It’s for everyone!
By Suzanne McMinn
Whether you’d rather travel to a working farm, a living historical farm, a rural bed and breakfast or a state park, chances are there’s a “haycation” near you where you can pick produce, card wool or witness the birth of a new calf—and that’s just the beginning. Many venues offer more in-depth educational programs and “full farmhand” days where you get to be the farmer.
At Malabar Farm State Park in Lucas, Ohio, take a tractor-drawn wagon tour of a historical farm with cattle, goats and chickens. Hiking trails, a songbird aviary, solar cooking activities and an observation beehive will keep you busy when you’re not milking a cow or making butter. Set at the home of Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Louis Bromfield, options include a cozy B&B-style hostel and primitive camping.
Kids can collect the eggs they eat for breakfast and make cheese at East Hill Farm in Troy, New Hampshire. For a deeper experience, sign up as a farmhand to feed the animals and do chores. Lodging is available in the inn as well as in cottages. Square dancing, hayrides or sleigh rides round out your schedule, depending on the season.
Leaping Lamb Farm in Alsea, Oregon, offers an enchanting retreat experience at a family farm that keeps everything from sheep to heritage turkeys and peacocks. Rent a cabin, bike the trails and learn about making cider. Apples in the fall and blueberries and raspberries in the summer are free for the picking.
If a full vacation is more than you need, many destinations also offer fun activities that can be enjoyed in a day trip. At McClelland’s Dairy in Petaluma, California you not only learn about butter-making; you can also sample their award-winning European Style Organic Artisan Butter. In the fall, you’ll be awarded free reign of the pumpkin patch.
At Farmland Fun in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania a working-farm-turned-fun-park, you can participate in everything from quilting to making ice cream and preserves from scratch to grooming a baby calf for show competition. Throughout the month of October, you can pick your own corn and turn it into popcorn.
Prices and activities vary, but most farms offer frugal family getaways with hands-on fun. Before choosing your destination, be sure to check out the farm’s or park’s website and call to ask questions. Don’t forget that in rural areas cell phone and internet service may be spotty, but disconnecting from today’s digital world is often part of the charm.
In a time when many children may never get closer to a cow than a plastic jug at the grocery store, farm adventures are an open door to the mysterious and amazing world of farm life, connecting us all to our food, our American history and some good old-fashioned fun. Go country for a day or a week—and don’t forget your muck boots!
Suzanne McMinn lives with her three children on a farm in West Virginia, where she writes the blog Chickens in the Road, about finding “the true meaning of home—and life—beyond the noise of suburban sprawl and suburban convenience.”