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Welcome to Gardens to Tables Travel Articles Spreading the Word About Farm Stays in the U.S.
Spreading the Word About Farm Stays in the U.S. Print E-mail
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Written by Scottie Jones   
Farm Stay US imageLeaping Lamb Farm is a 60-acre working sheep farm in the Coast Range of Oregon that started as a self-sustaining homestead back in 1895 when the timber was old growth and town was a two day ride. We (my husband Greg Jones and I) bought the farm seven years ago and are only the third owners. We try to be as self-sustaining as possible in terms of the vegetables and fruits we put up for the winter, but at least now the town is only a 30-minute drive.

Neither of us was raised on a farm, so we came into the agricultural aspect of pasture management, lamb husbandry and predator control with little formal training. We have learned by the seat of our pants, through classes from our local extension services, via books on farming, and through the kindness of neighbors who took pity on us. We realized, after several years of producing lamb (and turkeys) for market, that we were not commercially viable at our small level of production and began contemplating other sources of on-farm income.

I had always wanted to share our farm with others because I felt it was truly an enchanted place. Granted, these days I look at the farm and see things that need to be fixed and beds that need to be weeded, but I also remember what I saw when we first arrived. I was also familiar with the concept of 'farm stay' from having lived and traveled in Europe and felt that offering a glimpse into the lifestyle of a small farm had value to our largely urban population, now generations removed from the land. (Click "read more" for rest of article.)

Farm Stay U.S. imageWe had a free-standing cabin that seemed perfect for guest stays and practiced our first summer on friends to determine what we needed to offer in terms of hospitality, amenities and interaction with our farm and our animals. While having some idea that this might be of interest, we had no idea it would take off the way it has. We are currently booked more than 50 percent of the year and entertain families, couples, grandparents with grandkids, friends -- just about anyone looking for a touch of nature and maybe a lesson or two along the way.

Because of the popularity of our farm stay, I often had to try and help find other lodging for folks interested in staying on a farm. This process was much more difficult than I imagined and, as I began to look into accommodations on farms in the U.S., realized we were far behind Europe, Australia and New Zealand in recognizing the opportunity for both traveler and farmer.

Farm Stay U.S.After two years of mulling over the idea and one spent searching the Internet for working farms and ranches offering lodging, we launched Farm Stay U.S. Our primary goal is to aggregate the farm and ranch accommodations in one place so travelers in search of a farm to stay on will have an easier time finding one. The second agenda, and the reason there is some USDA money behind the site, is to assist farms interested in adding lodging to their operations because the model increases bottom line income, allowing for more viable operations and, ultimately, protection of a cultural lifestyle that has been severely threatened in the U.S.

Besides benefiting farms, there are benefits for our farm guests as well. Staying on a farm allows them to appreciate the flavor of fresh, local foods. It helps to change their perception about the cost of production and market pricing when they understand the work involved in getting food from the farm to the table. It encourages support of local foods, farmer's markets, fresh food in the schools, and even an interest in backyard gardens and chicken coops. It is my personal goal with the website to make the term 'farm stay' recognizable as a wonderful type of farm experience for anyone interested in traveling into rural America (which for many is not that far out their back door, or as the Thanksgiving song goes, just "...over the river, and through the woods...").
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