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If your family’s exposure to farming has thus far been limited to petting zoos and blurry country drives (Look, cows!) then I’ve got a word for you: haycation, the term that’s been coined for a vacation on a working farm. This type of trip has emerged almost as a way of life in Europe and has been quietly catching on in the United States, where some farms more than others are reaching out to families.
A good pick for first-time haycationing families is Apple Pond Farm in New York’s Catskills, whose guest accommodations are limited to a three-bedroom guesthouse that sleeps five and runs $400 for a minimum two-night stay, $975 for the week. Meals are not included – the house has a kitchen if you want to fix your own food – but if you like, the staff will help pull together a breakfast that might run $6 per grownup, $4 per child. You’re welcome to help out with the daily chores – which might include gardening, milking does, and feeding hay and grain to goats, sheep, and horses. Or, co-owner Sonja Hedlund assures me, it’s okay if you do nothing at all. But you came to work, didn’t you? And if you’re in residence on a Friday or Saturday you and your children are welcome to go for free to “farming with kids” sessions that cost non-guests $4 for kids, $5 for adults. The guesthouse books up quickly in summer, but can be rented year-round.
If you were thinking more Pacific Northwest than East Coast, another property offering a low-key immersion into farming life is Dog Mountain Farm in Carnation, Washington, about 45 minutes east of Seattle. Campsites are available, but the dwelling of choice for your family would likely be the platform tent – available mid-June through mid-September –which accommodates a queen-size bed and a bunk-bed cot. Rates run $150/night for one to two adults and $20 for each child under 12. A hearty breakfast is included and for extra fees the proprietors will supply lunch and dinner. Young guests are welcome to take part in a young farmers program that offers workbook learning about sustainable agriculture and includes such chores as animal feeding, collecting eggs, tree pruning, and beekeeping.
Despite having a fair number of broken hyperlinks, agrisport.com is a good resource for farms in the U.S. and abroad that cater to agritourism-minded travelers. And the site Pennsylvania Farm Vacations is a model that any state hoping to attract farm-stay vacationers ought to follow: a handy at-a-glance grid lists farms and the animals residing there as well as extra amenities such as horseback riding or swimming.