If your idea of a perfect getaway includes waking up to the sound of a rooster crowing in the pasture, wearing rubber boots to breakfast, and bottle-feeding baby sheep,consider spending your next vacation on a farm.
Farm stays, first introduced in Europe in the 1980s to help farmers supplement their incomes, have become popular in the United States, where a growing number of farmers are throwing open their pasture gates to welcome guests.
Guests can help with farm chores or relax in the bucolic surroundings. Mucking out stalls is optional.
Here are a few popular farm stays across the nation:
The Inn at Serenbe: What started out as a weekend home for Steve and Marie Nygren blossomed into one of the most popular farm stays in the Southeast.
The couple purchased a farmhouse on 60 acres in 1991, planning to use it as a weekend escape from the hustle and bustle of Atlanta, Ga.
The rural landscape enchanted the family that began spending more and more time on the farm. Most weekends, their guestrooms were filled with family and friends, prompting the couple to open an inn on the farm.
Marie Nygren chose the name “Serenbe” to reflect what she hoped the inn would provide: A place to be serene.
Five cottages offer plush accommodations complete with luxe linens, fireplaces, spa bathrooms and screened porches. The farmhouse once occupied by the Nygren family has been remodeled to include seven guestrooms.
The Farmhouse restaurant features recipes made with fresh ingredients harvested at Serenbe Farm, a 5-acre onsite certified-organic farm. Guests who want a true farm experience can sign up to work alongside farm Manager Paige Witherington. Depending on the season, chores range from planting and weeding to harvesting. Of course, there are plenty of opportunities to sample some of the 350 varieties of fruits and vegetables grown on Serenbe Farm in the process.
For a more relaxed stay, explore the trails, streams and waterfalls scattered across the farm or sit by the campfire and roast marshmallows.
Fickle Creek Farm: Named for the creek that traverses the 145-acre sustainable farm near Raleigh, N.C., Fickle Creek Farm offers guests the opportunity to get their hands dirty while helping with farm chores.
Collect eggs from flocks of free-range chickens, fill feed and water troughs in the pigpen or help lead the steers from their pens to the pasture. Gardens bursting with organic veggies, like garlic, spinach, Swiss chard, kale, potatoes, leeks and collards, are always in need of weeding or harvesting. The veggies you pluck from the soil may end up in your breakfast!
Overnight guests are welcome to explore Fickle Creek farm on their own, though Bergmann asks everyone to follow one rule: “Make sure to close the gate behind you!”
Farmers Ben Bergmann and Noah Ranells left careers in academia — Bergmann has his Ph.D. in forestry and Ranells earned his Ph.D. in crop science — to pursue their farming dreams. The pair started Fickle Creek Farm in 2001, and incorporated farm stays in 2005, hoping to share their passion for sustainable farming with the masses. “We wanted visitors to experience what life is like on the farm,” Bergmann explains.
Part of experiencing Fickle Creek farm is settling into one of two onsite guestrooms and watching the sun set over the pasture while a cacophony of farm animals offers an evening serenade.
Leaping Lamb Farm: On this Oregon farm, all of the ingredients for a farm-fresh supper are just steps from its cabin door.
Blueberries, raspberries, apples, grapes, lettuce and other homegrown fruits and vegetables are free for the picking, and there is no shortage of fresh eggs. Be sure to ask proprietors Scottie and Greg Jones if there is any lamb in the freezer; their Katahdin crosses are perfect for grilling.
A working farm since 1896, Leaping Lamb Farm began offering farm stays in 2006. With just one cabin available to overnight guests, it is one of the most private farm stays around.
Chickens, geese, horses and turkeys free range on Leaping Lamb farm, offering ample opportunities to feed and nuzzle the furry, feathered residents. There is even a colorful peacock strutting his stuff!
The main attraction is the flock of lambs in the pasture (it wouldn’t be Leaping Lamb Farm without them)! Scottie and Greg welcome help feeding and watering the farm’s four-legged namesakes.
One of the best things about the rural retreat is relaxing on the two-tiered deck overlooking the pastures and orchards after a farm-to-table supper.