HOMEGROWN

Celebrate the culture of agriculture & share skills (Growing! Cooking! Eating!)

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:

  • Farm Stay U.S. lets you search for farm stays by state, type (farm, ranch, vineyard), cost of lodging, number of people in your party, and special features. (Can kids come? What about pets?)
  • Agritourism World is sort of like Farm Stay U.S., but with the bonus of international listings. You can also search by specific types of stays (dude ranches, work stays, camping) and by types of product, crop, or animal raised onsite (from beer to maple syrup to Christmas trees to alpaca).
  • Rural Bounty’s database is a smaller but includes U.S. and Canadian listings.
  • Canada not exotic enough? Try New Zealand—or google the country of your choice plus “farm stay.”


And just to jumpstart your wanderlust, a couple of specific farms that look particularly inviting (nope, they’re not paying us to include them):

  • Agarita Creek Farms, in Fredericksburg Texas, is the self-sufficient homestead of HOMEGROWN member Tom Carnes and his wife, Beverly. Think log cabins and heritage breed livestock in the gorgeous Texas Hill Country.
  • Juniper Moon Farm, near Charlottesville, Virginia, is a favorite of Cornelia’s. JMF’s Susan Gibbs founded the first fiber CSA in the country, and you can see the operation up close on an overnight visit.

MORE RESOURCES BY STATE

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:

  • Hawaii’s agritourism site lets you search for farm tours by island.
  • Massachusetts’s clickable Massgrown map lets you filter by location type (aquaculture, dairy farms, farm stays, PYOs) and by types of products grown or raised (blueberries, pumpkins, apples, eggs).
  • Pennsylvania has an entire website devoted to its farm stays.

MORE RESOURCES FOR FARMERS

A few links for farmers looking to boost their agritourism appeal:

  • Virginia Tech’s Cooperative Extension shares an online handbook.
  • The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, or ATTRA, has published a how-to called Entertainment Farming and Agritourism; download it for free.
  • Farm Stay U.S. offers tips for farms and ranches, including a work-in-progress business guide.

 

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.

 

PHOTOS, FROM TOP: (SUNSET) SUSAN GARTEN; (HOOPHOUSE) TODD B; (EGG) SHARON & GREG; (FLAG) ADAM BROCK; (BARN) TOM LEAVITT

 

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