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10 things you should know before booking a farm stay

Ready to embark on a rustic retreat? Here are 10 tips to help prep your trip.

Ready to embark on a rustic retreat? Here are 10 tips to help prep your trip.

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Agritourism is a travel trend on the rise, with an increasing number farms and wineries offering guests opportunities to experience life on a farm. From gathering freshly laid eggs to doing other chores such as feeding livestock, it’s not your typical vacation. While each experience will vary from property to property, agritourism offers an opportunity to make deeper connections to nature and bond with the farmers who supply the nation’s food supply. Whether you’re a solo traveler, a couple, or a family with kids, the experience is a rich one that can show guests where their food and wine comes from. 

Ready to embark on a rustic retreat? Here are 10 tips to prepare you for your farm adventure. 

1. Bring appropriate clothing and gear

When I spoke with the farm owners through email correspondence, they all stressed the importance of bringing the right clothing and shoes. A pair of water resistant and windproof pants are a must.

Outdoor Research

Know that your surroundings will be mostly rural, with lots of land and friendly animals that might want to greet you. Those same animals will eliminate in pastures, so designer shoes and heels are a no-no.

“A goat’s favorite snack is practically anything they can get their lips on, so that designer purse or long stylish scarf you throw over your shoulder might not be the best things to wear while visiting them," says Tygh Campbell, vice president of real estate and farmer at Silvies Valley Ranch. “Additionally, wearing closed-toe shoes to protect your feet is a must!”

Bringing a raincoat is also a good idea in case the weather doesn’t cooperate.

2. Ask your host about food and meal prep

Depending on where you’re staying, meals may be provided for guests or you might have to bring your own food. Check out a farm-to-table cookbook for inspiration so you can use any produce and products the farm has to offer guests. 

Tabula Rasa Farms in Carlton, Oregon usually stocks The Farmhouse with basics to make breakfast and they also have an on-site farm store that sells meats, wines, and other basics. Ask your hosts if there’s a full kitchen where you can prepare your meals. Many farms have a garden where you can pick vegetables and ripe fruits to eat and enjoy. Some farms even offer fresh laid eggs to include in your breakfast. 

3. What types of activities are available?

Working farms are busy settings, and not places set up for entertainment. In other words, don’t expect Disneyland and live shows. Most farmers will be actively tending to animals and chores. Before you book your stay, make sure to know the level of activity the farm allows guests. Depending on the type and size of the farm, some hosts might encourage visitors to be more involved while others might not. Because of the backdrop, there are usually many places to meander outdoors. Sign up for AllTrails to scout local hiking areas or ask your host about outdoor activity options nearby.


4. Follow safety precautions

Your farm stay will include exposure to large and small machinery as well as all different types of animals. Whether you’re traveling by yourself or with small children, learn and follow the rules and restrictions. For instance, on one of my trips to a farm, it was important to close and latch all the gates whenever I passed through a field because the animals could run away and get injured if they escaped.

Facilities contain both domestic and sometimes wild animals, depending on the farm. Be sure to respect the animals and make sure it is okay to pet them before doing so. Sometimes the farmers and ranch hands make it look easy working with livestock, but it’s because they have experience doing so.

5. Location, location, location

Many farms are situated in rural settings far from town, so scout the closest gas station and grocery store prior to arrival. Consider that roads to farms may not be paved and be prepared to drive slowly and carefully. If you are expecting to visit fine dining restaurants and want to spend the day shopping and museum-hopping, you may be in for a surprise, so it's best to be prepared. 

6. Which season is best?

Planning your trip around the seasons is important. Spring and summers are the best times to go because as the weather warms up, there will be growth and more activity on properties. Summer is when the farm is at its crest while autumn draws abundant crops such as winter squashes, pumpkins, carrots, beets and potatoes. Winter is an ideal time to visit if you want quiet time and less activity. Pick up a current copy of "The Old Farmer's Almanac," which includes historical facts as well as weather predictions for the upcoming year.

7. Ask questions 

Even if you’ve already done a farm visit, you’ll still do yourself a favor by asking your hosts lots of questions. Good questions to ask your host are if there’s heat, air-conditioning, and internet connection. Ask if their animals are friendly and if you can feed them. Ask them if they have a list of things you might need to bring. I have found hosts are often eager to help and offer suggestions because they’re excited to share this experience with others.

Prior to your visit, pick up a book like "Country Grit: A Farmoir of Finding Purpose and Love," a story about how a suburban couple ditched their city jobs and immersed themselves on a farm in Oregon. With funny antics and loads of suggestions, this is a perfect read.