Ever dreamed of spending your days gathering eggs, picking berries and bottle-feeding baby calves? Now you can—on a farm stay vacation.
Farm stays have long been popular in Europe, and now more American farms are opening their doors to give families the chance to experience life on a real working farm.
“Families that choose a farm stay vacation are looking for a connection to the natural world; they want their children to see and experience something that they may have only seen in books,” says Scotti Jones, executive director of Farm Stays USA, an organization dedicated to promoting agritourism and farm stays.
“A farm stay is a hands-on experience. Most people have never eaten an egg they have just gathered or seen where their food is produced. It’s an educational opportunity, but also the chance to experience rural hospitality and great food,” Jones says.
At Hull-O Farms in Durham, N.Y., farmers Sherry Hull and husband Frank have welcomed visitors to their 300-acre dairy farm for 25 years. Like many multi-generational farmers, the Hull family began hosting visitors as a way to offset the rising costs of the farm, but the benefits have been far-reaching.
“We have met wonderful families from all over the world,” Sherry says, “and it’s rewarding to see guests leave our farm feeling so refreshed. It can be simple, but so impactful to bring a child to a farm.”
On a farm stay, families are invited to pitch in with morning chores like milking cows and feeding horses, and enjoy the simple pleasures of farm life, like porch rocking and evening campfires. “A farm visit can be a wonderful bonding opportunity and it gives kids an understanding and respect for what farmers do and how hard they work,” Hull says.
With more than 1,500 farm stays in the U.S., you can find a one that offers everything from fishing to foraging. Here are five down-to-earth options for experiencing life the way Old McDonald intended.
Verdant View Farm
Rates from $99including breakfast, accommodations
For authentic country living, head to Verdant View Farms in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country. There you can visit with the farm’s cows, goats, chickens, pigs, or the farm’s beloved dog, Scooby. At 7:30 each morning, join the farm crew for chores that might include bottle-feeding baby calves, milking the cows, feeding the chickens, or gathering eggs. Breakfast might include locally sourced milk and yogurt, fruit, fresh eggs, homemade jam, and produce from the kitchen garden.
Visitors to Verdant View have the opportunity to add educational aspects to their stay, such as learning to make artisan cheeses, goat’s-milk soap or homemade ice cream. The farm is ideally situated for exploring the area’s Amish country attractions like Dutch Wonderland or the Strasburg Railroad.
Rates from $175
including breakfast, dinner, accommodations and farm activities
In the Catskill Mountains two hours north of New York City, Hull-O Farms welcomes guests to a genuine experience on a working dairy farm. There you can spend the morning milking cows, feeding baby animals like sheep, goats, calves and bunnies, or visit with the farm’s horses and ducks. Visitors can gather eggs, take a hayride, or spend a lazy afternoon fishing at the farm’s four-acre pond.
At night, enjoy a campfire sing-a-long with local musicians while indulging in the farm’s famous brownie sundaes. Hull-O Farms offers three guesthouses, each with its own private living space, and is centrally located for exploring
the area’s rich history and scenic mountain views.
The Inn at Celebrity Dairy
Siler City, N.C.
Rates from $125including breakfast and farm chores
The Inn at Celebrity Dairy is an award-winning dairy farm in Chatham County, N.C. Owners Brit and Fleming Pfann welcome guests to their sprawling Greek revival farmhouse and log cabin dating to the 1800s. Guests can help milk some of the 80 goats that produce the farm’s award-winning goat cheese, collect eggs from 200 free-range chickens, hike the farm’s extensive trails or spend an afternoon rocking on the inn’s front porch. Meals are a treat at Celebrity Dairy, and breakfasts always feature house made chevre, frittatas and omelets from the farm’s chickens, homemade breads and scones, and fruit from the farm’s orchards.
The Inn at East Hill Farm
Rates from $143 per adultincluding three meals and all activities
At the base of Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire, East Hill Farm has welcomed families for more than 70 years to its full-service farm resort. Guests can stay in many different types of accommodations, from basic inn rooms to houses that sleep more than a dozen family members. Rates include three meals a day of hearty farm-style breakfasts, afternoon cookouts and multi-course dinners.
At East Hill Farm, guests can milk cows and goats, feed the chickens, collect eggs, churn butter and make cheese, or spend the afternoon at the one of the Farm’s unique educational workshops like Sheep Care 101 or Pond Ecology. East Hill Farm also offers seasonal horseback riding, campfires and an outdoor pool.
Liberty Hill Farm
Rates from $139 including breakfast, dinner, accommodations and chores.
With red barns and rolling hills straight out of a postcard, Liberty Hill Farm welcomes guests to its idyllic acreage in the heart of Vermont’s Green Mountains. Owners Bob and Beth Kennett produce award-winning cheddar at their dairy farm, which is also a part of the Cabot Creamery Cooperative. On the farm guests can pick fresh vegetables, go berry picking, mountain biking, hiking or help with the farm’s cows. You can also explore the nearby Robert Frost Trail, the Shelburne Art Museum and the Simon Pearce Glassblowing factory.
Beth and Bob are pioneers of the fresh
food movement, and Beth’s cooking has been featured in the New York Times and Gourmet magazine. Guests can expect breakfasts of homemade sausage, breads, eggs, and oatmeal, and dinners of farm-fresh vegetables, salads and family-style entrees.