I just finished up the exciting Eco and Sustainable Tourism Conference in Portland, Ore., where I co-presented with Scottie Jones, owner of Farm Stay U.S. and also got a chance to stay at her lovely Leaping Lamb Farm for a night. Watch for a post about those soon. I also have to catch up on writing about my family vacation to Berry Fields Farm in PA and my visit to Pleasant Springs Farm, VA. Great places all.
For today, Dan Morgan, who owns Morgan Farm Stay with his wife Annette, kindly wrote this post about their reasons for starting a farm stay, and about the steps they took to make their business what it is today. It's an especially interesting read for anyone thinking of starting a farm stay themselves.
Morgan Farm Stay
In 2005, Dan and Annette Morgan renovated and updated with “English Upgrades” a 144 year old farmhouse on 10 lovely acres in Ashland Ohio. The home is now used primarily as a “Farm Stay” self catering vacation rental property, not to be confused with Bed and Breakfast. Morgan Farm Stay has steadily increased business each year since it opened its barn doors for this unique business in 2008.
We wanted to return to Ohio, from 10 years in NY to a more relaxed “country living” pace. The house had been Amish for over 20 years so the plumbing, electrical, septic and roof were all in need of replacement (English Upgrades) After a year of this type of work the Morgans determined that they needed to be closer to a major metropolitan area for both their lines of work, Nursing and Commercial Photography. The option of selling the farm house in the down economy, after investing in all the upgrades, was a very dismal one. After a great deal of research online and inspiration from travels to Europe, we decided to make the property into a Farm Stay in 2008. The concept is still very new in the United States, however it has been implemented in Europe, Australia and New Zealand for many years, providing weary travelers a clean comfortable rest, in an extra room of an old farm house.
In the first year we spent living in the agricultural community of rural Ashland County we observed many disturbing things that tarnished our “country living” experience. Wanton urban sprawl was tearing up beautiful farmland and farmers were struggling to make a decent living. Learning more about modern industrial farming practices, designed for larger production at lower cost to the farmer is a model we are all paying for with our health. Fresh healthy food from small family farmers has been replaced by overly processed foods manufactured by chemical companies, the same companies that are providing synthetic fertilizers and pesticides to these large scale farming operations, who have all but replaced the small family farmer.
Several considerations needed to be addressed in order to consider this small business venture. Marketing, insurance, home furnishings, housekeeping and grounds maintenance, accounting and legal issues.
There are several online marketing tools available to list your property. Good writing and photography skills help. Business cards, promotional handouts and social networking sites also help with Marketing.
An additional insurance policy was added to existing homeowners policy, our agent was easy to work with. It is important to tell the agent exactly what you are doing and how often you will be at the home yourself.
The home needed to be thoughtfully decorated and furnished with practicality, comfort and a little whimsy. What would we want in a rental home if we were the guests. Quality furniture and fully equipped kitchen and bath with modern appliances will bring the best rental rates. All towels and other linens should also be provided.
The home and grounds need to be kept impeccably groomed and cleaned. Spider webs, dust and dirty floors will not make happy, return customers.
From an accounting standpoint the whole operation, expense and income has to be treated as a business with itʼs own schedule C at year end. Applicable income taxes need to be paid to the city county and state as well as federal authorities.
Dan Morgan wrote the text and provided photographs for this post. For more of Dan's photography, see http://www.aboutdanmorgan.com/.