The trend of farm-to-table cuisine may be spreading, but it doesn’t get more local than dining right in the farm house – one of the many attractions to a farm stay vacation.
Ethical travellers can also sleep easy knowing that their holiday choice
is a responsible one, since the money spent on room and board directly benefits
the local community.
Bunking in barns or in farmers’ homes -- long a
widespread way to see the countryside in Europe -- has become increasingly
popular in the US in recent years. It coincides with a burst of farmers markets
popping up on urban streets and a growing chorus of consumers asking where
their food comes from. Farm stays are also mutually beneficial: city slickers
can develop a connection with local residents and, perhaps, a culture much
different than their own. And farmers earn extra income to help keep the harvests
Several websites can help plan a farmcation, where guests
have the chance to be a farm hand for the day, feeding chickens, learning how
to milk cows and picking crops out in the field. But some farms tell guests
just to relax -- it is a vacation after all. No matter which farmcation you
choose, those roosters will probably wake you up rather early.
which partners with working farms and ranches in the US, offers tips on what
travellers should expect out of a stay down on the farm. For instance,
guestrooms run the gamut -- from camping by the creek to whirlpool-tub-style
accommodations -- and some stays include educational seminars on skills like
butter-churning and hitching a horse. Book a stay at a 100-acre Amish farm in
Ohio where you’ll raise hay and milk the dairy herd. Or practice your lasso
skills at a 9,000-acre cattle ranch in Oregon. Pitching in with chores normally
isn’t a requirement, but many farms will take you up on the offer. Farmstayus.com
allows travellers to search by region, state, number of guests, and whether
they’re looking for a farm, ranch or vineyard. Bookings are made directly with
the individual farms.
is dedicated to all things rural, promoting not just farm stays but day trips,
wine festivals, hay rides and farmers markets. Search by activity, location or
specific farm product in the US and Canada. Find where to pick your own
blueberries and blackberries in Texas or -- for those with some horse riding
experience -- join a frontier cattle drive through the mountain countryside of
southwestern Alberta, Canada. Bookings are made directly with the farms.
US state sites
Many states -- including Pennsylvania, Maine and Vermont
-- have websites focused on rural rooms, ranging from luxury bed and breakfasts
to real working farms. Learn how sap becomes maple syrup at a Vermont farm or
stay in an 1800s log cabin in Pennsylvania. Farms promote local attractions and activities, such as fishing, hiking,
horseback riding and even nearby golf courses.
Europe and beyond
Many of Europe’s farmhouse vacations are more likely
to offer B&B accommodations without the opportunity to help feed the
chickens. If you’re looking to get your hands dirty, Germany’s Landtourismus.de identifies farm
stays that encourage you to harvest potatoes and care for your new barnyard
friends (click on the “cooperation possible” link). If your idea of
appreciating nature is more along the lines of watching the sunset while
sipping an earthy chianti, Italy’s agritourismo.net
lists accommodations with nearby wine
tours. Australianfarmstay.com.au features farms that
combine both hands-on activities, like bottle-feeding and milking goats, with high-end
amenities, like a morning hot-air balloon ride capped off with a glass of
Lori Robertson writes the Ethical Traveller column for BBC Travel. You
can send ethical dilemmas to firstname.lastname@example.org.