Over 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.
The 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.
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.
Back in November, we asked our farmers and ranchers what they
might read this winter, when they ostensibly had a little more free
time for such leisurely pursuits. Here are a few of their
(Links provided are our affiliate links with Changing Hands Bookstore, an
independent business in Tempe, AZ.)
Both of us here in the Farm Stay U.S. office just finished The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and
Love by Kristin Kimball, as did Kim of Grand View
Farm in Vermont. It's also one of the prizes for our photo contest!
Kim next plans to read Year of Plenty by Craig Goodwin.
Penelope of Canyon Wren Farm in Colorado intends to look at
Gaia's Garden, as well as perusing the seed
catalogs, looking for tomato varieties to grow. She's looking for
the perfect heriloom varieties, as well as a great paste tomato!
Penelope recommends to our readers the book Claiming Ground by Laura Bell.
The Schrock Family from Mojeji Ranch
in Missouri is planning to read The One Straw Revolution: An Introduction to
Natural Farming by Masanobu Fukuoka.
How about you, readers? Leave us a comment below and let us know
what's on your reading list this winter!
adventure alpaca alpacas Amish animals apiary apple cider pressing apples Arizona Arkansas astronomy autumn B and B backyard chickens baking barn cats beach Bed and breakfast beekeeping bees birding bison Books butter making cabin cabin rental California camping canning cat cattle drives cheese cheese making Cheese-making chickens children under 12 chores Christmas colorado community Connecticut contest cooking cooking class cooking school country cows dairy Dan Morgan disney world donkey donkeys eco tourism travel ecotourism eggs elk essay fall family farm family farms family vacation family-style meals farm farm activities farm animals farm blogs farm dogs farm life farm school farm stay farm stay story Farm Stay U.S farm stay u.s. Farm Stays farm to fork farm vacation Farm Vacations farmer's markets farmhouse Farming Farms farmstay featured farm fiber Finding Farm Stays fishing Florida food fruit gardening gardens geese Georgia gift certificate gifts glamping goat cheese goat milk goats goji grapes grass fed greenloons Hawaii Haycations heritage heritage breeds hiking historic homesteading honey spinning horseback riding horseback riding vacation horseback vacation horses hunting Idaho illinois Indiana jam making Justesen Ranch Kansas Kentucky kids knitting land conservation lard leaf peeping Lili Debarbieri livestock log cabins Louisiana Maine maple sugaring maple syrup Maryland meals to order Michigan milking Minnesota Mississippi Missouri Montana mother earth news national forests national parks natural foods Nevada new england new hampshire New Jersey New Mexico new york North Carolina Ohio olives orchard orchards Oregon organic organic gardening ozarks Pacific pack goats Pennsylvania permaculture pets welcome photo essay photos pie pie crust pigs Pinterest quilting racehorse ranch ranch stay ranch vacation ranch vacations ranches Reading recipes relaxing renewable energy riding lessons romance seasonal self-prepared meals self-reliance sheep skiing sleigh ride snow snowmobiling snowshoeing soap making South South Carolina Southeast southwest spinning stargazing stewardship sugarhouse swimming syrup teaching teaching farms teaching ranches Tennessee Texas Thanksgiving thoroughbred tourism traditional foods trail riding travel turkey u-pick USDA vacation rental vegetables Vermont video video essay vineyard Virginia Washington weaving weddings West Virginia wine wine grapes wine tasting winery Winter Wisconsin working animals workshops wwoof yurt
© 2010-2013 FARM STAY US LLC | P.O. Box 268, Alsea, OR 97324
U.S. Farm Stay Association
Thank you to the following organizations for supporting Farm Stay U.S.