Jennifer Murray, of The Inn at East Hill Farm in Troy, NH, recently
told us about East Hill Farm's new Farm School. We were intrigued
by the idea, so we emailed Jennifer some questions about the farm,
inn, and their many agritourism endeavors. Here's the
1. Could you tell us a bit about East Hill
JM: The Inn at East Hill Farm offers a vacation
atmosphere coupled with a unique farm-oriented educational
experience. Year round activities for the whole family include
indoor and outdoor swimming, hiking, cross country skiing and
snowshoeing, cow milking, egg collecting, hay and sleigh rides,
horseback riding and a children's recreation program. Three
home-cooked family style meals are served daily.
2. Your farm has so many different programs ... you host
farm vacations, senior programs, sleigh rides, dances, and more.
How do you do it all? And how does it all fit together?
JM: East Hill Farm does offer many experiences. At
the heart of it all we are a family vacation resort with a working
farm. For many years we have offered families a relaxing vacation
on the farm. Guests are encouraged to interact with the animals and
farmers as much as they like. The cows and goats need to be milked
each day and eggs need to be collected. We have horseback riding
lessons and trail rides as well as wagon rides and sleigh
Over the years we have expanded our offerings in order to remain
viable and to stay open all year long. We have developed ways to
draw visitors through a variety of programs. Whether someone is
coming for an all-inclusive resort vacation, a senior bus tour, a
dance weekend, farm school or a business conference, everyone is
encouraged to experience part of farm life.
3. You just started a new program called the Farm School
Program. Could you tell us about it? What inspired you to start the
JM: East Hill Farm School gives middle school
students, grades 5-8, with a meaningful, hands-on farm experience.
Students will join the East Hill Farm farmers and naturalists for a
3-day program where students will play an integral role in running
On our 150 acres, we raise heritage breed cows, goats, sheep and
pigs along with horses, chickens and other farm animals. Through
our school program, students will help us run the farm, from
milking the cows to fixing fences to helping manage the fields and
surrounding woodlands. By caring for the animals and gaining a
stronger appreciation for environmental stewardship, the farm will
begin to feel like a home away from home. Schools can customize the
program by choosing from a variety of workshops that best align
with their curriculum or students' interests.
4. What has been the response to the Farm School Program
JM: We have had positive feedback from the schools
that have visited us. The students enjoy working on the farm and
learning about farm life. The students have participated in
projects that have improved the farm, such as helping to create new
signs for various barns and helping with seeding the fields.
5. Are there other programs like this at other farms that
you know of?
JM: The Farm School in Athol, MA has a similar
program. They have been providing farm-based education for children
and adults for years. We continue to network with and learn from
other farmers and programs and have recently joined the Farm-Based
Education Association. www.farmbasededucation.org
6. Which of your programs would you recommend most to
other farms looking to diversify?
JM: I think anything farmers can do to expand on
educational opportunities is wonderful. There is a trend toward
reconnecting with our food supply and eating locally-grown produce
and meats. Building connections with local schools and
organizations to provide food products and settings for place based
education are also important. It is wonderful for students to
participate in farm based education right at their local farms!
Pulling this website together has been a huge undertaking that
had to take a back seat to lambing for a time this spring!
I have enlisted the help of young and old, family and friends,
even strangers I met on the plane (who are no longer strangers!) We
have researched and then entered as many working farms and ranches
offering lodging as we can sleuth from the Internet.
It's a start for what I hope will become not only a
directory of farm and ranch stays in America, but also a mentoring
site for farms needing to diversify to stay viable. In corporate
America, they would call this a win-win.
Farm stays are about place. They are also about the
people, the animals, and the plants that are from that place. Farms
and ranches provide connection to the living world. If ever there
were a time to reconnect, it's now. We're live and we are
One caveat: this a 'beta' launch because the devil
is in the details and some of the details are still not
right. Blame it on the lambs!
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