The alpacalypse is coming! Here, this llama will explain...
Okay, all jokes about the end of the world aside, farms are
great places to learn a skill or two that might see you through
some tough times -- or at the very least, impress your friends at
parties. (Seriously. Homemade cheese? I would be so impressed while
I hid it all in my purse to take home.) (I like cheese, is what I'm
Day 5 - Bread, Butter,
and Cheese Making; Canning
and Preserving; Soap Making; Teaching
Farms; Teaching Ranches; Cooking
Fresh, whole ingredients, usually straight from the source. A
knowledgeable farmer or rancher to teach. These are some invaluable
The Farm Stay U.S. search
page can help you find all kinds of new skills to learn. Just
click on "Show More Search Options" and select an activity to see
what our members have to offer.
This month we feature an interview with a very dynamic duo,
ranch stay members Ron and Chris Wilson of Lazy T Ranch in the Flint
Hills of Kansas.
A 4-H member, FFA officer, farm radio broadcaster,
Congressional staffer, association executive, rural
director, corporate vice-president, small business co-founder,
ticket-taker, Sunday School teacher, diaper changer, bottle
tractor driver, posthole digger, thistle chopper, haybale
fence fixer, calf holder, manure scooper, and tail
Ron & Chris: Five years ago we moved back to the ranch and
built a new home. Mom moved up with us two years ago, leaving
her house empty so it was available to remodel and serve as a guest
Ron & Chris: You've heard of flat, treeless Kansas?
This is the exact opposite. We are nestled in a region
called the Flint Hills, with tall hills, deep draws, plenty of
native stone, and lots of trees and brush. We have four
distinct seasons, each of which has its appeal.
Ron & Chris: Guests can enjoy their privacy if they like,
because we are in a secluded spot although close to Manhattan, but
usually our guests choose to visit our historic stone barn, feed
horses and goats, and enjoy the landscape. Sometimes a family
will gather eggs from our chickens and have them for breakfast.
Ron & Chris: This is generally cow-calf country, with herds
of brood cows populating the rangeland. Cattle feeding is not
predominant here, although there are some feedyards. Cattle
feeding has become concentrated, particularly in western Kansas
where several large packers have located. Beef is our state's
largest single ag industry, still dominated by decentralized groups
of producers (as opposed to pork and poultry, which have become
more unified or vertically integrated). In addition to
ranchers, there are lots of farmer-stockmen raising grain and
Ron: I grew up here on the ranch and have always been a cowboy
at heart. Years ago I was at a conference in Colorado where
they had a cowboy poet as entertainment. I had never heard or
seen such a goofy thing, but it was definitely entertaining.
Years later I tried my hand at writing and performing it
myself, and have had a great time since. Overnight guests
don't get cowboy poetry as such, but they do if they schedule one
of our beef barbecue suppers.
Ron & Chris: Most of our activities are done by appointment,
such as when tour groups or organizations book an evening for
supper and entertainment. However, during weekends in
October, we hold our Fall Festival which is open admission for pony
rides, pumpkin patch, hayrack ride, kid activities, etc. In
2012, for the first time, we hosted a National Day of the Cowboy
celebration and had about 50 people come out for speakers, picnic
supper, and western entertainment. It was a lot of fun and
would hope to do it again.
Ron & Chris: The guest house is a remodeled and expanded
family farm home, with three bedrooms and a large common living
room. It has satellite television, but it also has card games
and marks on the wall to mark the kids height on their birthdays
through the years. The front porch is native stone and the
house is nestled into our corner of the river valley, surrounded by
the Flint Hills.
Ron & Chris: We offer lunch and supper but supper is our
most common offering: beef barbecue with all the trimmings.
Ron & Chris: A
friend of ours has a saying: Horses are magic. We have
had visitors who apparently have never seen a horse up close and
personal, and they seem to find them fascinating. People love
to pet and feed them. The goats will eat feed right out of
kids' hands, which tickles their palms and causes them to have a
blast. Kids have described their birthday parties here as
their best ever.
For more information on Lazy T Ranch, visit their Farm Stay U.S. listing or
their website: http://www.lazytranchadventures.com/
Karen Searle, Owner/Manager of Montana
Bunkhouses Working Ranch Vacations, has the impressive
distinction of creating one of the first agritourism cooperatives
in the United States. Today Montana Bunkhouses includes 20
authentic ranch vacations spread across Montana's remarkable
landscape. Karen plays matchmaker between ranches and guests, and
aims to give great personal thought and attention to pointing
guests to their ideal ranch vacation.
Farm Stay U.S. recently had the pleasure of asking Karen about
her organization, ranching in Montana, all of the great press
Montana Bunkhouses has received, and more. We're excited to share
her answers here. Photo credits for all the photos in this blog go
Families who want to pass their ranches down to the next
generation are under increasing economic pressure to sell out. To
give ranchers another option, I formed an agritourism cooperative,
modeled after the European Farm Holiday program. The supplementary
income each host ranch receives will hopefully help future
generations to sustain their ranching way of life. We are able to
offer a variety of authentic cowboy experiences, because that is
exactly what we are, authentic. Ranching is a labor of love; we do
not ranch because it is easy, we ranch because it is who we are.
Montana Bunkhouses provides a gateway for others to share and
understand our disappearing way of life.
I am a native Montanan with ranching roots and I guess you
could say I'm a travel coordinator and matchmaker. I know these
ranchers personally, they are my friends and neighbors, and I
understand what makes each of them unique. I devote myself to
getting to know guests as well, not just as potential customers,
but also as friends. Developing personal connections with our
guests means I am able to match them to a ranch not just based on
their interests, but also based on their personalities. My goal is
to match guests with a ranch that will give them the authentic
ranching experience, with emphasis on the areas they find most
interesting, and introduce them to people who will become "family"
during their visit.
The idea for Montana Bunkhouse Working Ranch Vacations
started where I live in southwestern Montana, and the participating
ranches now stretch border to border -- each in dramatic landscapes
-- across the entire state. It is a great benefit for our guests
that the area with the highest concentration of ranches is within
the distance of a day's excursion to Yellowstone National
"Saddle Up" and experience a part of the Old West that
still exists. We love sharing the ranching way of life and
what comes with it. With over twenty Montana
Cattle Ranches hosting guests, we offer a wide range of
choices. Working ranch vacations offer more than just head to tail
horseback riding. Guests participate in seasonal ranch activities
while learning about conservation practices and sustainable
ranching in the Rocky Mountains. It is traditional for ranch
families to get together during brandings or roundups or cattle
drives and they welcome guests to join them. Guests enjoy the
camaraderie and appreciate the skill involved in the roping and
wrangling. Springtime in the Rockies brings the perfect combination
of nature and nurture. During calving and lambing guests can make a
difference -- watching expecting mothers, reading the weather, and
lending a hand in preserving new life. Something vital fills each
and every day.
Ranching is in my blood. I grew up on a cattle and sheep ranch
in southwestern Montana, and am sympathetic to the challenges of
the family farm. I am the galvanizing force behind the agritourism
cooperative. I was credited by a former director of Cooperation
Works, a national center for cooperative business development, for
having put together the first agritourism cooperative of cattle
ranches in the United States. The co-op was formed after I was
selected as a representative to the 2002 World Congress on Rural
Women and Rural Issues in Spain. I see agritourism as a way to help
preserve family ranches and to narrow the divide between ranch and
city dwellers on land use and wildlife issues. Those objectives
have put Montana Bunkhouses on the forefront of a trend in the
travel industry labeled "geotourism," travel that sustains or
enhances the character of a place, helping to preserve its
heritage, habitats and scenic beauty.
Why do guests come? Montana is a place where myth has long
been in partnership with reality. The kinds of folks who find me on
the internet are searching for "working ranch vacations." They are
not interested in simply traveling to another destination, they are
seeking a life changing experience. Whether they are looking to
connect with their roots, or reconnect with their family members,
or establish a connection with our ranching way of life, it is all
here. We offer the opportunity for them to share the ranching way
of life with people who are tied by birth or choice to a part of
America that to some feels like the country's soul!
With our working ranch vacations, everything on-ranch is
included: comfortable lodging, hearty family style meals and
seasonal ranch activities. Rates vary from $1500 to $1900 per week
depending on the ranch and the hands-on experience they offer.
Yes, we have gotten a lot of good press as you can see if
you go to our Montana
Bunkhouses News Page. The USDA/Rural Developments folks told
our story in their national Rural Cooperatives
magazine. We've been featured in newspapers in places a far-flung
as New York, Chicago, and Sidney, Australia. Respected travel
magazines including Condé Nast Traveler and
Sunset Magazine have celebrated our unique vacations,
as well as journalists in China, Taiwan, Japan, Italy and the
United Kingdom. But the one that I'm the most proud of - my
favorite, hands down - is being selected for the National
Geographic Geotourism MapGuide of the Greater Yellowstone area.
Anyone who visits Montana will want to have this map in their back
pocket. You can order a free copy of the map from our website, www.montanaworkingranches.com.
We are the only Montana ranch vacations to have met National
Geographic's criteria for authenticity of experience, culture and
heritage. We're proud of that.
Change is measured in generations in Montana. Our agritourism
cooperative is just starting its second decade, so we can only
speculate what the longer term impact will be for the ranchers down
the line. Already, the diversified income from agritourism
has provided everything from money to remodel a kitchen right on
down to the money necessary to make the next ranch loan payment. In
some cases it means the difference on whether the ranch family's
son or daughter can return home so they can carry the ranching
traditions on to the next generation. But the benefit is not just
measured in dollars and cents. We enjoy sharing our way of life. It
jogs us off-center so we don't simply take for granted what we've
been born to do because we see our ranching world through our
guest's eyes and it brings us joy.
To contact Karen, send an email to email@example.com,
call 406-223-6101, or visit Montana
Bunkhouses Farm Stay U.S. page. Karen likes to warn potential
guests with a wink: "Caution! Working Ranch Vacations may be
Thanks to Montana
Bunkhouse Ranches for the use of the photos in this
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