Back to our Roots

(Harrisburg) Patriot-News | June 13, 2004

As reported by Mary Klaus, in the (Harrisburg) Patriot-News June 13, 2004:

” Don Frazier and his family spend enough time in the fast lane, with him teaching, his wife working as an accountant and their daughters involved in various activities.

So when the family from Abilene, Texas, was looking ‘for a real, live traditional farm.’ they turned to the internet and looked at the Pennsylvania Farm Vacation Association link.

They decided to visit the Weatherbury Farm in Avella, Washington County, and found the vacation of their dreams.

Farm vacations, increasingly popular with people tired of trading crowded streets for crowded resorts, seem to be a classic win-win situation.

They give city-slickers a chance to get away from it all and learn how farmers grow crops and raise livestock. They give farmers a chance to meet people from all walks of life and earn a little extra money.

‘Interest in farm vacations is growing,’ said Marcy Tudor, Pennsylvania Farm Vacation Association president and owner of Weatherbury Farm with her husband, Dale. ‘People want to get back to their family’s roots. Sometimes, we have three generations of a family visiting us.’

Biz Fogie, who with her husband, Tom, owns Olde Fogie Farm in Marietta, Lancaster County, said people go on farm vacations to experience a simpler life.

‘Some people see ‘Little House on the Prairie’ and want to try it out,’ she joked. ‘We have people come here straitlaced and stiff. After a few days, they become part of the family, relax and have fun. But they want their comfort, too. We have to offer air conditioning and television or we won’t get them here.’

Some farms cater to families. Some specialize in activities such as biking, riding or fishing. Others promote their proximity to nearby tourist attractions. Nearly all allow visitors to stroll around the farm and help with farm chores such as feeding animals and gathering eggs.

‘Leave the stress of the city behind and escape to the peace and quiet of the country,’ Tudor said. ‘Awake to the crow of the rooster and a homemade breakfast like Grandma used to make. Enjoy the antics of our barnyard animals. Take time to enjoy life and relax.’

The Fraziers did just that at Weatherbury Farm. This 100-acre farm about 34 minutes from Pittsburgh has livestock galore: Herefords and Scottish Highland beef cattle, Southdown, Dorset and Jacob sheep, goats, chickens, ducks, geese and cats.

‘We’re a working beef farm staffed by our family of three, not Disney World with a staff of thousands,’ Tudor said.

‘The first night people come here, they’re often wound up and the kids need to run off their energy. Then they spend the next day bottle-feeding the sheep, feeding the baby goats and gathering eggs. By the next night, they’re relaxed.

Frazier said that was true for his family.

‘There’s no pressure and a watch is optional,’ he said. ‘May wife and I sat under a tree and talked with families from Baltimore and the Columbus area while our kids played together on the swing set and with the kittens. The weather is great — it’s like the whole area is air-conditioned!’

His wife, Susan, called the experience a much-needed low key vacation.

‘Kids now have sensory overload,,’ she said. ‘So coming here is good for them and safe too. It’s very peaceful, and we slept well. The breakfast was wonderful with blueberry pancakes.’

Their daughters, Kay, 9, and Sarah, 4, said they enjoyed playing with the kittens, feeding lambs, goats and chickens. ‘I hope we come back sometime,’ Sarah said.

Farm vacation visitors aren’t required to help, although most can’t resist pitching in.

The Fogies, self-proclaimed ‘leftover hippies.’ operate a 20-acre farm that includes sheep, goats, chickens and beef calves. Fogie sad she rings a bell when it’s time for chores at the Olde Fogie Farm.

At the sound of the bell, Wootz, a 7-year-old pig, comes to the main gate and waits for someone to open it and brush her, Fogie said.

‘I tell people that she has an oink button,’ she said. ‘If you know where it is and push, she grunts. Nerd is another of our pigs. When she grunts, it sounds like she’s saying Nerd. We have two llamas which kiss you’

Fogie said that guests seem to like feeding the animals, gathering eggs and brushing horses. Some sweep, but few work with the ‘dung fork because it’s heavy and dangerous work.’

Guests relax in the swimming pond with clear water, three waterfalls and giant koi, which ‘disappear’ when people get into the water.

‘Sometimes, people take their kids to Hersheypark, and the kids say the want to come back to the farm,’ Fogie said. ‘One kid wrote in our book that ‘I was at Disney World and I like this better.’ That really amazes me.’

Fogie and Tudor said that escalating gas prices don’t seem to be affecting the number of visitors they’re getting, although it may eventually mean that more visitors come from nearby.

‘Right now, we visitors from all over the East Coast and even people from California, Alaska, and Hawaii but very few from the Midwest,” Fogie said. ‘Last year, we also had guest from Russia, Australia, Taiwan, Singapore, and the United Kingdom.’

She and Tudor expect this to be a good summer with people coming to the farms for quiet, rural beauty and hearty breakfast. For more information, visit”