Petting furry farm creatures, collecting your own eggs, having a go at milking a cow, getting to ride on a pony or a tractor, picking tomatoes from the vine and eating fresh, homemade cheeses, sausages, jams, and breads – sounds like heaven for a kid. If you’ve got kids, and even if you don’t, farm stays can be great – and economical – holiday choices.
Let’s say you’re going to Kauai. The average double room in a hotel in the area of Kilauea is going to run you $180 US/night. Alternatively, you could stay in a large private cottage at North Country Farms, a family-run organic farm that grows vegetables, fruits and flowers, for $160/night. You’re giving up a swimming pool, it’s true, but you have your own house surrounded by gardens and orchards filled with avocados, limes, oranges, and all kinds of tropical fruits, and your kids can wander around Edenic grounds picking vegetables or plucking ripe mangoes from the trees.
Particularly now with the growing interest in locavore movements, organic farming, and sustainable living, more and more farms are opening their doors to overnight visitors. For example, Lizzie Myers, owner of an organic farm in Somerset, England, says, “We’re an organic farm, producing organic oats for Jordan’s breakfast cereal and organic milk thistle for Neal’s Yard, among others. We’ve definitely noticed an increase in visitors…. In particular, we’re seeing more young families with children who come to see where their food comes from and learn about growing food. They help us dig potatoes and collect eggs – the children love it! The income from the B&B helps us to continue our renovations on our fifteenth century farmhouse.”
Agritourism encompasses everything from luxury accommodation on a Napa Valley vineyard to staying in a simple wooden shed on the Hungarian plain, but most offerings fall somewhere in between. One of the great things about farm stays is that the degree of involvement in actual farm work is entirely up to you – you can choose to be pampered in luxury or slip your boots on and muck out the stables, depending on the place and your own inclinations.
Just about every country from Albania to Zimbabwe has opportunities to stay on local farms.
In Europe, Italy seems to lead the pack in the sheer number of agritourism spots, but you can find places across the continent. Farm Stay UK is an excellent resource, and has everything from upscale manor homes that are farms in the same sense that a cruise ship is a fishing boat, to real working farms where you can get your hands dirty. Farm Holidays has excellent listings for farms in Austria, and VisitEurope.com has links to listings in 25 countries.
The Australian Farm Stay website is just what you’d expect it to be, and while Asia and Latin America have been somewhat slow in hopping on this hot new bandwagon, you can indeed find farm stays anywhere from the Nakogami Orchards Inn in Japan to the Finca Rio Perla in Costa Rica.
In the States, Farm Stays US is the most comprehensive guide to agritourism opportunities, where you’ll find dozens of farms in every state. Smarter Travel has picked 10 Great Farm Stays in America, but there are thousands of farms with accommodation around the country.
For worldwide listings, Responsible Travel is your best bet, with hundreds of farm stays around the globe. If you want to get hardcore, there’s an organization called WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) that connects volunteer workers who want to learn more about organic farming with hosts who offer food and accommodation in exchange for help on the farm. It’s a working holiday, to be sure, but I could see doing it with teenaged kids who wouldn’t view it as forced labor.
No matter whether you’re just looking for a weekend in the countryside or you want to spend a week actually working on a farm or ranch, taking an agritourism holiday is a fantastic way to engage your kids with the natural world, and introduce them to some animals that weren’t created by the Walt Disney Company. Staying on a farm can be a surprisingly eye-opening and unforgettable experience – for everybody.