Fun down on the Farm

The Review (Uniontown PA) | September 1999

As reported by Joanna Blair in The Review (Uniontown), September 1999:

” Vacations are designed to take people from their every-day activities to experience something out of the ordinary. Farm vacations, a chance to experience the world of agriculture, is growing in popularity.
Member farms in the Pennsylvania Farm Vacation Association offer a variety of locations, rates and accommodations throughout the state.
The VonQualen family of Gardner, Ill. recently spent their time at award-winning Weatherbury Farm, located in the rural southwestern community of Avella in Washington County.
‘I was looking for a nice quiet place to stay that the kids could have as much of an experience with animals as they wanted considering how young they are,’ said Kathy VonQualen. ‘It’s been great. Christian (age 2) had been looking forward to going out and feeding the animals every morning.’
In the past, the VonQualens have spent their vacations tent camping, either in Wisconsin or Michigan.
‘This year I really wanted a different vacation and a different location,’ said VonQualen, a primary school teacher. ‘We figured the kids are a little too young to west to the mountains, which would require more active hiking.
Both VonQualen and her husband, Ken, lived on farms while growing up. However, their children, Christian, and sister Brittany, age 1, can only experience farm life by taking a vacation such as the one they recently experienced.
‘We’ll definitely be coming back,’ said VonQualen. ‘Right,’ chimed in son Christian.
Vacation-life on the farm can be as active or as quiet as the family chooses. it begins for the guests with a typical farm breakfast of eggs, pancakes or coffee cake, juice, milk and coffee. The family is on their own for the remaining meals each day. The VonQualens took advantage of local restaurants and even packed a picnic lunch one day.
Getting lots of pictures to take back home was the goal for VonQualen, who will be teaching a unit on agriculture in the fall.
‘The pictures will fit perfectly into the class,’ she said.
Weatherbury Farm is owned and operated by Marcy and Dale Tudor with help from their son, Nigel.
‘We bought the farm with a Bed and Breakfast in mind,’ said Marcy Tudor.
The idea came through their experience of living in Germany at one time.
‘The wonderful thing about living in Germany was getting six weeks vacation so we got to travel,’ said Tudor. ‘We stayed in lots of wonderful pensiones, guest houses and bed and breakfast places. We decided we’d like to find an old house with 10 acres, and we found an old house with 100 acres.’
Currently in its seventh year of operation as a bed and breakfast, Weatherbury is primarily an active cow-calf operation with a small herd of Scottish Highland Cattle, a flock of registered Southdown sheep and a beginning flock of bantam chickens. Hay is raised on 50 acres and the animals are rotated on the other 50-plus acres of pasture.
According to Tudor, historically the farm has been a sheep operation dating back to about 1860.
‘Weatherbury Farm is the setting of Thomas Hardy’s novel, ‘Far from the Madding Crowd,” said Tudor. ‘We chose the name to emphasize that the farm, while onl9y 20 miles from the hustle and bustle of Pittsburgh, is a place apart, where life passes at a different pace, slower, somehow richer.’
Preparing breakfast for guests is a family effort, explained Tudor. Her son makes the pancakes, her husband prepares the coffee and juice while Tudor makes the eggs.
‘That’s when we’re all here,’ she quipped. ‘However, there are days when I’m here alone to do it all.’
With the exception of the garage, the ‘new’ milk house (circa 1950) and the metal storage shed in the barnyard (circa 190), the outbuildings exist as they were in the 1920s.
The summer kitchen, with its walk-in fireplace, was once used as a wash house, sewing room and for storage. It was renovated into two guest rooms in 1998.
Tudor said the farmhouse was built around 1870, with the addition of the kitchen, bathroom and two bedrooms made in the 1910s. Since purchasing the farm 13 years ago, the Tudors have worked on interior restoration, keeping as much of the past intact as possible.
While exterior restoration will continue, the family dismantled an old livery stable that was located in Washington. Plans are to restore the stable on the farm as three suites and a handicapped accessible room. The bottom floor will offer a breakfast location for guests and room for receptions and meetings.
Also in the planning stage is the possibility of a Weather Farm Folk Fest in June 2000. it would combine both folk art and music with workshops, concerts and demonstrations.
‘We keep trying to find different things that will attract guests,’ said Tudor.
All guests are presented with an information packet. For children, the packet includes an official farm kid workbook designed by Marcy Tudor and the official Weatherbury farm kid worksheet.
‘The packet provides an enjoyable learning experience about farming and involves the children in farm chores,’ she explained. ‘All the children receive an official Weatherbury Farm Kid Certificate suitable for framing.’
Besides sharing in the operation of the farm and bed and breakfast, Tudor is president of the Pennsylvania Farm Vacation Association and a member of the boards of the Washington County Tourist Promotion Agency and the Pennsylvania Travel Council.
‘Tourism is Pennsylvania is very important,’ said Tudor.
‘This project provides an opportunity both for city slickers who don’t know anything about farms and for the farmers who are looking for another way to make money.’