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: animals


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.

Follow FarmStayUS's board Farm Dogs on Pinterest.
Follow FarmStayUS's board Barn Cats on Pinterest.

How about a celebration of the other farm animals -- not the livestock or poultry - but the hard working barn cats and dogs that do their fair share of the work around the farm or ranch?

12 Days of Christmas (on the farm) - Day 5

Farms generally make us think of the "usual" farm animals... cows, chickens, pigs, sheep. But did you know that we have farms in the U.S. raising other unique animals?

Check out these farm stay search results for opportunites to see some creatures you might not usually come across in a farm setting:

armstrong creek bison
Bison and calf at Armstrong Creek Bison Company


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.


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)



Farm Goods & Good Eats

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


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).



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.


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.


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.


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.


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).


(Photo Credit: Willow-Witt Ranch)

It's snowing here! Is this because I wrote about snow yesterday? If so, then today I shall write about chocolate...

Oh, wait, my husband just informed me that's not how it works. Drat. In that case, let's talk about keeping snuggly warm. Because, brrrr.

Day 7 - Quilting, Fiber and Weaving (workshops, demonstrations, retreats)


Hand carders and spindles.

Thank goodness for the enthusiasts of these crafts, or they might soon be lost to us in this era of synthetic fibers and producing cloth in the most efficient, inexpensive way possible. There are members of Farm Stay U.S. that offer activities like quilting classes (not to mention - as guests - being able to cuddle up under the handmade quilts often present in the accommodations!); spinning and weaving classes; knitting retreats; dyeing; and even helping with sheep shearing.

And the animals that produce all this glorious fiber... visit with happy sheep, alpacas, llamas, goats, and even bison!

This is truly a gift of warmth.

Check out these Farm Stay U.S. members that offer quilting, fiber related activities, and weaving.

Why Vacation on a Farm?

We asked our farmer, Kim Goodling of Grand View Farm Vermont, whether we could 'borrow' her blog post. We feel she clearly sums up what many of us have observed for the reasons our guests seek the farm stay experience. 

The events of the past two days has caused me to ponder why people choose to stay on a farm for their family vacation and why our family opens our home, lives, and farm up to complete strangers. As I think back over all the guests we have had since this spring, there seems to be two motives behind their spending time with us:


Grand View Farm - logo1. The first set of families want to support small family farms, and they are here to lend a helping hand where needed. They recognize the hard work involved in farming and they want to experience it, first hand.These parents have thoughtfully chosen to bring their children to our farm, so that they can experience life "outside of their comfort zone."

Their children have worked in our garden and greenhouse, and have tended to our many animals. These families have taken in with gusto, the fresh air, dark starlit nights, beautiful sunsets, fire flies, naps on the porch, weaving and felting lessons, the babbling brook, amazing mountain views, our wooded trails, and the adventure of traveling on dirt roads.


2. The second set of families seem to be on a food adventure! These families live, for the most part in large, bustling cities where the bulk of their groceries are purchased from the market around the corner. They express a "disconnect" with the source of the foods they eat, and they want very much to make that connection. Grand View Farm - eggs

Some of their children have never seen vegetables growing, or have given thought to how food is raised and produced. They do not know that an asparagus grows up out of the ground, and that peas grow from a vine in a pod. They do not know that hens lay one egg a day, and that it takes 40 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of maple syrup. They have never seen piglets racing around, chasing one another, or heard the tiny peeps of small chicks.

These parents have chosen to stay on a farm where food is raised, and to visit neighboring farms who do the same. They see Vermont as setting the standard for high quality foods. Grand View Farm - garden produceTwo sets of our guests, have enjoyed visiting some our friends' larger market gardens. They call ahead to place an order with the farm, and then drive over to pick up their food. An added bonus for driving out to the farm, is to get a personal tour of the farm and to meet some of Vermont's finest, most knowledgeable farmers.

They revel in the idea of being able to eat vegetables that have just been picked, and they are amazed at how fresh everything tastes. We share with them the secrets of where to find the best goat's milk cheese, the best organically grown meats, and the locally brewed beers. Then, we provide a grill for them to cook their dinner while taking in the mountain views.

Grand View Farm - on the grill

Whether here to help with chores, or to enjoy a feasting vacation, both types of families have one thing in common; the parents want to spend time with their children. These parents could have chosen to stay in resorts with all the amenities, pools, televisions, internet access, and numerous kid engaging activities just outside their hotel door.

Instead, they chose to come to our farm, to work together alongside a farming family, to visit with and make friends with farmers who care about how food is grown, and to help their urban raised children make connections that would otherwise be impossible. They have spent 24 hours a day with their children, embracing rural Vermont farm life, and thoughtfully planning each day's adventure, whether exploring the far reaches of Vermont tourist spots, or the dirt road outside our front door.


Whether it's Vermont or a farm or ranch stay in some other state, we truly believe that the connection made with our guests, both personal and agricultural, benefits us all in the long run. Our goal here at Farm Stay U.S.: to bridge the urban-rural divide one night, one meal, one family at a time.

Taking Better Animal Photos

This blog post was written by Susan Gibbs of Juniper Moon Farm and originally appeared on her blog. She has kindly given us permission to re-post it here, and we hope it will inspire our readers to get out there and take some photos for the Farm Stay U.S. 2011 photo contest!

Taking Better Animal Photos by Susan Gibbs


Let me start me start with a disclaimer: as a photographer, I make a very good shepherd. I have almost no training whatsoever in photography and everything you're about to read is based on nothing more than years of trial and error and figuring out what works for my own pictures.

I do, however, get asked all the time how I get the shots of my flock that I post on the blog. I'm happy to share my secrets, if you can call them that. BTW, all of the photos in this post are unedited because I want to show you what you can do no matter what kind of camera or software you have.

1. Take more pictures. Lots more. The more you shoot, the greater the odds are that you'll get one good one. It isn't unusual at all for me to take 300 or 400 shots in an afternoon and, if I'm lucky, I'll have three or four photos I consider worth posting on the blog. If you are using a point-and-shoot camera, your odds will be a bit longer because most point-and-shoots don't work as quickly as animals move. It was the frustration with that lag time that led me to buy my first digital SLR and I would never consider shooting animals with anything else.

2. Get down on your subjects level. This is the easiest way to improve your photos of animals and probably children. I see so many pictures of lambs on other peoples blog that are clearly taken standing above the animal, and, cute though the lamb may be, the pictures just aren't very compelling.

This isn't always easy to do. Some times I have to lay flat on the ground in the barnyard or on the floor of the barn to get good shots. Sometimes I pick the animal up and bring him/her up to my level. It definitely helps to wear clothes that you don't mind getting dirty in.

Here are a couple of examples of what I'm talking about:

goats from above

shot from above


goats eye level

shot from the goats' eye level


chicks from above

chicks from above


chicks eye level
chicks eye level


In both of the first pictures you can tell that the animals are cute but the in the second pictures you can really see them.

3. Get closer. Then get closer still. You really want to fill up the frame with the subject.

a lamb too far

too far


lamb closer


See the difference? And while we're on the subject, unless you're shooting man-eating tigers, zoom with your feet, not your lens.

lambs not close enough

close, but not close enough


lambs much better
much better!


4. It's all about the eyes. Okay so now you're on the animals level and your really, really close. Start shooting and look for moments when the animal is looking at you full on, where both eyes are on you.

cow okay

This is an okay shot but…


cow better

this one is orders of magnitude better.


There is no way to get these kind of shots without taking many, many, many pictures. Here's another example:

lamb almost



lamb very close

Very close. I probably would have gone with this pic had I not gotten a better one.


lamb just right

This. This is exactly what I wanted this picture to do. You can really see this lamb's personality in this photo.


One more example:

sheep good

Pretty good.


sheep better
Much better


Of course, not every picture has to have the animal looking directly into the camera, but if he's not, then it should be deliberately so, as in this pic:

cow not looking
I hope you'll find these little tricks helpful. Play around with them, take loads of pictures and let me know what you think.