“Chores Are A Highlight At Weatherbury Farm Vacation”
The Stockman Grass Farmer — The Graziers Edge | April 2009
As reported by Becky Gillette, in The Stockman Grass Farmer April 2009:
” Gathering eggs, hand pumping water, and feeding the animals early in the morning might sound like hard work. But morning chores on Weatherbury Farm, a 100-acre grass-fed beef and sheep farm located 45 miles southwest of Pittsburg, Pa., aren’t a burden. In fact, they are a highlight of the day for visitors enjoying a farm vacation at this kid-friendly, working farm that delights visitors with an opportunity to have hands-on activities experiencing farm life.
Doing chores in the morning with ‘Farmer Dale’ is the most popular activity for visitors at the farm run by Dale Tudor, his wife, Marcy, and their son, Nigel, 28, who has a blacksmith shop business at the farm. Weatherbury Farm has a strong focus on educating people about sustainable agriculture and the health benefits of all natural grass-fed beef and lamb.
‘ We have a strong mission here to educate families about farm living and farm life,’ Dale Tudor said. ‘ We teach them how it was, and how it is. First, we sit down and talk about what is going on with the farm and things like the benefits of grass-fed beef and lambs. We talk about some of the history of the area, as our farm is almost 200 years old.’
Visitors get to water the farm animals by pumping water from a well hand dug nearly 100 years ago. Children, especially, get a thrill out of feeding baby lambs and goats from a bottle. They also love feeding the chickens, and gathering eggs.
‘ The children often ask a lot of questions, some in order to answer questions in the Weatherbury Farm Kids workbooks,’ Tudor said. “By the time they get through it, they have learned quite a bit about farming.
‘ We are pretty vocal about the benefits of grass-fed meats, and a lot of our guests actually buy it. They will come back in the fall when it is processed. People love grass finished beef and lamb. It is all-natural, grown without pesticides and herbicides, and it has many nutritional advantages. It is healthier for you, and the animals. People are becoming more and more aware of that.’
Tudor enjoys teaching people about sustainable agriculture including how the animals and crops all integrate together. The farm is set up for rotational grazing with hay made from the spring flush. Composted manure is used as fertilizer.
‘ That is how they did it on the farm I grew up on,’ he said. ‘ Today most farms have gotten away from that.’
As time goes on, more people don’t have a basic understanding of how food is produced. ‘ Now younger parents—not just kids—don’t have a clue where food comes from,’ Marcy Tudor says. ‘ We think it is essential to be able to teach people about something we think is really important.’
Particularly popular with young guests is the Weatherbury Farm Kids program. There are three different workbooks provided, depending on the age of the children, that provide an opportunity to learn about farming. Completion of the workbooks is recognized with a Weatherbury Farm Kid certificate. Currently more than 1,100 children are Weatherbury Farm Kids.
Frequently visitors are grandparents who bring their grandchildren. It is a great way to interact while giving grandchildren the opportunity to learn about how their grandparents grew up.
Farm vacations have been around for a while, but have become more popular in recent years as agri-tourism has caught on. Weatherbury Farms is going into its 18th season hosting visitors.
The Tudors started in 1992 with two rooms for visitors in their 1815 farmhouse, and in 1998 renovated the old summer kitchen into two more rooms. They purchased a barn they moved to the farm 1998, which was renovated into guest quarters opened in 2004. That building, known as the Livery, has three two-story townhouse suites with downstairs living areas and upstairs bedrooms that have balconies that overlook the meadow. The bottom of the Livery has a 50’ x 20’ hall where guests gather in the evenings and for breakfast.
Tudor said the farm vacation business, which is open from May 1 to Oct. 31*, is enjoyable. But it isn’t a business that alone can support a family.
‘ That is why we got into the grass-fed meats, ‘ she said. ‘ We wanted additional income.’
The grass-fed meats angle is part of what attracts people to the farm. Weatherbury Farm is listed on the website for the Pennsylvania Sustainable Agriculture Association (http://www.pasafarming.org ).
‘ We are constantly working towards providing ‘green’ tourism both in our farm vacation bed and breakfast and farm operations,” Tudor said. “Weatherbury Farm seeks to minimizing the need for external inputs by using natural recycling and conservation.’
The restoration work at Weatherbury Farm deals with retrofitting historic structures to make them energy efficient while maintaining the look and allure of a 19th Century farm.
‘ We feel we have had a great deal of success in this regard and plan to continue our conservation efforts with future projects,’ Tudor said.
The story of the ‘green’ retrofitting of historic buildings and the sustainable agriculture practices at Weatherbury Farm is detailed at their website weatherburyfarm.com/newsite. That website includes more than 100 pages of information.
Tudor said they couldn’t have afforded to hire someone to build and maintain such a big website, so she learned how to do it herself.
The website includes links to the many news articles that have been written about them, updates about what is going on at the farm, the ability to sign up for e-mail newsletters, and information about green tourism and energy efficiency retrofits of historic buildings at the farm that won the Center for Rural Pennsylvania’s Sustainable Tourism Award.
The website also allows visitors to check availability of rooms. Tudor said the ability to check availability online is really important to potential visitors.
‘ A good website is our most important marketing tool,’ said Tudor, a past president of Pennsylvania Farm Vacation Association (www.pafarmstay.com). ‘ Most people find us through the Internet or are returns or referrals. We are also members of the local convention and visitor’s bureau and are listed at www.pafarmstay.com. Being on Internet directories should be the first thing a farm vacation organization does.’
They also have listings at www.localharvest.org, www.eatwellguide.org, www.eatwild.com, www.buylocalpa.org, www.grassfed.org, and other a number of bed and breakfast websites including www.bnbfinder.com and www.bbonline.com.
‘ We have been on other paid B&B directories over the years but, find these two are, for us, worth paying for, ‘ Tudor said. .”