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Growing Farm Stays and Agritourism in the United States

8 June 2010 7 Comments

By Michelle Nowak, Farm Stay USA/ The Farm Stay Project

Agritourism and farm stays are common in Europe, particularly Italy, where they play an important role in preserving rural food traditions and protecting small farm livelihoods. In the United States, however, farm stays aren’t as well known. Two organizations, The Farm Stay Project and Farm Stay U.S., aim to change that – we’re working to spread the word about farm stays in the United States.

The Farm Stay Project consists of a blog of news and reviews and an in-progress guidebook of Eastern U.S. farm stays from Florida to Maine. Farm Stay U.S. is a newly launched web directory of nationwide farm stays funded in part by a USDA SARE grant. The goal is to connect farmers and non-farmers in order to help protect family farms and bridge the urban-rural divide.

The term “farm stay” simply refers to accommodations on a working farm, including cabin rentals, tent camping, or a farmhouse bed and breakfast. Some farm stays offer guests the opportunity to help out with farm chores, while others simply offer a peaceful country retreat.


Photo: Scott Bauer/USDA

We believe economically viable farms are protected farms that won’t be as susceptible to development. From 1992-1997, according to the American Farmland Trust, 6 million acres of farmland were developed, an area roughly the size of Maryland. Compared to urban sprawl, farmland provides scenic open space and community character.

Economically speaking, farms are great assets to local communities, contributing taxes, jobs, and real goods. From an environmental perspective, well-managed farms are also valuable wildlife habitat; while eating local means fewer fossil fuels are burned to get that delicious sweet corn from the field to your mouth.

As proponents of agritourism, we feel it should be the right of every child to hear a rooster crow before sunrise, to pet a new spring lamb, and to pull a radish from the ground. We think there is nothing else quite like spending a few days on a farm enjoying fresh air and fresh food. We see farm stays as playing an important role in the local food movement – after all, the best way to really “know your farmer” is to spend a few days exploring a farm.

We’d like to urge everyone to explore the farm stay map at Farm Stay U.S. For those of you who live in the Washington, D.C. area (like this author), here are four Virginia farm stays that are within two hours of the city. These four farms have all have been protected from development in perpetuity by conservation easements. All are historic farms, some with family histories stretching back for 200 years. They’ve adopted diverse strategies to continue farming and stay viable, including selling directly to the consumer and hosting guests.

Smith Meadows Farm is a 400-acre organic, grass-fed meat farm that has been in the same family for nearly 200 years. The farm sells its meat, eggs, and fresh pasta made with local organic ingredients at nine DC farmers markets. The farm’s elegant and historic Smithfield manor house offers rooms and suites for $175 and up, double occupancy.


Smithfield Farm/Smith Meadows Meats in Clarke County, Virginia (Photo: Michelle Nowak)

Weatherlea Farm is a 1700s-era farm owned by Malcolm and Pamela Baldwin, who are retired from careers in environmental law and the Foreign Service. The Baldwins now raise sheep and wine grapes on 28 acres, and host weddings and guests in their one-bedroom “milk cottage” rental, which can sleep up to four. Rates start at $110/night.


WeatherLea farmhouse (Photo: Pamela Baldwin)

Hedgebrook Farm is a third generation, woman-owned and operated dairy farm near Winchester. Kitty Hockman Nicholas and her daughter Shannon Tripplett are proud to offer guests the opportunity to stay at the Herds Inn, a two bedroom log home rental. Kitty and Shannon also offer an innovative cow boarding program for milk lovers, where customers buy shares of one of the farm’s Jersey cows in order to be able to enjoy the farm’s fresh, raw milk. Rates for the Herds Inn start at $125/night, double occupancy.


Hedgebrook Farm and the Herds Inn (Photo: Michelle Nowak)

Oakland Green has been in Sara Brown’s family for nine generations, and has been a B&B since the 1980s. Sara has raised beef cattle part time since she was a child, and started marketing her own beef direct from the farm seven years ago. Sara hosts up to four guests (from one party) in the 1730s log cabin farmhouse. Rates start at $110/ night, double occupancy.


Oakland Green in Lincoln, Virginia (Photo: Gerry Carter)

More about the Author: Michelle Nowak

Michelle Nowak is currently writing The Farm Stay Handbook, Eastern USA, and she blogs at www.farmstays.blogspot.com. Michelle first fell in love with agriturismo while studying farm stays in Italy. Inspired by the local farm food and remarkable farmers that she met in Europe, Michelle knew she wanted to work to expand agritourism in the United States. Michelle has worked as a farmer and educator in California, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, and Mexico. She also founded her own small business in Vermont, Aunt Shell’s Goat Cheese. Michelle has a B.Sc. in City and Regional Planning from Cornell University.

Michelle and Scottie Jones (of Farm Stay U.S.) will be presenting at the Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference 2010 (ESTC 2010) (September 8-10, 2010, Portland, Oregon, USA) on the panel “Creating and Promoting a Sense of Place.” Michelle and Scottie’s presentation will focus on farm stays and agritourism’s roles in protecting farmland from unsustainable development, which is crucial for both human and ecological communities. Join us in Portland to learn more about the Farm Stay Project/ Farm Stay U.S. and their efforts to support agritourism in the USA!

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7 Comments »

  • Barbara Ries said:

    Karen Sussman Suggested farm and wild horse tour

    http://melissa.olsonfarlow.com/photography/mustangs-wild-horses/

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RWn6eGP5M0k

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4JDcQE0a0uw

    Karen’s experience with horses is extensive covering a period of more than 58 years with the last 29 years devoted principally to the preservation, protection, and understanding of wild horses. Karen graduated from Temple

    University in 1967 from the College of Nursing in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Having a background in the field of health has allowed her a deeper perspective in understanding the myriad of human emotions resulting from stressful situations. This knowledge was very useful as applied to wild horse behaviors.

    Creating a new paradigm in wild horse protection, She began an eco-tourism program in South Dakota in 1999 bringing awareness to visitors about the beauty and significance of saving wild horse populations in the U.S. Of particular interest to me was studying the herd and determining what horses should be removed in selective removals.

    In 2000, she accepted the second wild herd into the program. The Painted Rock horses known now as the Gila horses. This herd was literally unmanaged since 1936 when the last mustanger quit rounding up horses in that area. They are believed to be direct descendants of the Spanish horses brought to Arizona by Father Kino in the late 1600’s. Karen has devoted the past nine years studying and managing these wild herds. In 2007, she received her fourth herd that ran free on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservationfor the past six years. Called the Virginia Range Herd, the horses originated from the state of NV in the Virginia Range near Virginia City and were transported to SD in 2001.

    On a daily basis, Karen observes behaviors of the different herds. There are 600 wild horses under my care. Karen said,” I know most all of the horses by name and have the harems documented by harem stallion and his mares. The bachelor stallions are also categorized. I do my fieldwork throughout the year including the winter months. I know the bands by hierarchy in the herds.”

    While serving on the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board, Karen helped write the recommendations for planning, monitoring, and inventorying populations and habitat. A copy of the recommendation is available upon request.

    In conclusion, BLM has created a quagmire in the Wild Horse and Burro program, by mismanaging wild horses for the past 38 years. They have caused untold suffering of the horses, deterioration of the educational structure of the harems and the doubling of recruitment rates within the herds because of their management policies. The future of our nation’s wild horses and burros is bleak at best unless steps can be taken to remedy their management practices and policies.

    ~ Meet the Lady who walks with Horses ~
    Eco-Tourism and Wild Horses ~ Conservation through working with Nature
    Topics of Discussion and Public Engagement by President of International Society of the Protection of Mustangs and Burros, Karen Sussman : Wild horse behavior and all the important aspects of saving our wild horses and burros, Connecting to Our Culture to Nature, Wild Horses and the Human and Horse Bond, Conservation Of Wild Horses, Equine Gentling, Photography Travel sites for those who love Horse Pictures, Humans Connection to Nature, Family Travel of a lifetime, Wild Horse Annie, Wild horses on public lands, The impact of behavioral studies on the horses, Walking with Horses , We are all one and many other related topics.

    ISPMB has been………”Saving America’s Wild Horses and Burros since 1960.” Karen Sussman’s private land has seen. Stephen Spielberg’s crew and Kevin Costner from “Dancing with Wolves”, Author, Michael Blake, Actress, Stefanie Powers and numerous other stars, interested parties and Wowed animal loving people.

    Press: National Geographic, Life Magazine, Vanity Fair and many others.

    Karen Sussman is a charming teacher as well as educated about 500 hundred horses. She is the only women in the world with (4) wild horse herds. Karen has navigated herself to talk in front of Congress and has met with the most resistant mediating the lives of wild burro’s after an the blood bath near Oatman, AZ. The battle of minds was settled by Karen’s dedication and guidance about other methods besides slaughter and conserving our natural resources.

    Karen raised her children in warmth of Scottsdale, AZ. She felt a deep longing which invited her by a calling out to help the United States of America’s wild horse herds. Nothing is impossible for Karen she has help organized the freedom for the Apache Sitgrave horses with Dr. Pat Haigh and the only free herd wild American horses. She assisted to moving buffalos from Catalina Island to South Dakota keeping the bison as an American symbol. One would think that would be satisfied Karen’sdreams just got bigger. Karen feels peace and comfort on her rural South Dakota farm and with conservation efforts of hundreds of acres on wildlife and grazing prairie. The Lakota believe they would have a person come to them to re-unit the horses with their culture. They believe this wild horse lady is Ms. Karen.

    Return of Sungnuni glugluka (mustang). The Lakota people once relied on and lived with the wild horse. The horse was used in ceremonies, games, hunting, and war and in everyday life. The horse was a symbol of freedom, strength, pride and courage. The Indian people believe that they had the horse long before the Spanish arrived. The horse was bred for specific purposes. Similar wild large hearted horses were bred for endurance and speed. It was necessary to travel many miles sometimes non-stop for days. The speed was required for hunting, war and games. A fast pony was a highly cherished animal with the Indian people. “Today we have the privilege of having the wild horse in our midst again. As the Indian people search for their roots and regain their ceremonies, language and culture it becomes evident that the return of the wild horse is part of becoming whole again. Returning the horses to their home in natural state. “Karen Sussman makes the magic of wild horses in the natural world real again.”

    Information is being gathered is coming this summer to research the behavior of wild horses in natural pristine wild horse herd study, the first in the world. “Wild Horse Annie” nicknamed by opposing views original founder of ISPMB. , ORG. Legacy is honored and carried on by Ms Karen Sussman. Karen walks in the greatest wild horse advocate’s path, Velma Bronn Johnston.

    Karen A. Sussman
    President, ISPMB
    PO Box 55
    Lantry, SD 57636-0055
    Tel: 605-964-6866 11-5 only
    Cell: 605-430-2088]

    http://www.ispmb.org

    Marketing from Barbara Ries ,Volunteer for ISPMB

  • Kay Snyder said:

    Michelle–
    Thank you for your efforts to promote farm stays, since they are very important in connecting people with the land. I really appreciated hearing about the four farm stays in the Washinton D.C. area; they all sound delightful! Your photos make me want to visit them all.
    Thanks again.
    Kay Snyder

  • Roger Stalvey said:

    Great inspiration. I purchased 53 acres in central PA, a couple years back and slowly I am creating a ranch (Lucky-U) in line with what you have promoted that will include horse activites. Anyone interested in participating let me know. outsideadventurer@wildblue.net

    Roger

  • attilio said:

    Hi people,
    i’m an Italian student and I kindly ask you to click on the link below (or copy it in the address bar) and fill all my survey, whose theme concerns the “ Agritourism Service ”.
    https://dl.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_0JNVOn3iknfyafG
    It goes to my college career, because what is useful for my degree thesis ! :-S
    Thanks to all !!!
    A. Attilio

  • Nadine@Goowai said:

    I think farm stay is a very good idea of promoting tourism in a country. I’m glad that the United States is also now starting with promoting agritourism. I don’t know with you guys but I think staying in farms for a holiday is quite interesting and fun. You’ll gonna experience and learn a lot of things. I think its better than staying in luxury hotels and going around the city.

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    Agritourism and farm stays are common in Europe, particularly Italy, where they play an important role in preserving rural food traditions and protecting small farm livelihoods. In the United States, however, farm stays aren’t as well known. Two organi…

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