Ken and Sally Hassinger have created a little cottage village for guests on their farm in Central Pennsylvania. The cottages are fully recycled, serving a range of functions in their previous lives. Two were summer kitchens, one was a used car lot office, and others were farm buildings. All eight of the cottages are imported from the area surrounding the farm. The Hassingers disassembled them, had a friend haul them to the farm with a lowboy trailer, and rebuilt and remodeled them for guests. All of the cottages have kitchens and bathrooms.
Both Sally and Ken grew up near Mountain Dale, about 8 miles down the road. They bought the farm in 1976, and started hosting farm stay guests one year later. Ken got the idea for hosting guests when he went to a conference in Harrisburg and found out about the Pennsylvania Farm Vacation Association. Most farm stays then were clustered in largely Amish Lancaster County, but the Hassingers decided to give farm stays a try on their farm, even though they were both working off the farm at the time. Sally says, “We have just enjoyed it – and the kids enjoyed having guests around. We are tied down, but the world comes to us.”
Sally explains, “I think guests leave with pleasant memories, new understandings of the rural experience, and the idea that families can stick together to work together, using teamwork to support one another. People tell us, ‘I learned so much!’ They just don’t know much about farms. We like to show kids other ways of playing without television.”
Sally says they have built many satisfying long-term relationships through the farm stay. One boy started coming when he was three, and he still visits now at 17. Even the youngest kids have strong memories from their visits here, according to Sally. Although they are initially apprehensive of feeding the animals, she says, by the third or fourth feeding they start to relax.
The Hassingers grow mostly field crops on their 175 acres, including corn, grain, and hay. Most of the field crops go towards making feed for the animals, the rest are sold to guests and locals. Ken and Sally’s son Isaac, 23, has recently started raising beef cattle. His current herd is around 60, and he’s considering various ways to direct-market the beef. The Hassingers’ daughter, Ashley, 25, also helps with the farm.
In addition to cattle, Mountain Dale Farm has chickens, ducks, sheep, and fainting goats (a special breed that actually falls over when startled). Guests (especially kids) are welcome to gather eggs and help feed the animals. Near the guest cottages, a pond offers opportunities for fishing and skating.
For guests who want to explore, the Hassingers offer a map of roads and trails on the farm and adjoining state forest. Guests can hike and bike in the summer and cross country ski in the winter.
Photographer and neighbor Joe McDonald, also offers nature photography courses at Mountain Dale. And with the dormitory-style cottages, meeting hall, and game room, the farm is great for all kinds of gatherings and retreats. Meals are available by arrangement for groups of ten or more.