In the United States, the family farm has become a challenged institution since World War II. Yet, recently there has been a growing desire of many urbanites to reconnect with our rural countrysides. Where can we wake to the sounds of farm life, feed a bottle to a lamb, or brush a horse …even see the stars without city lights dimming their glow? We need to find our small family farms and ranches.
The term is 'farm stay'. The Europeans know it. The Aussies and Kiwis know it. Italy has its own name for it, 'agriturismo'. Surprisingly, American farmers and ranchers are new to the concept, so while there are travelers looking for rural experiences, there are not as many farms offering overnight accommodations.
But there are some of us and our numbers are growing. We all have our unique offerings. Some are hands-on with chores; others demonstrate. Some are for families; others are adult oriented. It depends on what we do well and what we think our guests will find interesting, but usually it is about the culture of growing food that sustains us.
In terms of lodging, some farm stays offer rooms right in the farm house. Others have converted old farm buildings, like silos and chicken houses, into wonderfully eclectic rooms. You might find yourself camping in a tent in the trees or at a campsite you choose for yourself down by the creek. Rustic with composting toilets or hotel-quality with jacuzzi baths, farm stays come in many shapes and sizes.
Most of us offer breakfast on the farm. Other meals depend on how the farm is operated. Participation in chores is rarely required, however an extra hand is always welcome. Some farms offer classes in cheese making, spinning, gardening, cooking, even animal photography! Many are unstructured and expect you will feel the rhythm of the farm best if you watch and listen.
What a farm stay is not is a bed & breakfast in an old farm house no longer part of a working farm or ranch.
While the term 'farm stay' is relatively new to Americans, the media is writing more stories about the experience. Both the U.S.D.A. and state tourism offices are interested in the model. In the end, it's about helping the farmer and the guest meet in the middle. Everyone benefits. And, who doesn't like that?
From a Farm Stay U.S. blog post August 24, 2009