Sleeping in the Hay:
When the early morning sun flowed through the window into my room at the Hull-O Family Farm in upstate New York, I slipped on my newly purchased overalls. Milking waits for no man especially a city slicker.
On my way to the barn, the sight of the 18th century white painted farmhouse and dairy barn paired with open fields and emerald mountains made climbing atop the parked tractor irresistible.
As would happen frequently during my stay at the farm, I got totally sidetracked. By the time I walked into the dairy barn, the milking was almost done. Sensing my disappointment, a farmhand handed me a pail and led me to a hefty heifer -- time to grab a cow by the teats.
Just Like John-Boy
By the time I sat down at the long oak table in the main farmhouse and helped myself to homemade sausage, pancakes, eggs and strong coffee, I knew I had earned my breakfast. I felt like John-Boy on the Waltons and loved it.
At the Hull-O Farm, participating in farm chores is up to the guest; there are many to choose from, as the farm is an actual working dairy farm. Over 5000 pounds of milk is produced on Hull-O daily, yet it is the taking on of guests that keeps the farm going.
Frank Hull, the patriarch and head honcho, recalls when there were 13 working family farms surrounding the Hulls. They are now the last. The pride the Hull Family takes in its designation as a National Bicentennial Farm, "two centuries of same family ownership," is understandable in todays fast-paced and fragmented America. But without guests, the farm might not survive another centennial.
"Sleeping in the hay" is an expression used throughout Europe as a term for staying on farms, an ancient tradition. In England, France, and New Zealand the government actively promotes farm tourism. In the US, there has been no federal and little state support, with the notable exception of Vermont.
Just Like Tom Sawyer
The rustling of a passing pheasant (the farm is also a preserve) gradually reminded me that I had, once again, been sidetracked. Already late for the afternoon milking, I ambled back and was greeted by friendly pups as I approached the front porch of the main house.
Before dinner, I went back to my room in the Rose cottage for a nap. All this farm work was making me tired, but I felt healthy and energized. I determined that in my next life, I would return as a farmhand for the future generations of Hulls. The chance to witness the pride and respect for land and family traditions was incredible, and having been included left me with a greater respect for those same values. I only hoped I could remember what it felt like when I got home.
Hull-O Farm Family Farm Vacation
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