Earth’s Bounty: Vacationing on the Farm

The Allegheny Front: Environmental Radio for Western Pennsylvania | November 12, 2008

As reported by Jennifer Szweda Jordan, The Allegheny Front (Environmental Radio for Western Pennsylvania) on November 12, 2008.  The interview was previously available on-line. As that it is no longer the case, you can read the transcript below:

“OPEN: If you’ve always dreamed of life on a farm, a vacation among barns and billy goats may be for you. The Allegheny Front’s Jennifer Szweda Jordan visited a farm where chores are part of the fun for guests. It’s one piece of the agritourism movement. This story is part of our Earth’s Bounty coverage on food and the environment.

SHEPHERD: He pretty much likes anyone who feeds him.

JORDAN: This afternoon, at Weatherbury Farm Vacation, 8-year-old John Shepherd feeds fistfuls of grass to hungry goats and chases chickens. But mornings mark the highlight of Shepherd’s visit.

JOHN: Tomorrow I can’t wait to do the chores.
JORDAN: Rare words from an eight-year-old. But on this vacation, chores mean joining other kids and grownups in pumping water from 20 feet underground, plucking freshly laid eggs from under chickens in a henhouse, and feeding lambs and goats.

Nat. Sound: GOATS

TUDOR: I need some help over here. (Kid: OK) I need somebody — several people to take a milk or a water jug to those. Each of those goats needs to have their water dish filled and also they need hay.

JORDAN: Dale Tudor, aka Farmer Dale, his wife Marcy, and son Nigel, farm in a way that’s environmentally sustainable. They pass this information on to guests.

TUDOR: I try to do all my lambing and calving on grass ‘cause we’re totally grass-based on the farm. And that’s when it’s actually healthiest for the animals. We give this small amount of hand feed as a guest activity.

JORDAN: At Weatherbury, tourists come to this working farm not just to chill out but to learn stuff like this and participate. Agritourism can also be less hands-on: like shopping at roadside farm stands, watching rodeos, and sampling wine at vineyards. Experts say that, nationally, more and more people are giving farm life a try through weekend visits or doing other things on a farm. There are about 150 farms that offer lodging in Pennsylvania. Missouri-based agrimarketing consultant Jane Eckert says that slow growth in Pennsylvania’s agritourism industry may be blamed on the state.

ECKERT: I don’t think the state of Pennsylvania has embraced it — either from an agriculture point of view or tourism and it usually takes one of those two to make that happen.

JORDAN: Marcy Tudor thinks the state IS helpful enough. The state recently launched a map of agritourism sites and is funding a startup guide for farmers. At some farms, taking in lodgers supports cheesemaking or other farming businesses in tough economic times. A Pennsylvania study found about 40 percent of farmers said they couldn’t survive without a retail market, hay rides or other things to do. But Weatherbury Farm Vacation is a second career business for Marcy and Dale Tudor.

MARCY: We sort of started out like a bed and breakfast but we quickly segued into doing farm vacations. (JORDAN: How come?) We had a niche. We thought we’d take advantage of what we had and let people know about farms and farming.

JORDAN: Weatherbury’s drawn national attention. The farm’s been mentioned in a New York Times blog, in Everyday With Rachael Ray magazine, and Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel. Most agrilodging businesses welcome children. But the Tudors cater especially to youngsters. This weekend, one couple drove eight hours from near Raleigh, North Carolina, to show their daughters farming life. They must have passed a hundred farms on the way, but Karen Holland says, they’re all huge single crop operations.

HOLLAND: Our farms are like tobacco, cornfields, soybeans, stuff like that. We don’t have something like this here. (JORDAN: Why did you want to do something like this?) The girls love animals. They just love stuff like this. They really like being able to just take walks.

JORDAN: And the parents say they appreciate their time at Weatherbury too.

HOLLAND: We didn’t know what grass-fed beef meant, so we learned that. And we also didn’t know the benefits of free-range chickens, either.

JORDAN: This is just the Hollands’ first time here, but chore-loving John Shepherd is already on his second visit.

JORDAN AND SHEPHERD: Is being on a farm something you could see yourself doing when you are older? Yea because I’m really interested in animals and creatures.

JORDAN: Shepherd’s mom sucks in her breath and rolls her eyes. It’s pretty apparent she wouldn’t want this life for her son, even if it’s a great place to visit. But with 17 fish, a turtle and two frogs at his home near Cleveland, not to mention the right name for the job, Shepherd may already be well on his way to a life on the farm. The Tudors know that farming’s not every mom’s hope — it’s not always lucrative and it’s never easy work. But they hope they can inspire kids like Shepherd anyway — and maybe someday convince his mom of the value of small farming, too. For The Allegheny Front, this is Jennifer Szweda Jordan.

OUTRO: Weatherbury also offers on-farm jam sessions for musicians and others. ”