Immerse yourself in a tranquil farmland atmosphere, agritourism, where day-to-day life becomes simpler
By Isabelle Kagan
The next time you take a vacation, instead of hitting a city, why not go out into the country, and stay on a farm?
Agritourism is emerging as a more and more popular vacation trend among families, not only in the U.S but worldwide.
Especially for those of us who live in urban areas, sometimes it’s refreshing to withdraw from the bright lights and big cities for a welcome respite in the countryside.
If you’re searching for a unique, affordable vacation destination, an agritourism farm may be the perfect place to go.
According to the USDA, in 2012, just over 33,000 farms offered agritourism and recreational services such as farm or winery tours, hayrides, hunting, fishing, and other such activities. The website Farm Stay U.S. lists more than 800 farms (as well as ranches and vineyards) offering farm stays. Of these, some offer guests a luxurious bed-and-breakfast stay, while others are promoting a hands-on experience, where guests can expect to help with chores.
Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch: Illinois
There are unique experiences to be had in countless different farms across the U.S, so if you’re looking to participate in specific activities, it just takes a bit of research. For example, Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch in Rantoul, Illinois has one obvious specialization.
The farm currently has 18 incredibly friendly reindeer for visitors to interact with, including 5 baby reindeer that were just born. Mark Hardy, who owns the farm along with his wife Julie, notes that the Reindeer kiss, in which a reindeer will eat a cracker out of your mouth, is popular among visitors.
Hardy’s ranch also offers an abundance of other activities, including dinner shows (with beef brisket meal, comedy, and music entertainment) along with a gift shop, paintball shooting gallery, corn maze, and 5000 Christmas trees. Prices range from $7 admission in the daytime to $8 at night, with add-ons including $3 hayride and $4 reindeer tour.
Mark Hardy is incredibly proud of what he and his wife have developed over the years, stating “We built everything from scratch from old barns. Everything is unique. We’re built for agritourism.” If you’re looking to explore central Illinois, Julie Hardy also manages a bus tour in which you sign up for a mystery package that will send you to interesting locations around the surrounding towns.
Falkenbury Farm: Vermont
While Hardy’s ranch is a very popular day destination for seniors, Falkenbury Farm in Benson, Vermont, has families travel from Australia, New Zealand, and even Siberia, to experience the farm’s solitude overnight.
Owned by Jackie Ambrozaitis and her family, Falkenbury features a spacious guest house that can be rented for $150 a night. Visitors are welcome to become immersed in the farm lifestyle by participating in milking the cows, feeding the goats, or whatever other chores need to be done on the farm.
When asked about the experience, Jackie Ambrozaitis said that it’s the “atmosphere of a farm” and the “slower pace” that visitors enjoy the most.
“They relax in the yard…there’s wide-open spaces for people from cities to stargaze, or do whatever activities they wish.”
Make sure to keep the season in mind if traveling to the farm, as during the fall they have turkeys, while only the spring has goats. The summer also offers haymaking and tractor rides.
Hidden Villa: California
If you’re looking for something on the warmer side, Hidden Villa in Los Altos Hills, California hosts camps and farm trips starting in August, around its 1600 acre estate. From milking cows to learning how to make cheese and sausage, the organic farm offers plenty of educational opportunities for children and parents alike.
Owned by the Duveneck family, the farm is nonprofit and uses funds solely to maintain the land. Guided tours are offered that take you around the trails of the estate, school programs and weekend classes, as well as summer camps for kid aged 6 through 17.
Self-guided tours are also available. While picnic site rentals and general admission varies, lodging includes a rustic cabin, or a more secluded house amongst the trails called Josephine’s Retreat, all from $65 a night.
Dinara Galiullina, a reviewer, wrote, “We love Hidden Villa, it is a paradise for kids and parents! Breathtaking views, lots of love to people and animals, lots of nature! It is the best spot to have a picnic with family and friends!”
Nickajack Farms: Ohio
One farm in North Lawrence, Ohio, called Nickajack Farms, has fully embraced the agritourism theme. Run by Debbie and Joe Sebolt, the farm boasts 120 acres of land yet farms an additional 500 acres of land to harvest pumpkins, corn, and soybeans, as well as to house cattle such as goats, sheep, alpacas, and llamas.
The farm is unique in that it offers educational classes for kids and is open for large school tours for the children to learn about where their food comes from. The Sebolts cite this as one of the main aspects of the farm that allow them to stay competitive.
From September through October, a fall festival is also held which includes hayrides, a pumpkin patch section, corn mazes, petting zoo, horseback riding lessons, and even a pedal car track for the kids. The admission is $10 a person, with additional charges for pumpkin picking, food, and other add-ons.
One reviewer, Kendall Dye wrote, “great activities for the whole family,” while Katy Johnson states, “Such a friendly staff, cute items in the gift shop and plenty to do! I’d highly recommend it!”
If you’re looking to escape the city into a greener, quieter place of tranquility, agritourism farms are an excellent choice for the entire family. They allow you to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and get back to nature through a peaceful, enjoyable farm-stay.
For more information or to find a list of agritourism farms across the United States, visit AgritourismWorld.