Farm stays in Canada
How to find guest ranches and farm B&Bs in Canada
Farm stays in...
The concept behind farm stay, guest ranhces, and rural tourism in general is simple: you spend the night as a guest on a working farm. From there, though, the concept flies off in many directions.
Sometimes you just hole up for the night in a B&B converted from a farmhouse.
Sometimes you actually stick around to do volunteer work for a few days (a week, two months, a year), as with the worldwide WWOOF network.
Sometimes, just renting a cottage in a rural area where sheep wander past your window is enough to count.
Ideally, the property's owners live on-site and are farmers who derive the bulk of their income from agriculture, using this newfangled form of tourism merely to help make ends meet.
In some countries, the practice of agritourism is highly regulated; in others, it’s a wild west of opportunities, and you have to pick carefully to avoid spending the night in a barn atop a pile of hay (unless that's what you want—I've done it in Europe, and it's great).
Double rooms at a farm run anywhere from $7 to $200, but usually around $40 to $70 in Western Europe, around $12 to $50 in Eastern Europe.
I've stayed at loads of agriturismi: vineyards and dairy farms, barns amid olive groves and frescoed villas next to horse stables.
Each stay has offered me a different experience of farm life for a fraction the cost of a hotel.
Many agriturisms require a two- or three-night minimum stay (for some, a week).
Roughly half accept credit cards.
Sometimes you get four-star luxury and satellite TV. Sometimes you’re a straw's-width from sleeping in a stall.
Most, though, are just what you'd expect from a farmhouse B&B: simple comforts, solid country furnishings, and rural tranquility—barnyard noises excepted.
The hosts tend to be a sight friendlier than your average hotel desk clerk. Some invite guests to dine with them, family-style, in the farmhouse. One shepherd let me stir a bubbling pot of sheep's milk to help it on its way to becoming pecorino cheese. Vineyard owners love to crack open bottles of their best to guide you through the finer points of wine tasting.
Alberta Country Vacations (www.albertacountryvacation.com) - Farm accommodations in Alberta Province, broken down by Working Ranches (9), Guest Ranches (11), Country Vacations (5), and Backcountry Vacations (10).
The Cowboy Trail (www.thecowboytrail.com/farmranch.html) - Fifteen ranch and farm vacations along the Cowboy Trail, where the Alberta prairies meet the Rocky Mountains.
Alberta Bed & Breakfast Association (www.bbalberta.com) - Under "Geographic Setting" you can chose "Working Farm" to find a handful of farm B&Bs.
BC Guest Ranch Association (www.bcguestranches.com) - Fifteen guest ranches in British Columbia.
British Columbia Agritourism Alliance (www.bcagritourism.ca) - Several of the members farms offer farm stays (though you'll have to click through to the individual websites to see which ones).
Travel Manitoba (travelmanitoba.com) - Under Accommodations is a category for "Country Farms & Ranches" listing a baker's dozen of farm stays in Manitoba.
Nova Scotia Tourism (www.novascotia.com) - Put in "farm" as a keyword in the Accommodations search and many of the results will be B&Bs on working farms (others will simply be B&Bs converted from old farm houses, but still: nice settings at least).
Ontario Farm and Country Accommodations (www.countryhosts.com) - Twenty-seven farm B&Bs in Ontario province.
Prince Edward Country (www.pec.travel) - A handful of "Farm Vacations" under Where to Stay.
Terroire et Saveurs (www.terroiretsaveurs.com) - Under "Search for: accommodation" you can stipulate that all of the B&Bs, inns, tourist residences, campgrounds, and summer camps you search for will be "Establishments located on a farm or a farming operation" (41 results) and/or "Establishments located on a farm or a farming operation and offering agritourism activities." (39 results).
Bottin de l'agrotourisme québécois (www.agrotourisme.com) - Under the "Choisir une catégorie" dropdown list you can choose "hérbergement à la ferme" to see 31 farmstays—but pourquois is the whole site only in French? Tres frustrating.
Tourism Saskatchewan (www.sasktourism.com) - There is a category for "Ranches and Farms" under "Where to Stay" featuring 27 Vacation Farms and 15 Guest Ranches.
CanadianBedBreakfast.com (www.canadianbedbreakfast.com) - Two each in Alberta, BC, and Saskatchewan, one each in Ontario and Yukon.
Agrisport (www.agrisport.com) - It's very much a homemade site, and far from the best organized around, but it's loaded with links once you drill down. These are not only to specific guest farms and dude ranches, but to other outdoors and agritourism links as well, all grouped by country or state. One annoying factor: you have to open a site in a new window to see what its actual url is (otherwise every page is masked as "agrisort.com").
- from Dude Ranches
Organic Places to Stay (www.organicholidays.co.uk) - OK, nearly two-thirds of the listings here are lodgings that happen to offer organic food. The other third, however, are B&Bs, rental cottages, or homestays on working organic farms. There are tons of listings ranging all over the world, nine of which are in Canada.
Agritourism World (www.agritourismworld.com) - Ladies and gentlemen, behold: a list of thousands of farm stays around the world... in alphabetical order by name. Not even sure why I bother including this sits, since the results are nearly random—a farm B&B in rural Pennsylvania wedged between one in Italy and another in Belize. How useful is that? Still, if you just want to roll the virtual dice when it comes to location, you'll find plenty of agriturismi here.
WWOOF: The World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (www.wwoof.org) - If you really want to get your hands dirty, sign up with this collection of volunteer organizations in 50 countries around the world, from Australia to Korea, Ghana to the US, Italy to Nepal (plus "independent" members—countries with only a handful of opportunities). Each is devoted to supporting and helping teach about organic and environmentally sound farming techniques. You join the WOOF chapter in the country where you'd like to work (for roughly $10 to $40), it sends you a list of farms that would appreciate a helping hand in exchange for room and board. You must be willing to put in six hours of work six days a week to see how the farming half lives in a variety of nations.