Farm stays in the USA
How to find agriturism opportunities—the chance to stay on a working farm—in the United States
Forgive the John Denver moment, but the idea of getting back to our country's roots and shacking up on a working farm this summer got me feelin' a bit nostalgic (for what, I'm not sure, as I grew up on the Philadelphia suburbs).
So on your next trip, not give your wallet a rest and your family a new experience by getting off the highway and avoiding the chain motels and instead lay your head on a farmstead bed?
Double rooms at a working farm run anywhere from $30 to $200, but usually around $50 to $120.
The concept behind agritourism (or rural tourism, or farm stays, or dude ranches, or farmhouse B&Bs, or whatever you want to call it) 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.
Many farm stays 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.
I figured this would be an easy article to research. I already knew that my home state of Pennsylvania had a great resource in www.pafarmstay.com, and figured every state would have something like this listing many agritourism opportunities—maybe even a national database under the aegis of the Department of Agriculture or something.
Boy, was I wrong. Such general resources—networks, affiliations, marketing associations, or booking engines that group together farm stay operations—are either in very short supply or devilishly hard to find. Dude ranches: no problem. That's a big business, readily available and easily findable. But smaller farms renting out rooms or running B&Bs? Those are tricky.
Below are the few I managed to dig up. Some are homegrown (ha!) networks cobbled together by a collective of neighboring farm-stay properties, some are lists put together by the local State Department of Agriculture.
Quite a few were born of initiatives by State Universities to encourage alternative revenue streams for local farmers.
In a pinch, when an official state tourism bureau site has something like "guest ranches" as a choice on its Lodgings search page, I've included that.
Most of these Agritourism resources/databases aren't limited to properties that operate as down-home B&Bs—in fact, on many of these Web sites only a handful of farms actually offer guest accommodations.
Agritourism is a category that includes farms with any form of public interaction, whether it be u-pick fruit trees, pumpkin patches, or Christmas trees, horseback riding, petting zoos, roadside food stands, corn mazes, scarecrow making, homemade ice-cream parlors, cow milking... if they do it on a farm, you can bet there's farm out there that'll invite you to help out.
Farm stays in...
You could keep trolling the Web 'til the cows come home and still have difficulty ferreting out farm stay opportunities. Here are the shortcuts to agricultural bliss.
AgriTourism in Alabama (www.alabamaagritourism.com) - 37 farm B&Bs in Alabama.
Travel Alaska (www.travelalaska.com) - The official state tourism site lists both "Wilderness Lodges & Resorts" (not quite farms, but in a similar spirit) and links to lots of individual B&Bs and state-wide and regional B&B associations, among which you may find some farms.
Arizona Tourism (www.arizonaguide.com) - The official state website has a "Hotels & Lodging" section letting you search "Guest Ranches."
» Arizona dude ranches: www.azdra.com, www.arizonaguide.com, www.duderanch.org, www.duderanches.com, www.guestranches.com, www.ranchweb.com, vacationranches.com, www.horseandtravel.com, www.ResortsandLodges.com.
Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism (www.arkansas.com) - Breaks out "Dude Ranches" in Arkansas under "Places to Stay." (Also has an agrotourism section, but it's mostly u-pick farms.)
Bed & Breakfast Association of Arkansas (www.arkansasbedandbreakfast.com) - Limit your search to "Geographic setting: Rural" and a number of the two-dozen results will be farm stays.
University of California Agricultural Tourism Directory (calagtour.org) - Under "Activity Search" is a section on "Accommodations" with sub-sections on farm stays, farm/ranch vacations, guest ranches, camping or RV facilities, and others with nearly 100 listings, from ranches to wineries to orchards with a B&B.
Ag Adventures (www.agadventures.org) - Agricultural Adventures along California's Central Coast—from farm stays to trail rides and cattle drives.
» California dude ranches: calagtour.org, www.agadventures.org, www.duderanch.org, www.duderanches.com, www.ranchweb.com, www.guestranches.com, vacationranches.com, www.horseandtravel.com, www.ResortsandLodges.com.
Colorado Department of Agriculture (www.colorado.gov) - Click on "Agrotourism Directory" on the right to get a list, by county, of various farms open to tourism in Colorado and what services each offers—many of them including B&B rooms. (If you click on "Bed and Breakfast Inns" in that right column, it just takes you to www.innsofcolorado.org, which is a fine lodgings resource, but doesn't differentiate farm stays from other types of B&Bs.)
» Colorado dude ranches: www.coloradoranch.com, www.dude-ranch.com, www.colorado.com, www.duderanch.org, www.duderanches.com, www.ranchweb.com, www.horseandtravel.com, www.guestranches.com, vacationranches.com, www.ResortsandLodges.com.
Visit Idaho (www.visitidaho.org) - The official state tourism website lists 54 Guest Ranches.
Indiana Agritourism and Farmer's Market Online Directory (www.in.gov) - Comb though the many many u-pick and other agri-tourism ventures and you'll find some that also operate as a farmhouse inn or B&B.
Iowa Economic Development (www.traveliowa.com) - It's not perfect, but under "Places to Stay" you can peruse page after page of B&Bs, most of which have brief descriptions right on the results page identifying which are on farms.
Official State of Kansas Travel and Tourism (www.travelks.com) - Under Places to Stay, “Guest/Working Ranches” is an option (there are also some farm B&Bs under “Other”).
Kansas Bed & Breakfast Association (www.kbba.com) - There's a "Ranches & Farms" option for your search.
Kentucky Farms are Fun (www.kentuckyfarmsarefun.com) - Under the "Attractions" menu is a "Lodging" option that lists 30 Kentucky farm B&Bs, guest ranches, and inns.
Kentucky Tourism (www.kentuckytourism.com) - Under "Things to Do" is a "Kentucky Agritourism" option. Search on "Type: Farm/Plantation" and many of the farms among the results will be offer B&B accommodations.
Louisiana Travel (www.louisianatravel.com) - You can scroll through the 240+ B&Bs at the state tourism site's database looking for farms.
Maine Farm Vacation Association (www.mainefarmvacation.com) - Eighteen farm stays in Maine.
University of Maryland Ag Extension (www.marylandagriculture.com) - A few of the farms listed offer B&B rooms.
So Maryland, So Good... (www.somarylandsogood.com) - A handful of farm stay listed, but a bug in the site makes it tricky to get to them. You have to select any random entry under the "Find a Service:Service" drop-down menu—doesn't matter which. Then scroll to the bottom of that results screen to find the "Find a service" section again. This time, under the "Service" drop-down menu, "Bed and breakfast" will be an option. (Why it is not on the main page is beyond me—not that I'm not guilty of such accidental coding omissions myself from time to time.)
Massachusetts Department of Agriculture (www.mass.gov/agr/massgrown) - Here you can download a PDF of the state agritourism brochure including, among other things, farm B&B accommodations in Massachusetts.
Michigan Farm Marketing & Agri-Tourism Association (www.michiganfarmfun.com) - It's aimed at u-pick farms and tours and such. Unfortunately, though the web version allows you to search by dozens of different farm products plus, tours, wagon rides, etc., "lodging" is not an option. However, if you look at the online PDF version of the catalog and scan each listing for the "Other Info" section, you will note that many of them also run B&Bs.
Green Routes (www.greenroutes.org) - Interesting, map-based site covering Minnesota and a scattering of things in neighboring Upper Midwest states (Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, North Dakota). Can deselect everything but "sleep" to see just lodgings, most of which are rural B&Bs and farm stay.
Green Island (greenislandpreserve.com) - This wonderfully funky, alternative preservation farm offers quirky caravan lodgings of its own, and also has an online guide to 16 other farmstay operations across Minnesota.
Visit Mississippi (www.visitmississippi.org) - Another good state tourism site resource that mixes all the historic and u-pick farms in with the few that offer B&B lodging—but the farmhouse inns are in there if you take a few minutes to scroll through results.
AgriMissouri (agrimissouri.com) - Under MoFun is a category for Bed and Breakfast.
Visit Montana (www.visitmt.com) - The official state site has listings for 183 ranch vacations across Montana.
» Montana dude ranches: www.montanadra.com, www.visitmt.com, www.duderanch.org, www.duderanches.com, www.ranchweb.com, www.horseandtravel.com, www.guestranches.com, vacationranches.com, www.ResortsandLodges.com.
Visit Nebraska (www.visitnebraska.org) - The official state tourism website Has both a "Bed & Breakfasts" and a "Guest Ranches" search option under "Places to Stay."
Travel Nevada (travelnevada.com) - The official state tourism site lists 9 guest ranches across Nevada.
Visit NJ Farms (www.visitnjfarms.org) - Wonderful for general farm tourism in the Garden State... but you have to click on each farm and read its details to see if it also offers B&B facilities.
I Love NY (www.iloveny.com) - The official New York State Tourism site has both "Dude Ranches" (8 of them) and "B&B & Country Inns" options under its Where to Stay section.
North Carolina General Store (www.ncagr.gov) - The state Department of Agriculture site lists nearly 60 "Farm Bed & Breakfasts, Country Cabins, Retreats."
North Dakota Tourism (www.ndtourism.com) - The state tourist site has a "Ranch" option in its Where to Stay database search (lists 20 around the state). A few of the listings under "Bed & Breakfast" are farms, but you have to scan the descriptions to pick them out.
Discover Ohio (discoverohio.com) - It takes some digging, but if you go into "Travel Tools" then "Travel Planner" then select "Family Fun" you can see a list of more than 90 AgriTourism opportunities—lots of farm visits and u=picks, but also a few with accommodation.
Oklahoma Agritourism (www.oklahomaagritourism.com) - When you click on "Find a Farm" (and it redirects you to its consumer site), two of the choices are "Country Stays" and "Guest Ranch."
Travel OK (www.travelok.com) - The state tourism website has a "Guest Ranch" option in its Hotels & Lodging database search.
The Central Cascades Geotourism Project (thecentralcascades.com) - Lists 43 lodging options at farms across Oregon and Washington states.
Visit PA (www.visitpa.com) - I'm proud of my home state for being one of the very, very few that, right there on the homepage of its official tourism web site, actually has "Farmstays" as an option under Places to Stay. Even better: when you click on it, it lists 55 options all across Pennsylvania.
A Lancaster County, PA Farm Stay (www.afarmstay.com) - The site is what it says: links to two-dozen farm B&Bs in everybody's favorite slice of rural Pennsylvania: Lancaster Country (a.k.a. Amish Country).
PA Farm Vacations (www.pafarmstay.com) - Wonderful site devoted exclusively to farm stays in PA, including tips and availability calendars along with links to about 20 options.
New England Farmways (www.nefarmways.com) - The nation's smallest state puts up an impressive eight farm-stay operations if you search on this site's "Find a Farm" feature (along with one each in neighboring Vermont and Massachusetts).
Discover South Carolina (www.discoversouthcarolina.com) - The state tourism site lists a whopping one farm stay under "Unique Lodging" (plus an awesome canoe-in treehouse)—but, since that one is not included on the two generalist sites mentioned below, why not include this link?
Travel South Dakota (www.travelsd.com) - The official state tourism site lists 20 ranches in its Lodging section.
Tennessee Department of Tourism (www.tnvacation.com) - In the "Places to Stay" section is an option for "Guest Ranches & Farm Inns."
Tennessee Agritourism Association (www.visittnfarms.com) - Google Maps–based "Find a farm" site. Covers all forms of farm visits, but among them are those that offer lodgings.
Travel Texas (www.traveltex.com) - 100 ranches and rodeos on the Texas tourism site.
Utah tourism (www.utah.com) - Under "Lodging" is a "Guest Ranches" option.
Vermont Farms! (www.vtfarms.org) - About two dozen farm stays in the Green Mountain State.
Virginia Tourism (www.virginia.org/site/features.asp?featureid=527) - Thankfully, the state tourism website has an entire page devoted to 22 farm stays in Virginia, from the Shenandoah Valley to the Eastern Shore.
The Central Cascades Geotourism Project (thecentralcascades.com) - Lists 43 lodging options at farms across Washington and Oregon states.
Wisconsin Agricultural Tourism Association (www.visitdairyland.com) - Click on "Travel Destinations" for a chart of various farms that do agritourism indicating which offer lodging.
Travel Wisconsin (www.travelwisconsin.com) - Under "Accommodations" is a category for "Specialty," and many of those are working farms (and those that aren't are still really interesting, like a trawler on Lake Superior or houseboat on the Mississippi).
Wyoming Tourism (www.wyomingtourism.org) - The "Guest/Dude Ranches" option under "Places to Stay" lists 101 ranches across Wyoming.
Bed & Breakfast Inns and Ranches of Wyoming (www.wyomingbnb-ranchrec.com) - About two dozen working ranches, guest ranches, and rural B&Bs in Wyoming.
» Wyoming dude ranches: www.wyomingdra.com, www.wyomingtourism.org, www.wyomingbnb-ranchrec.com, www.duderanch.org, www.duderanches.com, www.ranchweb.com, www.guestranches.com, www.horseandtravel.com, vacationranches.com, www.ResortsandLodges.com.
Farmstay US (www.farmstayus.com) - Lists 950 Farm Stays and Guest Ranches across the United States.
Rural Bounty (www.ruralbounty.com) - Has a search engine for lodging with more than 80 listings across the country.
Horse and Travel (www.horseandtravel.com) - This travel site for the horsey set includes listings of Dude Ranches all across the country as well as 245 B&Bs that take horses (which means many will be on a farm somewhere). Not all the links are still valid, but it's a decent site to search for rural B&Bs.
The Farmstay Project (farmstays.blogspot.com) - A blog about and for farmstay operators and enthusiasts, with some good lists of links on the "About farm stays" page (way down on the right column). Became inactive in February 2011 (though the associated Twitter feed still runs), but still useful.
USDA National Agricultural Library (ric.nal.usda.gov) - A long list of links to various agritourism initiatives (some of them for the vacationing public, some information to help farms increase their economic base).
Networking Association for Farm Direct Marketing and Agritourism (www.nafdma.com) - Fabulous set of links—most aimed primarily at the farmers themselves, though good resources for tourists are in there.
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 "agrisport.com").
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.
Become a farmhand; sleep for free - If you really want to get your hands dirty, sign up to become a temporary farmhand through one of two volunteer organizations: WWOOF (www.wwoof.org) and Helpx (www.helpx.net)...