Getaway ‘haycations’ turn families into farmhands

Pittsburgh Tribune Review | April 26, 2011

As reported by Kellie Gormly in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review on  April 26 2011 and on-line at

“…Farm vacations — often called ‘haycations’ — give people a break from the bustle of city life, and a chance to pack up the kids and enjoy a down-home night or two out on a farm. Pennsylvania, California and Vermont lead the nation in ‘haycation’ destinations, according to the database at Pennsylvania even has its own organization for haycations: the Pennsylvania Farm Vacation Association.

Southwestern Pennsylvania farms interviewed report that visitors come in from all over the country, sometimes for less than $100 per night.

‘I think the scenery has a lot to do with it,’ says Eric Cowden. He is the marketing manager for fairs and agritourism for the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. ‘And we are such a short-distance drive from over half of the U.S. population.”‘The family farm has become rarer over the years, Cowden says, and guests have a great opportunity to experience one through a haycation and learn a lot about agriculture.

‘They are certainly wanting to have their children and themselves … experience what the generation before them experienced,’ he says.

‘I think that the farm stay gives the nonagricultural public an appreciation for their food and fiber, and where it comes from,’ Cowden says.

Along with the nice escape into the countryside, taking a farm vacation educates visitors, says Marcy Tudor. She is one of the owners of Weatherbury Farm, which raises cows and sheep for meat in Avella, Washington County.

‘Our whole mission here is to educate folks about farms and agriculture and where their food comes from,’ she says. ‘It’s amazing how many people, especially children, think their eggs come in Styrofoam containers at the supermarket.’

About 95 percent of the guests at Weatherbury Farm are families, including grandparents, and they can stay at the farm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights during June, July and August, Tudor says. Guests stay in a barn that has been converted into a house. (Weatherbury note: actually three two story town houses). The haycations here offer mostly unstructured time for guests to escape and relax, although they help with some farm chores — like pumping water, feeding the goats and collecting chicken eggs — after a hearty, home-grown breakfast with Weatherbury chicken eggs, and grains and vegetables from the fields.

‘I think it’s great for children,’ says Tudor, whose grandmother lived on a farm. ‘Most of them have never seen a farm animal up close and personal. … It’s just a wonderful experience to be out in the country and hear the chickens and sheep and cows.’… ”

(Weatherbury note: Chores happen daily after breakfast and last about an hour. After chores families can enjoy life on the farm.  Many families have fun watching (from a distance, of course) Farmer Dale & Farmer Nigel at work in the fields. Or sometimes (more often than we like), they may be working on keeping our farm equipment in good running order.  Some families like to get their hands dirty and help Marcy weed the garden! Some families  choose to also visit nearby attractions during their stay. Most families, however, enjoy the opportunity to kick back and relax on the farm and enjoy life in the slow lane. Children visiting during farm vacation weekends are invited to participate in our Weatherbury Farm Kids Program)