" Ask a
6-year-old where eggs come from and you might get a lively description of the
local Safeway. If that sounds anything like your kids, it may be time to think
about a farm vacation. Getting the kids out of fast-action theme parks and into
a barn has many benefits: fresh air, beautiful settings, and contact with
animals that heretofore they may have seen only on TV. As a bonus, farmstays
present a welcome opportunity for a peaceful (and blessedly economical) vacation
for the entire family.
Plenty of American farmers have made hay, as it
were, on city-dwellers’ desire to reconnect with the countryside. According to
the Travel Industry Association, between 20 and 40 percent of American farms
engage in “agritourism” during the year. Pennsylvania is a great example of a
place where dairy and grain farms still thrive, and Amish communities make
visitors feel that they have arrived in another century. While most farmstay
inns don’t require their guests to pitch in, they almost always welcome kids
(and grown-ups too) to help gather eggs for breakfast, feed baby animals from
bottles, or take part in other fun barnyard activities.
We found 10 working farms scattered around
Pennsylvania that are especially family-friendly. Before you book, make sure you
know what’s included. Many farms provide a hearty breakfast, and some offer the
option of more extensive meal plans. Others set you up with a kitchen and some
pantry basics so you can dine as a family. Some farms provide trundles, cots, or
even pack-n-plays for little ones (you can often view each room on the farm
inn’s web site). And perhaps best of all, this is all but guaranteed to be an
unplugged getaway, since the vast majority don’t even offer TV.
Weatherbury Farm Vacation
Avella, Washington County
Less than an hour from Pittsburgh, this grass-fed cattle and sheep farm has a
children’s program that makes little ones the right-hand helpers of Farmer Dale.
Kids can help with morning chores such as hand-pumping water, bottle-feeding
baby animals and searching for tucked-away guinea-hen eggs (apparently, guinea
hens make hapless mothers, and their eggs fare better when taken and incubated).
Kids who stay two or more nights can fill out a Junior Farmer workbook to log
their activities, after which Farmer Dale presents them with a certificate. The
five different rooms and suites can accommodate a variety of family sizes, and
even the smallest comes with a day bed or sleeper sofa; the three suites (in the
tastefully converted Carriage House, Mews and Stable) can each sleep up to seven
(and can run as little as $199 a night for that many people). Rooms come with
refrigerators, claw-foot tubs and, sometimes, kid curiosities such as
old-fashioned sewing machines and pull-chain toilets. There’s one TV for the
whole place located in the common living room. (Rates start at about $100 a
night for a family of 3; 1061 Sugar Run Rd., Avella, PA; 724/587-3763) ".....