Farm stays are one form of agritourism that is popular elsewhere in the world, though not yet well known here in the United States. But Americans are hungering to reconnect with farms -- and yearning for fresh air, fresh food, and authentic, affordable vacations. As the desire to support small family farms grows, so does the appeal of taking a farm vacation. Compared to other kinds of agritourism, farm stays can be personal and foster deeper connections between farmers and their guests.
What is a farm stay?
A farm stay is any type of accommodation on a working farm. Farm stays can be, but aren't necessarily, interactive. Some are family-focused, offering kids the opportunity to feed the animals and collect eggs. Others don't allow children at all, instead offering a peaceful retreat for adults. For the accommodations, guests normally pay rates similar to area bed & breakfasts or vacation rentals, although pricing varies considerably. The term "farm stay" can also describe a work exchange agreement, where the guest works a set number of hours per week in exchange for free or very cheap accommodations, such as those set up through World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF).
Possible farm stay accommodations include:
- Converted barns/outbuildings
- Farmhouse guest rooms
- Platform tents
- Tent camping
As with any form of agritourism, the economic and social benefits from farm stays can be tremendous, but the benefits must outweigh the costs for you. Whether or not starting a farm stays makes sense depends on a number of factors, like:
- Do you like being around people?
- Would you mind having strangers staying on your farm?
- What are the laws regarding agritourism and homestays in your area?
- What kinds of resources do you have on your farm?
- Do you already have bulidings that would work well for guest accommodations, with or without restoration?
- If not, do you have an ideal setup for camping?
- What are reasons people might want to visit your area?
Pennsylvania's Farm Vacation Association, Vermont's Farms! Association, and Maine's Farm Vacation Association are the best-organized state networks that focus primarily on supporting and connecting farm stays. Sleepinthehay.com is a new nationwide directory of farm stays, and Rural Bounty covers agritourism in Canada and the United States. Many of these offer free listings, at least for an initial trial period. Barbara Berst Adam's book The New Agritourism is also a good resource.