Many folks itching for an alternative vacation this summer are considering staying on a farm. Farm Stay U.S., the best resource for the curious first-time farm vacationer, was founded by Scottie and Greg Jones of Leaping Lamb Farm with the idea that, “We believe the majority of Americans are hugely disconnected from their food and the land. Farm stays provide an opportunity to put down the cell phone and connect with all a rural life has to offer.”
According to Farm Stay U.S., Pennsylvania, California and Vermont take the lead for the most farm and ranch stay listings, with Wyoming, Virginia, North Carolina, Montana, Colorado, Oregon also making the top ten. You can easily search their find a farm section for a particular city or state.
In terms of what to expect, most farm stays will usually offer a tour of the property, meals made from the produce or meat raised directly on the farm, and the (optional) opportunity to participate in farm activities such as egg collection, produce harvesting, seeding, and milking or brushing animals. Accommodations will vary from the fancy vintage farmhouse, to cabins or camping out in the fields. If you’re wondering what the family experience of staying on a farm is like, check out New York Times Kim Severson’s “haycation” story.
For those on a super tight vacay budget who are willing to put in a little sweat equity, look into WWOOF USA (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) which costs only an small initial fee to have access to a listing of hundreds of organic farms across the country. The way WWOOFing works is that the farm provides room and board in exchange for farm work.
If you’ve gotten a taste of the good farm life and are in search of something more long-term, there are thousands of official apprenticeship and internship programs that can last anywhere from one season to an entire year. The best database for those gigs is the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service.
Having lived and worked on several small sustainable farms myself, I will say that it can be life-altering. To eat fresh for dinner what you harvested that morning, to wake up to the sun rising above the lush fields, to know you will get to spend all day outside and fall asleep at night an honest tired, and most importantly, learning firsthand the blood, sweat and tears that go into bringing a sustainable, local meal to the table – there really is nothing like it. So whether it’s a brief getaway from city life or something longer, there is value in witnessing the day to day realities of farm life. Oh, and let’s not forget that it’s just good old-fashioned fun to get your hands in the dirt!
Lesley Lammers is a freelance sustainability consultant and journalist, focused on the intersection between the environment, food, social impact, human rights, health and entrepreneurship.