Cindy Bogert wanted a different kind of vacation for her family: something peaceful and educational for the kids. So she was thrilled when she found a free brochure listing local Pennsylvania farm stays, where guests could “feed the goat and milk the cow.” Here, Bogert thought, would be the perfect opportunity to teach her two boys—then aged 6 and 12—that “eggs didn’t just appear in a Styrofoam container at the supermarket.” The first place she called, Olde Fogie Farm in Marietta, Pa., was also the last; her family has vacationed there for the past 11 years.
Hay Ho! A Farmer’s Life for Me
Farm stays are an increasingly popular vacation option, especially for families. Styled after traditional bed and breakfasts, farm stays offer comfortable lodging, hearty breakfasts, modest rates, and direct access to farm critters, fresh fruit and eggs. For young children who’ve never been around farm animals, farm stays provides a safe, relaxed environment for kids—and their parents—to learn, engage and bond.
It’s eco-travel. It’s budget travel. It’s cultural immersion travel—and it may be a lot closer to home than you’d think; Olde Fogie Farm is a mere 1.5-hour drive from the Bogert’s home. “It’s like we’ve gone into a different world,” she says, “almost a different century.”
Where Chores are Fun
At 7 a.m. on Olde Fogie Farm, it’s time for chores. Farm work isn’t mandatory, but host and co-owner Biz Fogie says most kids don’t want to miss out. They might be collecting chicken eggs for breakfast, bottle-feeding a baby goat or cleaning out the barn. Throughout the day, guests can visit the llamas and pot-bellied pig, or swim with giant koi in the pond.
All the while, children are learning the simple lessons of life on the farm. First rule: Waste nothing. Uneaten food is given to the animals, and old machine parts are recycled. “You use so many things until you can’t use them anymore,” says Margarert Lioi, whose Manhattan family has visited for 12 years. “Not being wasteful is a really good life lesson.”
A girl helps out around Old Fogie Farm by feeding a calf.
For Scottie Jones—who owns Leaping Lamb Farm in Alsea, Ore., with her husband Greg—she hopes the farm stays teach visitors to not fear the natural world. “I call it touching nature,” says Jones. And she has plenty of cool critters to touch: dozens of lambs, horses, chickens, geese and a peacock named Fred.
At first, some kids are wary around the animals, but the fear soon dissolves. Jones even got some kids to help her clean out a hayloft. “So, we had a lesson on how to scoop poop!” By “touching nature,” says Jones, kids learn conservation, caretaking and where their food comes from.
And guests invariably bring the farm home with them, whether it’s a barnyard kitten or inspiration about sustainable gardening. Jane Moon and her family especially missed feeding the chickens and eating farm fresh eggs after their recent farm stay. Back home in Pleasanton, Calif., they’re now considering having a chicken coop in their backyard.
Why Choose a Farm Stay?
In this age of expensive travel, families on a budget will find relief during their farm stay. Olde Fogie Farm’s rooms start at $95 per couple per night, $15 per child and free for children under 1 year old. Leaping Lamb Farm’s rates start at $75 per night for one person, $25 for each additional guest (up to six people) and the seventh night is free. Many farm stays offer breakfast each morning, or a self-service option if accommodations include a kitchen. Guests also find comfort in their rooms’ cozy atmosphere and farm-accented décor, like handmade quilts. Lioi’s family chooses the third-floor Hayloft Suite at Olde Fogie Farm, which features a full-kitchen, queen-sized bed, a trundle bed and a clawfoot tub.
A boy excitedly shows off five eggs that he gathered from the chickens of Leaping Lamb Farm.
Lioi’s family comes to the farm for a change of pace from their lives in frenetic Manhattan, and for her 13-year-old daughter, a sense of freedom. “I tell her, ‘You can stay out until you want to come in,’” something she can’t do in the city.
Bogert says while the farm offers much to see and do, it’s also a great home base for families that want to take daytrips to nearby attractions. Olde Fogie Farm in Lancaster County is near Amish country, the Strasburg Railroad and Hersheypark—but Bogert admits they haven’t made it to the giant amusement park. “We’ve never been able to drag our kids away.”
Support Local Businesses
By choosing a farm stay vacation, you’re also supporting small, local business. Farming is a lot of hard work with minimal profit. Small operations survive by combining income from various sources, and family-owned farms across the country are increasingly turning to tourism to keep the business going.
“I try to cobble a lot of different things together to make money,” says Jones, whose husband has a “real” job in town, while she operates the farm and runs a little store where she sells locally made handicrafts to her guests.
Farm Stay Locations
Olde Fogie Farm. Marietta, Pa. Tel. 877-653-3644, www.oldefogiefarm.com.
Leaping Lamp Farm. Alsea, Ore. Tel. 877-820-6132, www.leapinglambfarm.com.
Hull-O Farms. Durham, N.Y. Tel. 518-239-6950, www.hull-o.com.
Bluffdale Vacation Farm. Eldred, Ill. Tel. 217-983-2854, www.bluffdalevacationfarm.com.
Weatherbury Farm. Avella, Pa. Tel. 724-587-3763, www.weatherburyfarm.com.
Vermont Farms Association
Pennsylvania Farm Vacation Association
Bed and Breakfast.com (includes farm stay accommodation listings)
Still, Biz Fogie says farm vacations provide “an excellent way to supplement your income, and you’re doing a great service for people.”
A Family Mythology
For many families, the farm stay becomes their farm—it becomes tradition.
Bogert’s family looks forward to their yearly trip to Olde Fogie Farm—even her sons who are now 17 and 23. “It’s like going home to our grandma and grandpa.” Indeed, the Fogies even keep a growth chart for all returning kids. Yep, Bogert’s boys still get measured every time.
Lioi says that the farm “is part of our family mythology,” and it’s the people who really keep them coming back. “The real draw are truly Tom and Biz,” she says. “They make us feel that it’s our place.”
As for the farm owners, they couldn’t be happier. What may have started as a way to earn extra income has turned into an opportunity: to teach, to learn and to make new friends. “I love the people I’ve met,” says Jones. “It makes life more interesting.”