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.

Archive for tag: South

southernazhistoricfarmsTravel Writer and librarian Lili DeBarbieri recently published a wonderful book called  A Guide to Southern Arizona's Historic Farms and Ranches, Rustic Southwest Retreats.

We talked with Lili about her book, Southern Arizona, her travel adventures, and farm and ranching trends. Fascinating stuff -- please read on!

FSUS: When was the first time you heard the term 'farm stay?' How about 'guest ranch?'

Lili: I think first became aware of the term 'farm stay' in association with the volunteer opportunities that the organization World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) offers. This was more than ten years ago but I distinctly remember reading an article about volunteer vacations on Hawaiian farms through WWOOF. I do have to give credit to my home state of Pennsylvania for bringing the more leisurely alterative to WWOOF in the form of 'farm stays' again to my attention. Once I saw that staying on a working farm (in Lancaster County) was the same if not cheaper in price than a hotel or motel but offered such wonderful learning opportunities as an added bonus I was sold! A few years ago, I worked and lived on a historic guest ranch near Santa Fe and that was my introduction to that vacation option.

FSUS: What inspired you to write "A Guide to Southern Arizona's Historic Farms and Ranches: Rustic Southwest Retreats", and why did you choose to focus on Southern Arizona?

Lili: The type of traveling I tend to gravitate towards in my personal life inspired the content of the book -- unique vacations, working holidays, eco-tourism -- all of which intertwine during a stay on a ranch or farm. It seemed though that much more attention had been previously focused on WWOOF volunteer opportunities as a holiday option so I wanted to bring the concept of 'farm stays' and 'guest ranches' more to the forefront. I like to call farm-stays "WOOF-ing light."
I also thought it would be interesting to write about a part of the country that is not normally as highly associated with agriculture and agri-tourism in the same way that the Midwest, the East Coast or California is as well as to encourage the support of Arizona's local businesses and economy. The incredible landscape, character and color of the region provided an easy palate.


FSUS: In chapter two of your book, "Courting Relaxation: A brief history of guest ranching," you discuss how Easterners and Europeans became enamored of Southern Arizona and began guest ranching there in the 1880s, even before there were many modern comforts at the ranches. Was Southern Arizona a pioneer in the guest ranch industry, or was a similar movement happening in other parts of the West at the same time?

Lili: Yes! Great question. This whole region was very much a trailblazer in the guest ranching industry. Through what I was able to piece together from historical archives there is very strong evidence that the very first guest ranches began right here in Southern Arizona as early as the 1860s but guest ranching was slower to really take off because of the climactic conditions well before air-conditioning that made the tourism season here shorter than other Western states such as Wyoming and Montana, where guest ranching had its early beginings as well.

FSUS: How did you choose the ranches and farms that ended up in your book?

Lili: The criteria I aimed for when I first began writing the book were to put together a list of places that had a great deal of not only history and scenic beauty but were also locally owned, environmentally friendly and were contributing in positive ways to their communities. I started with internet searches and looked at members of professional associations in the industry. Then, over time, I just serendipitously stumbled upon many of the ranches and farms throughout the course of my research.

FSUS: Do you have a favorite story or moment from researching your book?

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Lili: A series of them-the Triangle L guest ranch in Oracle holds a sentimental place in my heart since it was the first ranch I visited back when I began writing the book and I am still amazed by its art, architecture, vibe and scenery. Going up there recently for the annual GLOW festival was like "coming home" in a way. The day I spent at the Circle Z Ranch trail riding through the Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve and then afterwards having lunch at the local saloon was a real highlight as well.

FSUS: Veronica Schultz, who co-owns Rancho de la Osa with her husband, says that they run the guest ranch in part "to continue a lifestyle that is dying. Guest ranches are remote, and fewer and fewer exist every year." Are guest ranches in fact decreasing in numbers? If so, why?

Lili: Yes, for example at the turn of the twentieth century, the greater Tucson area alone had over 100 guest ranches and that number has dwindled to about three. The costs of operating a guest ranch and the challenges involved in actually turning a profit, like any business, are considerable. This reality is probably a microcosm of what has happened in many other sectors of society. Modern urban development in the past few decades around the country has overtaken the natural land and wide open spaces needed to own a farm stay or guest ranch and provide the appropriate experiences for guests. What traveler wants to horse-back ride through a subdivision? But there is also a resurgence of interest in unique vacations driving tourists to look beyond generic forms of accommodation and towards a stay in the country.

FSUS: Can you talk a bit about the trends in farming and ranching happening in Southern Arizona?

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Lili: Guest ranches during the 1920s and 1930s were that generation's answer to a "staycation." Traveling overseas was really only an option for the very wealthy. Now, with the high cost of air travel there is that comparable economic incentive to participate in agri-tourism as people everywhere are looking for more affordable options for travel.
At any given moment there are different trends and words circulating in the public's imagination have influenced farming, ranching and the accompanying tourism --sustainability, heritage foods, farm to table, back-to-nature, purposeful living. The desire for simple, timeless travel experiences is certainly an influence.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, the art and films being made brought a lot of travelers and would-be adventurers out West. Now, what drives the interest in staying on a guest ranch or farm is more food, health and wellness related. The slow food movement ignited an interest in cooking with fresh, local, seasonal foods. I can't open a popular women's magazine without seeing an article listing the "best farmers markets around the country" or the "health benefits of fruits and vegetables", the glamorization of rural living!
Overall, there is more of an awareness of and desire to intentionally support local businesses in general and that has spilled over into the idea of "knowing your farmer" and to the financial support of local farms and ranches through direct purchases as well. It is now a selling point for a business to use local ingredients or materials. I notice that farmers and ranchers are really reaching out to involve, promote and educate their communities. Guest ranches in particular have really upped their game over the years and now offer so many varied opportunities to not only enjoy the outdoors but to really take something away in an educational sense from your vacation. In our school districts in Arizona, gardens are used for teaching children about science, math and many other subjects and sourcing from local farms into many school cafeterias is quite commonplace now and it was not say twenty years ago. It is a turn for the better.

To buy Lili's book, visit




I admit it... I can be a bit of a daydreamer. I guess, working on a farm, I should call it woolgathering! Helping to run the Farm Stay U.S. website is the perfect sort of job for doing a little in-my-head-dream-vacation planning, with so many beautiful photos of farms, ranches, and vineyards to admire.

Fall FoliageFall is my absolute favorite time of year. The weather is perfect and the colors are glorious.

There is pumpkin-flavored-everything.


It's easy to immediately think of New England for fall travel, and who can argue? They have all that amazing autumn foliage for leaf peepers, and something about the region just screams crisp air and ruddy cheeks. It says, bonfires, like at Liberty Hill Farm in Vermont, or an afternoon spent antiquing before spending the night at Cold Moon Farm. Break out the scarves and boots and let me tromp around the barn!

Fall is cranberry harvest time all across the United States. Here in the Pacific region, there are cranberry bogs to be found in the town of Grayland, Washington, which is a little under two hours from The Inn at Crippen Creek Farm in Skamokawa. Imagine a day snapping photos along the Washington coast, and winding down with a 5-course gourmet meal on the farm, cooked for you by the professional chef-owners.

Geronimo Trail Guest RanchHow about a high-desert getaway this time of year? New Mexico, too, has stunning fall foliage and sweeping vistas. I'd choose to enjoy the views from horseback and take a trail ride through a piece of Native American history at Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch in Winston.

Alas, I can't spend the entire day with my head in the clouds... just one more peek at our regional guide and I land on the South (East South Central) region, with an eye on Kentucky for some antebellum charm. An afternoon spent harvesting apples at The Farm LLC, followed by some stargazing, brings my daydream to a pleasant close.

Where would your daydreams take you? Leave us a comment!

(Photo Credits: morgueFile, Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch)

Welcome New Members - February 2012

We are glad to welcome two new members to the Farm Stay U.S. family! Introducing...


Cherry Hill Farm, Cheraw, South Carolina

Cherry Hill Farm

The Dawg House, a cheery vacation cabin at Cherry Hill Farm, is a perfect South Carolina getaway for pet lovers. Nestled next to a pond and a young hardwood plantation, the cabin offers a relaxing spot from which to head out and fish, watch birds and other wildlife, and even bring your art supplies and do some painting.

Cherry Hill Farm can accommodate two guests in the cabin, which features a queen bed, private bath, living area, and a small full kitchen for self-prepared meals. All pets are welcome, as are children under 12, weddings, family reunions, and other special events.


Featherfoot Farm, Aurora, Maine

Featherfoot Farm

A beautiful, organic, homsteading farm in downeast Maine, Featherfoot Farm offers guests the opportunity to enjoy the farm life with their organic gardens, horses, cows, and goats. And don't forget the chickens!

The private, three bedroom guest house can accommodate up to six guests. A 16' x 16' cabin can accommodate two and features a loft and woodstove. Breakfast and dinner are served family style, and there is a full kitchen. The farm welcomes children under 12, weddings, parties, and other special events, and they also offer children's camps.

6 Family Farm Vacations in PA

PA barnWhen my sister and I were growing up in rural Western Pennsylvania, our best friends lived just down the hill and across the field from us. Their father had a great big garden that captured our imaginations and encouraged us to dream. We kids would feast on strawberries and scheme to get rich selling the extras from the end of their driveway. Nobody ever stopped to buy our strawberries, but we weren't too discouraged; the strawberries tasted too good for us to be sad about it, and besides the cornstalks were starting to grow. I really couldn't believe that something as incredible as an ear of corn could have such humble beginnings, starting out as one single shriveled kernel pushed into the soil of a little cup.

Like many lucky kids, exploring nearby fields and watching a garden grow were essential parts of my childhood. Children gain so much from having the opportunity to roam and explore a chunk of land, and to see and eat their food at its source. A hundred years ago, Americans often took vacations to farms simply because many people in those days had relatives who farmed. Over the years, the percentage of farmers has dropped to below 2% of the population, and most of us have lost our connections with farms. But losing that connection has meant missing out on what was once a key part of life - exploring the countryside, and learning about and tasting the freshest possible food.

To honor the place I grew up, here are six hands-on, family-friendly farm vacations in PA:

Weatherbury Farm1.  Weatherbury Farm, a 102-acre, organic grass-fed cattle and sheep farm 45 minutes southwest of Pittsburgh, draws many of the same guests back year after year. Owners Dale and Marcy Tudor pride themselves in offering guests a fully interactive farm stay experience, with many opportunities for kids, especially, to get involved in farming. Families staying for two or more nights are given a packet filled with coloring & activity books. Regardless of age, kids are invited to earn an official "Weatherbury Farm Kid" certificate and cow wristband, which are awarded after helping with farm chores and completing a workbook.

The main Weatherbury guesthouse, called the Livery, is an area barn that the Tudors transported from a nearby farmstead, rebuilt, and renovated. The rough barn exterior belies surprising elegance on the inside, with 20-ft loft ceilings, a deeply-lacquered original hayloft wood floor, and lovely antiques. Farm breakfasts are served in a large dining and common room in the lower level of the Livery.

Rates start at $127/night for a two night stay.

Farm of Peace2. The Farm of Peace sits on 150 rolling acres of field and forest in South Central Pennsylvania, at the end of a long dirt road. Renata Parrino, animal caretaker, farm stay host, and head cook for retreats, is one of five farm owners. The owners are all part of a Sufi spiritual community who bought the farm in 2003. After focusing for years on offering a Sufi retreat, they have opened their beautiful and secluded farm to non-denominational visitors, and all are careful to make guests of any background feel welcome.

Twenty Tunis sheep with copper-colored faces graze the land in rotation, with two donkeys serving as protection for the herd. The farm also supports a flock of laying hens, and roughly 200 pastured broiling hens during the summer. Children are excited - and welcome -- to pet and feed the animals, and to collect eggs. A large vegetable garden and small orchard produce organic vegetables and fruit for guests and for a CSA that's offered to nearby communities.

Families are welcome to stay in the farm's original, 1900 farmhouse. Occasionally, the new retreat center is also available (but only for guests ages 16 and up). It's a remarkable straw bale, passive solar building designed by Philadelphia-based green architect Sigi Koko. The old farmhouse is cozy, providing simple though comfortable accommodations in two rooms. The upstairs guest room is set up specifically to welcome families with young children, with play mats lining the floor and plenty of toys.

Rates start at $50/night, with a DIY breakfast included.

Mountain Dale Farm3. Mountain Dale Farm

Ken and Sally Hassinger have created a little cottage village for guests on their farm in Central Pennsylvania. The cottages have been fully recycled, after serving a range of functions in their previous lives. All of the cottages have kitchens and bathrooms. In addition to the eight recycled cottages - which sleep 2 to 14 - there are also three rustic forest cabins. The Hassingers offer four more rooms in their farmhouse. The Hassingers grow mostly field crops on their 175 acres, including corn, grain, and hay. Most of the field crops go towards making feed for the animals, the rest are sold to guests and locals. Mountain Dale Farm also has a herd of 60 beef cattle, chickens, ducks, sheep, and fainting goats (a special breed that actually falls over when startled). Guests (especially kids) are welcome to gather eggs and help feed the animals. Near the guest cottages, a pond offers opportunities for fishing and skating.

Rates start at $30/night for rustic forest cabins, and $70/night for efficiency cottages.

4. Stone Haus Farm is a three story, 200-year-old stone farmhouse B&B situated on 100 acres of Lancaster County farmland. The farm grows the best celery you might ever try, so sweet and tender that it could win over even the celery adverse. Merv and Angie Shenk, along with their three children, are friendly and helpful hosts. Accommodations are family-oriented: each room sleeps four, and a playground, yard games, and barn rope swing await adventurous kids. Guests are welcome to feed the goats, gather eggs from the hens, and tour the fields. Breakfast is served family-style at the farmhouse's long dining room table, and features Lancaster classics like baked oatmeal and shoofly cake, along with fruit, sausage, and scrambled eggs.

Rates start at $69/night.

Schantz Haus Farm5. Schantz Haus Farm, historic homestead of Swiss Amishman Josef Schantz, the founder of the nearby city of Johnstown, is notable for its big, old barn, rich family history, and present-day dairy farm. Although friendly host Jeanette Hunsberger, with typical modesty, says that the three farmhouse B&B rooms are not romantic or fancy, they are in fact lovely, comfortable and simply, beautifully decorated with antiques. The guest common room has a separate entrance, plus a TV, microwave, and fridge, along with a photo album where Jeanette records all of the guests who stay here.

The Hunsbergers sell the milk from their 80-Holstein herd to the Maryland-Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative. In the farm's large garden, the Hunsbergers grow vegetables, berries, and grapes. They've also got peach and apple trees scattered about the property. Jeanette cooks seasonal breakfasts with her garden's bounty when possible, and she is happy to oblige requests for the farm's delicious fresh milk. Jeanette also has a few sheep, which she keeps for their wool. Guests are welcome to tour the farm, help to bottle feed a calf or milk a cow, or to simply observe fieldwork and milking. In addition to the dairy operation, the farm also grows field crops -- feed corn, hay, beans, and wheat. The original farm comprised 118 acres of woods; now the Hunsbergers farm on 800 acres.

Rates start at $50/night.

Stepping Stone Farm6. Stepping Stone Farm is a hobby farm owned by Larry and Vicki Rempel. Located in the southwestern corner of the state, the farm sits on 31 acres of fields and woods, with a large 1939 farmhouse. Guests are welcome to collect the farm's fresh eggs from the laying hens, and to feed the goats and rabbits. Guests also enjoy picking the raspberries as they ripen. Larry, who has the green thumb of the couple, grows a large vegetable garden. The Rempels' fruit crops include pears, blueberries, apples, and grapes, which they use to make jam.

The Great Allegheny Passage (GAP), a 150-mile trail open to cyclists and hikers, stretches from Cumberland, MD to near Pittsburgh, PA, passes only one mile from Stepping Stone Farm. Many cyclists, some of whom are "thru-bicycling" the GAP, stay at the B&B, as the trail passes only one mile from the farm. The Rempels offer a courtesy shuttle for cyclists arriving in the little town of Confluence. Train lovers will also enjoy seeing the train passing literally along the edge of the Rempels' backyard, hauling coal or  passengers across Western Pennsylvania. A short walk from the farmhouse is a swimming hole in Casselman Creek where a beaver can sometimes be spotted. For nighttime entertainment, the Rempels offer a campfire, featuring a glittering show of fireflies, satellites, and stars.

Rates start at $80/night.