Thursday, February 24, 2011

Aunt Em's Urban Inn+Farm

Aunt Em's Urban Inn+Farm was the first urban farm stay I'd ever heard of. Needless to say, I was very excited to talk with innkeeper/farmer Emme Levine about what she does.

It turns out that there are a couple of other urban farm stays around the country. Very neat! More about those later. Of course, these places are very different than rural farm stays, but urban farm stays offer their own kind of farming education for guests who are fortunate enough to experience them.

Here's my interview with Emme.

Q: What came first, the inn or the urban farm?

Actually, I’ve always had a garden, even when I lived in New York City as a student I had a deck with cans of greens and even a tomato or two. This is our second house in San Francisco and one of our requirements was more land and south-facing. Land is hard to come by in such an urban setting, but we’ve been able to squeeze in a lot of crops into our 25 X 25 foot plot. I’m currently ripping out ornamentals and either donating or selling them off, replacing them with food crops to maximize the space we do have.

In the past few years, we’ve gotten so good at producing food, we always had extra. We started by just giving it away to food banks and neighbors.

Aunt Em’s Urban Inn was a brainchild of mine! I felt compelled to do something positive about our environmental situation. I had the physical space, so I started the Inn with the idea of educating the many tourists who flow through this great beautiful town of ours, San Francisco. I wouldn’t say I “sugar coat” the message, but maybe “salad coat” would be more apt. Once they taste the produce, they are total converts!

Guests have a chance to see how a green, organic, sustainable space works. The best part is it’s not huge – we are a micro farm and it’s the type of setup most working people could handle. They see the space, the setup, the compost bins, the recycling. They see us working the soil, weeding or picking fruit – enjoying it and eating well.

That’s really my message: Green is simple. It’s easy. Everyone can do it.

Q: What do you grow? 

We do have fog, so we grow a variety of greens mostly. We also have a small orchard of fruit trees. We experiment with varieties – right now, we’ve got lots of seeds from France and Italy, which have similar climate conditions that we do – Mediterranean. We are actually in what you call the ‘Transition Zone” of weather in San Francisco: some fog, some sun, but sunny enough to grow say, cherry tomatoes, instead of the big ones I grew up with in New Jersey.

In addition to greens and fruit trees, we grow other crops seasonally – greens we grow year-round: kale, spinach, chard, bok choy, lettuce all do well. Spring and summer we do: cherry tomatoes, beans, pumpkins, squash. We also have a dabble of strawberries and blueberries. We just put in another apricot and also mulberry and loquat trees.

We don’t hesitate to rip out stuff that doesn’t work. I’ve had to get really vicious! I used to be such a wuss when it came to plants –they were like little lost pets. Now, I try to find them good homes, but if not, it’s the compost pile for them. I just took out a non-producing Brown Turkey Fig tree that was getting out of hand and never produced anything but raw, green figs. Yanked it!

Q: Is urban farming new to many of your guests? Do many of them want to become involved and get their hands dirty?
Yes, most guests who come to Aunt Em’s Urban Inn+Farm have never seen a farm – much less a compost pile! We have not actually had a dirt shoveling party yet – most guests are happy to help harvest, especially if they can walk out their back doors and “shop” for tasty salad greens or pick a ripe piece of fruit off our trees.

Q: How common are urban farms in San Francisco?

Right now, we are experiencing a complete renaissance in urban farming in San Francisco. There’s a real buzz around town, and it’s not just the bees! More people are jumping on the “hay wagon” and getting turned on to growing organic, sustainable food. That said, I can look out my back door and see only a few neighbors who grow veggies – a few more have fruit trees. Eventually, I’d love to set up a neighborhood collective – establish drop-off points to gather and sell surplus produce to locals.

Q: Anything else you'd like to mention?

My education of guests is pretty soft-sell. I “salad” bowl them over with lots of tastes. That really piques their interest and I’ve won more converts that way. Like the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach? Well, the stomach rules with green education. But really, it’s been an effort to get people to realize what the impact of local food systems can have on the environment. It’s all about using food to integrate larger concepts like sustainability and climate change awareness.

I ask my guests where their food comes from. They say: "Mexico, Chile, but usually not local." How does that food get to their table? Once they realize the answers, the head-scratching starts, the wagon wheels start turning and they are on their way.

I’ve had guests from Brazil, Switzerland, Ireland, Canada, Argentina and many US states who say they have NO composting or recycling programs where they live! They’ve all gone back with a little bit of knowledge and some motivation to make that happen. That really makes me feel good! I’m just one person, but I really CAN make a difference - I’m planting a seed in someone’s head and making a green revolution one lettuce leaf at a time.

To contact Emme: 
Emme Levine
Aunt Em's Urban Inn+Farm
Follow Emme on Twitter

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Ecotourism and Agritourism: Possibilities for collaboration

I met Irene Lane last September at the International Ecotourism Conference. She recently launched an ecotourism website called Greenloons, and she got in touch with me to ask if she might write a guest post for The Farm Stay Project. Here are her compelling suggestions for ways that agritourism and ecotourism might be better integrated.

Michelle asked me to provide some suggestions for how organizations that promote agritourism can better cooperate with organizations that promote ecotourism considering consumer confusion about both types of tourism and the overlap of social and environmental goals.

As a manner of introduction, earlier this year I founded an ecotourism travel services company that specializes in offering independently certified, family-oriented ecotours.  I became interested in ecotourism when I noticed my own young son’s wide-eyed fascination with nature whether we traveled across an ocean or across the state.  Nothing delighted him more than visiting zoos, hiking through the wilderness, or kayaking through scenic waterways.
Consistently, my husband and I noticed the absolute wonder and amazement he had for the music, art, flora or fauna he saw in front of him. His wonder was almost always followed by an onslaught of illuminating questions about people and the natural world. 

These were 'teachable moments' for my son that marked his personal growth, and it occurred to me that other families might benefit from an opportunity to experience nature in a way that would be educational, inspirational, safe and fun.  In this way, agritourism and ecotourism are very similar. To answer the question at hand, there are some fundamental ways the industries can work together to promote our common sustainability goals, including:
  • Incorporating farm stays into ecotourism itineraries
  • Developing relationships with ecotour operators
  •  Targeting promotion to urban areas including international cities
  •  Promoting of the educational value of farm activities 

Incorporating farm stays into ecotourism itineraries
Earlier this month, the University of Costa Rica published a study that discussed the agritourism and ecotourism marketing efforts in that country.  Costa Rica has both strong agricultural traditions and a thriving ecotourism industry. 

The study delineated some interested examples of how cross-industry promotional efforts have helped farmers as well as ecotour operators. These examples included incorporating ½ to full-day coffee plantation, traditional fishing, dairy, and pineapple tours. Ecotour itineraries featured local guides and accommodations as well as meals made with, of course, local ingredients.  

Developing relationships with ecotour operators
With the exception of Alaska, the United States is relatively new to the concept to ecotourism and where there is chaos, in my opinion, there is opportunity.  Ecotour operators are looking to provide their customers with unique experiences in the United States that will set them apart from the traditional mass-market tourism that has existed in this country.  Therefore, it would be worthwhile for farm stay operators to contact ecotour operators (which I could help with) to see if the farm can be included as part of an itinerary (i.e. providing accommodation, providing local farm lunch, helping with some light conservation work, conducting a tasting of local farm products, attending a farm food festival).

Targeting promotion to urban areas including international cities
What is additionally interesting about the University of Costa Rica study is that the majority of agritourism visitors in Costa Rica are international visitors.  Most of the locals did not see a need to pay for a rural experience since they could visit their relatives in the countryside.  I think there is a marketing lesson here when promoting agritourism, namely to target urban populations and publications that have a critical mass of environmentally-conscious consumers.  An example in the Washington, DC region is Flavor magazine, an independently run publication dedicated to sustainable food, gardening, local farmers, and organic restaurants. 

Promoting the educational value of farm activities 
Many school curriculums are beginning to incorporate the use of a school garden into their science, health, nutrition, and math lessons.  What better way to bring these concepts to life than to have a designated farm stay school program that teaches about farm traditions and food production?

Basically, for both ecotourism and agritourism, it comes down to increased awareness and better perception of the industry’s economic, social, and environmental benefits.  Since my family ecotour destinations company, Greenloons, has launched, the site has been phenomenally received.  It’s been very exciting and proves that there is tremendous market potential for these unique, educational, and fun tour experiences.

-Irene Lane

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Stonehaven Family Farm

Stonehaven Farm is a gem of a farm stay in a gem of a spot. Westport, where Stonehaven is situated, is in the Southeastern corner of Massachusetts, 60 miles south of Boston, and 30 miles southeast of Providence, Rhode Island. Only minutes away from Stonehaven Farm, Horseneck Beach State Reservation is a beautiful, 2-mile long beach on Buzzards Bay with 600 acres of salt marsh and sand dunes. Horseneck Beach is most popular in summer, but the off-season holds its own kind of magic. I was there in late September, when the oblique fall light shone golden on the dune grass. To my surprise, the bay water was plenty warm for me to venture in for some delighted wave jumping. The public washrooms were closed for the season, and only a handful of cars littered the windy parking lot, but Horseneck Beach in September felt like heaven to me.

Back at Stonehaven Farm, the guest suite has a big, airy bedroom with a cathedral ceiling and a view past gently sloping sheep pasture and all the way down to the wide Westport River. Windows on all sides, plus a sliding door to a small balcony, let in the ocean breeze. The beds are made with crisp white sheets and an off-white blanket for warmth -- it's woven from the wool of the farm’s own Dorset Horn sheep, a dual-purpose heritage breed good for both meat and wool. 

In 1995, Virginia Merlier moved to Stonehaven Farm from Cambridge, Mass., where she worked in Financial Administration at Harvard for 15 years after a shorter stint as an assistant professor of Medieval French literature. Virginia grew up on a 312-acre farm on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, where her father also raised Horned Dorsets. Originally from France, Virginia’s father came to America when he was 18, marrying Virginia’s mother in 1941. At that time in France, Virginia tells me, having a farm was a dream common to many. Though her father was raised in the city and studied business in college, he decided to buy a farm in America. He essentially learned to farm from USDA pamphlets, says Virginia, and he did well at it, supporting their family of 5 and sending Virginia and her sister to college.

Virginia tells me that she always wanted to get back to farming, but her father wouldn’t give or sell the farm to her because she was a girl. Once she had her own 7.5 acres, Virginia started gardening and raising chickens, then sheep, and finally ducks. Today she has a flock of 20 permanent sheep, which are kept in line by a friendly border collie named Cody. Virginia tells me, “You look at a happy sheep and it’s almost meditative.” The 35 free-range chickens on the farm include American heritage breeds like Delawares, Rhode Island Reds, New Hampshires, and Ameraucanas. The wide variety of breeds presents a pretty palette of brown, light peach, and light green shell colors in the gathering basket. Virginia sells eggs, in addition to seasonal vegetables and berries, to customers who stop by the house.  Lambs or half lambs for the freezer and ducks are available by order, as is yarn processed by Bartlett Yarns in Maine. Virginia started offering a farm stay in 2009, after being inspired during an agritourism conference by a keynote talk by charismatic Beth Kennett, who has hosted guests at Liberty Hill Farm in VT since the 1980s.

Agritourism beyond Stonehaven Farm includes the Westport farmers market every Saturday, pick-your-own berries at Berry Hill Farm, a brewery called Just Beer, the Westport Rivers Winery and Coastal Wine Trail, and Orr’s Farm Stand. Virginia is a generous and informative guide to the area. Though Westport’s population swells with beachgoers in the summer, the town has maintained its unspoiled feel, with beautifully preserved 1700s homes and buildings and strong farming and fishing communities. The Point, where the fishing boats dock, is an active lobster port. Around 12 percent of Westport’s current farmland is protected from development thanks to groups like the Westport Land Conservation Trust.  Westport prides itself in being the home of a variety of turnip called the Macomber turnip, which has its own dedicated historical marker. Dairy and crops like potatoes, squash, corn, and hay are also important. A not-to-miss Westport edible is Hannahbells, a soft-ripened, bell-shaped cheese crafted at the Shy Brothers Farm from the milk of the brothers’ 120 grazing cows. While the farm is not open to the public, the cheese is available at specialty shops and by mail. The farm also forms a lovely picture for those who drive by.

If you go:
A spacious guest suite sleeps four on one double and two twin beds, and offers a fantastic view. The suite is $150/night for two, plus $25 for each child. The suite includes a mini-fridge and large private bathroom with a Jacuzzi tub. Children are welcome to stay in the main suite or down the hall, in a smaller guestroom with two twin beds. Virginia is an accomplished cook, and she invites guests to share breakfast (included) and dinner ($35/person) with her. Almost all of the dishes she makes – from roast chicken with fingerling potatoes to juicy fresh melon for dessert -- are raised right on the farm when the season allows. Guests are welcome to harvest all the garden vegetables they can eat, and to help with gardening, egg collecting, and caring for the sheep. Contact Virginia for rates.

Phone: (508) 636-1361

Virginia Merlier
Stonehaven Farm
1506 Drift Rd
Westport, MA 02790

Monday, November 22, 2010

Berry Fields Farm: Our Family Farm Vacation

I had visited lots of farm stays on my own, so I wanted to see how my parents, sister, and her two cutie pie kids liked the experience. Last August, I planned a farm vacation to Berry Fields Farm in North Central PA for the five of us. I especially wanted to see how my nieces Skylar (5) and Ruby (2) took to gathering eggs and feeding the animals, and to snap a few adorable pictures of them along the way.

My parents live in Western PA, my sister and her kids live in Connecticut, and I live in Maryland; Berry Fields Farm was almost equidistant for the three of us. In addition to the location, I loved that the farm had a tiny field-to-table restaurant, a farm store, and a focus on growing diverse crops and livestock sustainably. Plus, my family and I are blueberry fiends and figured the berry bushes at the farm would be heavy with fruit, and we could pick gallons of them to take home and freeze. The drive to Berry Fields winds through Pennsylvania's beautiful Endless Mountains region, with the last two miles climbing a gravel road up the side of K-hill Mountain. I arrived to the hill farm just after dusk, and my sister pulled in with the kiddos a few minutes later. My parents would arrive a few hours after us.

After stepping out of my car, the warm lights of the restaurant and farm store guided me inside, where I met Barbara Gerlach, who was finishing serving coffee to her dinner guests. She pointed me towards the stairs to my family's home for the next three days, a one-bedroom apartment that the Gerlachs renovated for guests just this year. It's the second apartment they have built on their farm. Our cozy place was just big enough for our group of 3 adults and 2 kids. My parents took the bedroom, I slept on the futon in the small entrance room, and my sister and nieces slept on the pullout couch in the living/dining room/kitchen. The farm's other apartment, which the Gerlachs opened to guests about ten years ago, sleeps up to 10 in three bedrooms and sits on the second floor above the farm store and restaurant. 

In the 1970s, Charlie Gerlach bought the property where Berry Fields Farm now stands. The land was much different then -- it was covered with forest and only had a primitive hunting cabin. Charlie and Barbara spent decades clearing the land, and building their house and barn using recycled materials from Charlie's design-build general contracting business. Charlie describes his desire to build things as almost a compulsion. He plans to add at least one more guest apartment to the two others already on the farm. Charlie and Barbara have slowly built up their poor mountain soil to grow their lush, 1-acre organic garden, and have planted a small orchard of apple and pear trees as well as putting up fencing for their grazing beef cattle. Down the farm's driveway and across the road, a field of blueberry bushes invites u-pickers. Weekly, Barbara and Charlie sell meat and produce at a farmers market in Eagles Mere, a nearby resort town.

Day 1
In the morning, we woke to a big, wonderful view out the living room window. Skylar was jumping to get outside and see what animals she might find, and Ruby was excited to be a part of it all too. Once we met the bunnies, it was hard to pull the kids away. Skylar and Ruby could have fed them for hours, poking grass and weeds through the wire cages and watching while they chewed. Barbara and Charlie also introduced us to the chickens and showed us how to collect eggs, pointed out their huge pregnant Tamworth pig, and found a hidden pile of kittens for us to cuddle. We all had a great time wandering around the farm. We decided to venture away to visit the nearby World's End State Park, where a s-shaped bend in Loyalsock Creek that forms a big, scenic swimming hole. After a dip in the chilly water, we headed back to the farm for a field-to-table dinner in the little restaurant. We had a lovely meal of greens, beef, mashed potatoes, and corn, all raised on the farm, with locally-made goats milk cheesecake and hot drinks for dessert. 

Day 2
The kids headed out again for their dose of animal feeding and petting. Charlie and Barbara told us that the blueberry season had ended early, and that the bushes were pretty much bare, but we were unshakable and went to forage for leftovers anyhow. We managed to wrangle a few berries, enough for a little taste. We asked Barbara for hiking recommendations, and she pointed us towards The Haystacks, where a gentle, relatively flat trail along the Loyalsock River and rounded rock formations make for picturesque pools and rapids. The trail was a great choice for hiking with kids. 

Day 3
For our last day at the farm, we stayed put and found plenty to do. We harvested a bed of onions, with Skylar taking the helm and pulling almost all of them by herself. Charlie rewarded us with a loaf of bread that he had made that morning. We pulled spent cornstalks and threw them to the cows. We helped Barbara search for ripe carrots in the greenhouse. We watched the beautiful changing sky as a storm blew through. And to end the day, cozy again in our apartment, we cooked up a feast in our little kitchen.

It was a great vacation.  We loaded up our coolers with beef, pork, and chicken from the farm since the quality was great and the prices were much better than what we could find at home, bid the farm goodbye, and went our separate ways. For more photos from our stay at Berry Fields, check out my Berry Fields Farm album.

If you go:
Berry Fields Farm has two guest apartments. One can sleep 10 in three bedrooms; the other can sleep a very cozy 7 in one bedroom, a futon, and a twin and double pullout beds. Both apartments have full kitchens. Rates start at $100/night and $600/week. Meals are available ($15-30) on the farm with advanced notice; non-guests are welcome to reserve dinners in The Strawberry dining room as well. The farm’s beef, pork, chicken, sausage, vegetables, and fruits are available at the farm store. Berry Fields also offers u-pick berries in season.

Note: some of the material on the website is outdated, for example, the farm now has two guest apartments instead of one. Also, it’s a great idea to ask what fruits and vegetables are in season before you go, so you know what to expect and don’t suffer from blueberry disappointment.


Postal/Physical Address:
Charlie and Barbara Gerlach
Berry Fields Farm

New Albany, PA 18833

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Your Questions, Answered: Part II

"So, how expensive are these 'farm stays,' anyway?"

Lots of folks who approached our Farm Stay U.S. booth at the Mother Earth News Fair asked this question.  For the answer to another common question, check out this post, which talks about farm stays v. WWOOFing v. B&Bs.

Back to the question at hand. Farm stays are a broad category of accommodations, ranging from a spot to pitch a tent to luxurious resort with five-star amenities and service. The unifying factor is that the accommodation is situated on a working farm, i.e. a farm that produces food or fiber. Accordingly, price varies tremendously. For a non-working American farm stay, you can pay from $10-15 for a tent site at a place like Four Springs Farm in VT or D Acres of New Hampshire, to upwards of $1000/night for an all-inclusive stay at the Blackberry Farm in Tennessee. Of course, you can find all prices in between as well. The most typical range is something like $70-150/night, so comparable to other B&Bs you would find in the same area. There's a farm stay for every type and every budget -- what a relief!

Photo: Four Springs Farm, Royalton, Vermont

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Walpole Valley Farms Tour

I've uploaded some photos from the October 1st farm tour at Walpole Valley Farms. Gorgeous red barn, lively chickens and turkeys, content cows, and my favorite, the pretty pigs. All of them are out on pasture, with movable shelters, and they hardly set foot in the big barn. After the tour with farmer Chris Caserta, his sister Jackie Caserta, the innkeeper, showed me around the lovely Inn at Valley Farms. More about that later.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

New England Farm Stays!

The first week of October, I was lucky enough to visit 11 farm stays in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts during fall colors in New England, one of the most beautiful displays of nature anywhere. A bold statement perhaps, though thousands of "leaf peepers" agree. Here's a roundup of the 11 farms I visited; I'll profile each of them in more detail later. Please excuse the lack of photos; I don't have good internet right now. These farms are wonderful spots, combining awesome scenery with delicious farm-fresh food and the chance to milk a cow or pick some bright green chard. There's something here for every type and every budget.

I started off by tagging along on a farm tour at Walpole Valley Farm in Walpole, New Hampshire. Farmer Chris Caserta showed off his pastured poultry and livestock operation on 100 acres. The farm is gorgeous, set in a valley with a huge old classic red barn, which actually doesn't get much use because the animals spend their days and nights out on the pasture. After the farm tour, Chris' sister and innkeeper Jackie Caserta showed me the elegant 3-bedroom Inn at Valley Farms and plied me with fresh-baked cookies. Jackie also rents two 3-bedroom cottages and a 3-bedroom farmhouse. Children are welcome in the cottages and farmhouse; the inn rooms accommodate guests 12 and up. Inn guests enjoy a farm-fresh, candlelight breakfast. Cottage and farmhouse guests are supplied with kitchen pantry basics and are welcome to gather veggies from Jackie's lush, no-till garden. Rates are $175-220 for two.

I visited Shearer Hill Farm in Wilmington, VT next, a comfy, six-bedroom B&B and farm with a small herd of grass-fed beef cattle and maple sugaring in the spring. Patti and Bill Pusey moved to Vermont from Long Island 40 years ago. They have now raised seven children in the farmhouse they worked for years to restore, and their B&B is in its 20th year. Every morning for breakfast, Patti and Bill serve apples baked with their own maple syrup and topped with vanilla ice cream. Rates are $85/night for single and $115/night for double occupancy. Children are welcome. 

Kenburn Orchards B&B in Shelburne, MA, offers three lovely rooms, decorated with art from local craftspeople, in a restored colonial farmhouse that has been in owner Susan Flaccus' family since 1924. Susan's husband Larry wanted to be a farmer in his youth; he and Susan have made a second career out of farming Christmas trees and berries on their scenic 150-acre farm. Guests shouldn't miss a walk through the farm's abandoned apple orchard to spot birds, beavers, and coyotes. Susan and Larry cook up a big breakfast that includes homemade breads and muffins topped with their own fruit preserves. What's not from Kenburn Orchards comes from nearby farms. Rates are $139-169 for one or two.

Currier Brook Farm in Wentworth, NH is a diverse, 20-acre farm with one B&B room and plenty of space for camping along the Baker River. Carol Friedrich and her daughter Amy raise organic vegetables, free-range laying hens, Icelandic sheep, and heritage pigs, mostly for their own use, and they are interested in building and sharing their set of sustainable living skills. The Friedrichs welcome interns and work-traders in addition to B&B and camping guests. A rail-trail for hiking and skiing goes right through the farm.

I met up with a couple of dear friends from Montreal for a 2-day stay at D Acres in Dorchester, NH, an organic farm, "educational homestead," and hostel where I lived and worked in 2005. It was good to be back and see all the new buildings and the results of years of building the soil: kale tall as trees and cabbages as big as babies. Guests choose from three private bedrooms ($55-65) in the impressive, modern, green-built farmhouse, floor space in the yoga room ($15/person), or tent camping on platforms ($10/person). Guests are also welcome to share dinner and breakfast with residents ($10/person per meal). Meals are 95% organic and centered around fresh D Acres veggies. The farm sits on 180 acres, mostly forested, with hiking/skiing trails throughout, and artistic, handmade greenhouses, animal houses, and outdoor kitchens made of wood and cob (a mix of sand, clay, and straw). Rumney Rocks -- a great rock climbing area -- is only 10-minutes away.

After leaving D Acres, I visited with Jinny Cleland at her Four Springs Farm in Royalton, VT, an organic vegetable, small fruit, and pastured poultry farm on 70 acres, with a small campground (each secluded site is $25 for up to 5 guests, and includes a fire ring and picnic table), and a rustic cabin rental (no electricity, $65 for up to 5 guests). Guests are welcome to tag along with chores and u-pick berries and vegetables. Jinny is passionate about sharing her land and beautiful Green Mountains view with the public in a way that's accessible and affordable for families. On Saturdays, you can also find Jinny at the Norwich Farmer's Market.

At Liberty Hill Farm in Rochester, VT, I chatted with Beth Kennett as she and her friend Lois danced around the kitchen cooking up dinner for 15 guests. Beth is a pioneer and a charismatic spokeswoman for Vermont agritourism -- she's been hosting guests in her farmhouse since 1984. Beth loves to cook, and she treats guests to two homemade meals a day featuring Cabot cheddar and food from her neighbors' farms. Liberty Hill Farm is a dairy farm (and proud member of the Cabot Dairy Cooperative) that's been owned by Beth and Bob Kennett since 1977, and their two sons have now come back to work on the farm as well. Guests are welcome to tag along for chores and try their hand at milking a cow, and the farm abuts both the White River and the Green Mountain National Forest. Rates (includes lodging, breakfast, and dinner) are $98 per adult, $75 per teenager, $54 for children under 12, and kids 2 and under stay free.

Echo Hill Farm in Craftsbury, VT is a 4000-tap maple sugaring operation owned by Louise and Randi Calderwood. The Calderwoods are about to open a new sugar shack that will serve up pancakes topped by the farm's own maple syrup. They also rent out a sweet 3-bedroom guesthouse ($130/night, 2 night minimum stay), and guests are welcome to help with maple sugaring in the spring. Louise is a great person to chat with about farming and farm policy, as she served for 8 years as Vermont's Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, and has worked as both a farm consultant and a dairy extension agent. 

Stony Brook Farm in Hyde Park, VT (near Stowe) is a small farm with a managerie of goats, geese, chickens, cows, and turkeys that pose together like a barnyard scene from a childrens’ book. Tom and Carole Younkman have converted their blacksmith shop into a comfy two-bedroom cottage (sleeps up to 6; pets are welcome), complete with a kitchen, deck, and grill. Guests are welcome to help feed the animals and gather eggs. Carole also makes goatsmilk soap that visitors can find in the farm's little gift shop.

At Vermont Grand View Farm, I got to meet Romney sheep, angora goats, and mohair rabbits so sweet and soft it made me giggle. Shepherd Kim Goodling sends her animals' fiber to be spun into wonderful yarn that you can buy at her farm store, through an online shop, or by becoming a member of her fiber CSA. Kim hosts B&B guests in two bedrooms ($85-95) of the older, 1700s wing of her family's beautiful home. Kim cooks breakfasts with organic ingredients from her greenhouse and garden and from other local farms. She also offers dinner with advanced noticed ($25/person). The farm has a calendar of fiber retreats, summer day camps, and natural dye classes scheduled throughout the summer.

My final stop was to Trevin Farms in Sudbury, VT, which was founded by two chefs who escaped north to Vermont from urban Massachusetts. Troy and Kevin are devoted caretakers of their herd of Nubian goats, and they are passionate about cheesemaking. Most of the guests who stay in the B&B's three plush bedrooms ($105-$165) take advantage of the cheesemaking package ($295-$395, including lodging), which includes a cheesemaking class, dinner, and a bundle of fresh chevre for guests to take home. Visitors are also free to pick vegetables from the garden, gather eggs from the hens, and learn to hitch Tyrone the draft horse.

Thanks to Sarene, Noah, D Acres, and the Viking Motel for hosting me on this whirlwind New England tour. I also appreciate the farmers who told me they would have hosted me if they hadn't been all booked up. And thanks to all of these farmers who took the time to meet with me during their busiest time of year and who fed me with scones, baked apples, cookies, and fresh berries. Such generosity!