High summer means we’ve got vacation on the brain. It’s not too late to plan a last-minute getaway for this year—or to start daydreaming of where to go in 2013. And what better way to get the heck outta Dodge than by spending some quality time on a farm? Ideas below.
Remember City Slickers? That movie made birthing a calf look so dang cathartic, even the most citified among us was ready to shuck our yoga pants for leather chaps and westward ho. But as HOMEGROWN types know, you don’t have to travel nearly so far for a true taste of rural life. These days, most states have a healthy agritourism industry—but before we get into the who/where/why, a quick rehash of what agritourism is. Basically, agriculture-related tourism falls into three camps:
EVENTS: Corn mazes, farm stands, you-pick fields, cooking classes, farm dinners, hayrides, plant sales—the sort of activities you can do in a one-day visit to a farm. HOMEGROWN’s Farm Aid counterpart, Matt, wrote a fun post about his own corn maze encounter not too long back, and Farm Aid's Hilde used to work at Wolfe’s Neck Farm in Freeport, Maine, which offers most of the above activities and more (camping! square dances!). Local Harvest has a top-notch searchable database of on-farm events like these.
WORK STAYS: Pretty much what it sounds like. You provide manual labor—milking, weeding, hauling, plowing, watering, feeding, plucking, hoeing, transplanting, cooking—for a given amount of time, which could be anywhere from a day to an entire growing season, and you get free or supercheap room and board. While some folks plan work stays for fun (we call those types overachievers), it serves as a good dipping-of-the-toes for people considering a career change into farming. Caroline reminds us that, for work stays, WWOOF, or the loose network known as Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms, is a great place to get started. As the name implies, WWOOFs can happen anywhere, including the continental United States, Hawaii, Canada, and Latin America.
FARM STAYS: Sort of like a work stay but without the work. Sort of a like an inn but with fewer rowdy hooligans spilling out of the bar next door. We like the travel site Farm Stay U.S.’s definition of what distinguishes a farm stay from any old rustic B&B or antler-bedecked lodge:
“[O]ur farm or ranch partners must be working operations growing livestock and/or produce for sale to the public. We also list farms and ranches growing and using everything for themselves in a self-sustainable model, and non-profit farms educating their guests through on-site food production.”
Maybe it’s just us, but when we hear “agritourism,” we tend to think of farm stays. In case that’s true for you, too, here are a few more useful links:
And just to jumpstart your wanderlust, a couple of specific farms that look particularly inviting (nope, they’re not paying us to include them):
Want to find more agritourism encounters of every stripe—event, work stay, farm stay, and farmer resources—near you? You can google “agritourism” and the name of pretty much any state and find an official state website devoted the subject (e.g.: Alabama, Arkansas, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Virginia), but here are a few that are especially user friendly:
A few links for farmers looking to boost their agritourism appeal:
Had an agritourism experience you can’t help but rave about? Want to recommend a farm stay for HOMEGROWN members to drool over? Post a comment below then troll for more things to plant, grow, cook, preserve, make, and craft in the HOMEGROWN 101 library.