walking distance of the campsites. Enjoy camping at an award-winning resort that offers endless activities both day and night!

Who does the resort cater to and how friendly is it towards kids?

We cater to couples, families and groups. We are extremely child friendly with endless activities.

What is a typical visit like, i.e. what do people do while staying with you?

We have an abundance of activities on offer at the ranch – horse back riding, air boat rides, swamp buggy rides, archery range, basketball, boat rentals, dinner hayride, fishing, full service marina, mechanical bull, nine hole golf course, petting farm, pony rides, trap & skeet range, video arcade, horseshoes, tennis, outdoor pool.

A huge favorite among the kids in particular is our adventure park which features a bungee jumper, mini-golf, rock climbing wall and zip-line We also have a ropes course which can cater for group/corporate team building events.

Westgate River Ranch Rodeo

I see you have a rodeo. Who’s in it and is it participatory for guests?

The live Rodeo takes place every Saturday night and is open to guests and the public alike. (Additional fee for ticket applies). It draws rodeo athletes from all over to compete in trick riding, calf roping, barrel racing and, of course, bull riding.

Plus the fun doesn’t stop once the rodeo ends! If you feel bull riding isn’t that tough, take a spin on our new Mechanical Bull. Or get your feet moving to the lively Dance Party just outside the River Ranch Saloon where you’ll hear music and games from a lively DJ to end a perfect day.

We neglected to ask about the food but, after-the-fact, found out that the Smokehouse Grill restaurant serves excellent smoked BBQ. The onsite General Store serves breakfast, salads, deli sandwiches, pizza, beverages as well as offers sundries and groceries. Future plans (sometime this year) include a renovation of the Saloon (located next to the Rodeo) to convert it to a steakhouse, bar and live music venue.

So, while this might not be the typical farm or ranch stay, there's plenty to enjoy from sunrise to sundown. In fact you can book your reservation right here right now, then head out to the ranch, jump on a horse and ride into a bit of Florida history, if only for the afternoon.

(Photo credits: Westgate River Ranch)

The Farm, LLC in Danville, Kentucky

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Gently rolling Kentucky bluegrass and antebellum charm abound for guests who visit The Farm, LLC in Danville, Kentucky, an 1825 working farm home with a modern addition.

Roy and Angela Martin are the owners and hosts at The Farm, LLC, and Angela tells us that Roy has "always been a farmer, like his father and grandfather before him." Roy is a cattle rancher, raising mostly Angus cows. Over the years, they've added chickens (and an egg business), goats, and a couple of Jersey dairy cows which provide milk for farm-made butter, cheese, and yogurt.

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Other animals include ducks, rabbits, guineas, pigs, kittens, Great Pyrenees dogs, and a peacock family!

Angela and Roy love to give their guests a true farming experience with a daily barn tour, milking goats, collecting chicken eggs, or - depending on the time of year - taking part in an instructional class such as cooking, canning, and making butter or cheese.

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But guests don't have to stick to farming... the property has a pond and two walking trails, as well as sitting porches for relaxing, and a tire swing and playhouse for kids. In the evening, there's a bonfire and stargazing (and fresh goats milk ice cream!) Offsite adventures - if you can tear yourself away - include the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and Keeneland.

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The Farm, LLC offers 7 large in-house rooms for guests, with spacious formal and informal dining and entertainment areas, and multiple fully equipped kitches. For private lodging, there is "Belle's Cottage" (that's Belle in the photo above, next to her namesake cottage), which sleeps 4 and has a kitchenette and bathroom.

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To learn more about what The Farm, LLC has to offer, check out their listing here on Farm Stay U.S. - fun, relaxation, and a good old fashioned farm experience in the heart of Kentucky's Bluegrass region await!

(Photos courtesy The Farm, LLC)