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.
This week we feature an interview with Ginger Sykes of Turtle Mist Farm in North Carolina. Ginger and Bob Sykes long dreamed of farming and now aim to share their love for nature and knowledge of where food really comes from with others.
Ginger Sykes: We chose this area because it is not too far from my family in Maryland, the land prices here were unbelievable, the property is ideally located because it is rural but not too far from the city -- Our farm is 25 miles north of Raleigh.
Ginger: The setting around the property is very peaceful, although we have close neighbors, while on the property you get a feeling of being in a small world all your own. The view from the guest house overlooking the pond makes you feel like you should be sitting on the front porch in the rocking chairs sipping lemonade.
Ginger: We have pigs, cows, sheep, turkeys, chickens (laying and broilers), Muscovy duck, Guineas, quail, peacocks, 2 horses, a goat, and a donkey.
Ginger: Our garden is a small market garden (we grow just enough to take to the farmers market). But because we cannot compete with the larger vegetable farmers we chose to grow different veggies. We grow purple & white Kohlrabi (a cabbage turnip), Edamame, turmeric, Tatuma squash (just a different variety of squash), berry tomatoes (cherry tomatoes that are shaped like strawberries), malabar spinach (a summer vining spinach) mini bell peppers, Armenian cucumbers (they look and taste like cucumbers but are muskmelons).
Ginger: We named the farm Turtle Mist because the pond in front of the guest has a large number of turtles in it and in the morning there's a fog that rolls across the pond.
Ginger: Most of our guests are parents with small children who want their children to have the farm experience and to learn where their food comes from. After they tour the farm, we let them help us with our chores, i.e., gather eggs, feed the sheep and pigs, and they can help in the garden if they want. If they don't want to work, they can fish, paddle boat, visit with and take pictures of the animals. Our horse trainer offers horse instructions and riding. And, depending on how long they stay, some guests visit surrounding cities (Raleigh, Durham, Wake Forest).
(Photos courtesy Turtle Mist Farm)
Stillwaters 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.
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!"
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.
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.
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.
Guests 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)
Trevin Farms in Sudbury, VT, was founded by two chefs who escaped north to Vermont from urban Massachusetts. Troy and Kevin are devoted caretakers of their herd of Nubian goats and exuberant animal lovers. They are also passionate about cheesemaking, teaching guests to whip up incredible chevre recipes that include mouthwatering ingredients like honey and lavendar.
Most of the guests who stay in the B&B's three plush bedrooms ($109-$165), take advantage of the cheesemaking package ($310-$525, including lodging), which includes a cheesemaking class, dinner, and a bundle of fresh chevre for guests to take home. Visitors are also free to pick vegetables from the garden, gather eggs from the hens, and learn to hitch Tyrone the draft horse. The B&B is elegant but accessible, and kid and pet-friendly (for an additional $25/pet).
Off the farm, there's also plenty to do: The small but not-to-be-missed town of Brandon is a few minutes away, and boasts art galleries, The New England Maple Museum, summer music festivals, sophisticated restaurants like Cafe Provence, and special events like Make Your Own Leaf Person Day. The larger town of Middlebury, home of Middlebury College, is 15 minutes away. Also close are wonderful outdoor recreation opportunities like hiking, biking, canoeing, and kayaking. Silver Lake, the Long Trail and Green Mountain National Forest, and Moosalamoo National Recreation Area are all nearby.
For more information, visit Trevin Farms' website, Facebook Page, and Farm Stay U.S. listing. They've also been featured in the New York Times and Food Network Magazine.
Photos by Michelle Nowak
Country Farm, set at the base of Oregon's majestic Mt. Hood
about an hour from Portland, is a 3rd generation fruit
farm with a U-pick orchard, a farm stand, a small petting zoo, and
a four-bedroom country cottage guesthouse.
Roman Braun founded the family farm in 1962. Now his daughter
Theresa and her three daughters, Rachel, Crystal, and Stefanie, run
the farm. When I asked Theresa why she chose to take over her
father's farm, she says, "I can't really describe why. I think it's
in my blood. I always loved the farm ... if you love farming, it's
just something you want to do."
The farm is 40 acres, with 15 acres of apples, peaches,
nectarines, plums, apricots, and berries that visitors can pick
themselves. Theresa says that the sweet and juicy peaches, plums,
and nectarines are her favorites - she especially recommends Red
Haven peaches. She also loves their apples, the crop for which the
farm is most well known. Theresa describes her favorite variety
honeycrisp as "really crispy, and just the right amount of sweet
Draper Girls Farm is also known as one of Oregon's few remaining
licensed producers of non-pasteurized, unfiltered ciders. The farm
offers apple, pear, and cherry cider, as well as delicious blends
like cherry-apple, pear-apple, and the new raspberry-apple.
Non-pasteurized cider has a fuller, richer flavor than pasteurized
cider. Theresa says that drinking raw cider is almost like eating
an apple or a handful of cherries, but with even more
flavor. Unpasteurized ciders can start to ferment much sooner than
pasteurized ciders, but the farm follows strict licensing and
monitoring procedures to maintain its quality and shelf life.
For visitors who have a full day or week to spend in the area,
Draper Girls Farm is a stop along the Hood River County "Fruit
Loop", a driving tour with dozens of stops at orchards,
wineries, lavender farms, and even a chestnut farm and an alpaca
In addition to fruit, Roman Braun had always raised sheep.
Theresa and her daughters added goats, mini-goats, llamas,
chickens, turkeys, and geese. The Draper Girls sell their grass-fed
goat and lamb meat at farmers markets and at their onsite farm
Theresa has grown the farm through a rise in direct to consumer
sales. She started the U-pick operation, her favorite way to sell
produce. Theresa says, "The U-pick is really fun. People from the
city get a feel for how we grow things, and they bring their kids
to run around. Our yard has flowers all over it, we have a great
big swing, and we have an old tractor that kids like to sit on for
photos. We love that visitors feel at home when they visit our
In Roman Braun's time, says Theresa, there were no farmers
markets, and all their sheep were sold at auction. People came by
the farm to buy large boxes of fruit for canning and drying, but
direct-to-consumer sales were not a major part of the business.
In 2007, Theresa decided to add a farm stay. She invited guests
to rent the little farmhouse where she lived as a child and where
she raised her own children.
Farm guests are invited to feed the animals, pick fruit, roam
the farm, and participate in farm activities throughout the year.
Venturing off the farm, they can tour the Fruit Loop, taste wine,
visit the City of Hood River or Mt. Hood, and hike, bike, and wind
surf, among many other activities
Though many people wouldn't think to visit a fruit farm in the
winter or early spring, Theresa says it is a neat time of year on
the farm. To growers it is called 'frost season,' and it is a vital
time for ensuring that fruit trees yield a viable crop. During
nightly freezes, the Drapers save their crops by running wind
machines and overhead sprinklers that form droplets on the trees
and their buds. The droplets, as they freeze, release heat and once
frozen also provide essential insulation from the cold and
Theresa says that the farmhouse has everything guests could
want. She explains that she and her daughters fixed it up with
bright cheerful colors. It has a fireplace, lots of antiques, and a
big farm table where families can gather. The house is casual, not
fancy, and family friendly. According to Theresa, "People who stay
there really like it!"
For more information about visiting Draper Girls Country Farm,
check out their Farm Stay U.S.
listing or their farm website. The
Draper Girls cottage has four bedrooms and two baths and rents for
$150 to $275/night.
All photos in this blog courtesy Draper Girls Country
This month, Farm Stay U.S. is proud to feature Splendor Farms, a B&B, trail-riding facility, and licensed Dachshund kennel in Bush, Louisiana,
one hour outside of New Orleans. We recently interviewed owner
Kelly Bensabat and are excited to share her story. For more details
and to plan a stay, check out the Farm Stay U.S. Splendor Farms listing. Thanks
Bordelon Photography for the use of the photos below.
ALSEA, Ore. - Farm Stay U.S. today named the top states
for farm travel and tourism, finding that Pennsylvania, California
and Vermont lead the nation in "haycation" destinations with the
largest number of farm vacation listings in its FarmStayUS.com
The FarmStayUS.com searchable website has grown within a year to
become the largest online source for farm vacations in the U.S.,
having expanded rapidly to 721 listings in all 50 states. The
number of farms, ranches and vineyards has more than doubled from
the original 320 listings in 46 states when FarmStayUS.com launched
in June 2010, and it will continue to grow as farm tourism and
consumer interest in sustainable and local agriculture expands in
Farm Stay U.S. found that Pennsylvania, California and Vermont lead the way in farm and ranch stay
listings: Pennsylvania has 73 farm and ranch listings; California
has 52 and Vermont 45.
Rounding out the top ten states are ranch-heavy Wyoming at 42, Virginia at 38, North Carolina at 34, Montana at 33, Colorado at 31, Oregon at 26 and New York at 25. All 50
states' farm and ranch stay listings can be viewed at /map. Other
state-specific numbers are below.
Farm vacations benefit both guests and hosts, providing needed
income to small family farms and memorable, fun experiences for
guests. Increasingly people are longing to eat and support the
growing of truly fresh food and to teach their kids that eggs come
from chickens not cartons, " said (Ms.) Scottie Jones, an Alsea,
Ore. farmer and founder of Farm Stay U.S.
"Our vision is
to help restore America's family farm heritage," Jones said. "Call
it a farm stay or haycation, agritourism is increasingly important
to small farmers trying to stay afloat when competing with
industrial farming and increasingly important to city dwellers
seeking an escape and connection to a grounded way of life."
Farm Stay U.S. identifies vacation options ranging from rustic
cabins to four-star lodging, where activities range from feeding
animals and picking fruit to spinning wool, horseback riding,
skiing and even yoga. Farm Stay U.S. also is building the tools,
resources and community for farmers to start or grow their farm
stay offerings alongside their working operations.
The FarmStayUS.com website is free to travelers, and free to
farmers for basic listings. The vision is for premium listings,
sponsorship and advertising to support the website.
FarmStayUS.com was launched in June 2010 by Jones who operates
her own farm stay, Leaping Lamb Farm, with her husband, Greg, in
Alsea, Ore. They have hosted American and international guests
since 2006. Visitors report being refreshed by the farm vacation
experience, often returning to their lives with a greater
appreciation for farming and a greater likelihood of supporting
local food and farms through farmers' markets and their other
"We were regularly booked at our farm stay and wanted to help
our guests and other farmers by creating an easy referral network.
That idea grew into Farm Stay U.S.," Jones said. "We hope it grows
further into a robust network of farmers helping farmers and guests
who continue to connect and support a healthier food and farm
Visitors can search each state via the "Farms Map" tab. The
number changes every day as new farms add their information, but as
of March 14, 2011, the number of farm or ranch stays per state are:
Alabama 6, Alaska 5, Arizona 13, Arkansas 7, California 52,
Colorado 31, Connecticut 6, Delaware 1, Florida 12, Georgia 13,
Hawaii 5, Idaho 12, Illinois 7, Indiana 4, Iowa 8, Kansas 7,
Kentucky 12, Louisiana 4, Maine 15, Maryland 6, Massachusetts 17,
Michigan 7, Minnesota 6, Mississippi 2, Missouri 10, Montana 33,
Nebraska 19, Nevada 7, New Hampshire 6, New Jersey 3, New Mexico 5,
New York 24, North Carolina 34, North Dakota 1, Ohio 10, Oklahoma
15, Oregon 26, Pennsylvania 73, Rhode Island 5, South Carolina 4,
South Dakota 13, Tennessee 3, Texas 15, Utah 2, Vermont 45,
Virginia 38, Washington 9, West Virginia 4, Wisconsin 17, Wyoming
Photo credits: top - SallyLundburg / Keolamauloa Farm,
middle - K. Fritz / Leaping Lamb Farm, bottom - KimGoodling /
Vermont Grandview Farm
Andrus Ranch, Lava Hot
Finding working farms and ranches that offer lodging in the U.S.
is a mighty challenge. We have spent over 8 months searching
the Internet and then entering information found on farm websites
and Google links to create a database of what we think is out there
for guests to enjoy.
Every time I read an article about farm stays, farm vacations,
haycations, and sleeping in the hay, I check to see if these farms
and ranches are on our site. Usually we have most, but often not
every one. I wonder what key words the writer has used to
find them all?
So, this is a plea. If you have a favorite farm or ranch
that is not listed on Farm Stay U.S., please forward the website or
contact information and we will add it here.
Our criteria: the property must be a working farm or ranch
producing something that is sold off the property to generate
income. I suppose, if the farm consumes everything it grows,
as an example of self-sufficiency, that works too. If you can't
decide, send the link anyway!
Word-of-mouth is the most powerful social media tool we
have...and one of the oldest. Tell us what you know. We'll
share it with the world!
Pagett Farm, Palermo,
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