Promoting Farm Fun

Westsylvania | Spring 2005

As reported by Jerilynn Schumacker, in the Westslyvania Magazine, Spring 2005:

” Marcy Tudor welcomes about 600 guests a year to her family’s 102-acre Weatherbury Farm in Avella, Pa., about a 45-minute drive north of Pittsburgh. The way she sees it, the experiences that she and her husband, Dale, offer are meaningful–especially for youngsters.

‘When I grew up, my grandparents lived on a farm,’ says Tudor, who is the president of the 25-member Pennsylvania Farm Vacation Association. ‘Grandparents don’t live on the farm anymore. I think it’s really important for kids to experience that part of their heritage and to find out that food doesn’t come from the grocery store.’

Children staying at Weatherbury Farm can wander through meadows and gardens. They can come nose to nose with cows, chickens and sheep. ‘Farmer Dale’ teaches them about different pieces of farm equipment, though, because of liability, they don’t get to operate any.

While some of the Farm Vacation Association’s members scattered around the state raise dairy and beef cattle, others tend to more unusual creatures, such as bison, elk, llamas and potbelly pigs. The association attempts to raise awareness of farm-stay opportunities through press releases, a Web site and brochures.

Visitors who chose to head for the rural hills may find themselves enjoying golfing, stargazing, hiking, antiquing, horseback riding, hunting or fishing on or near their temporary farmsteads.

‘All of our farms are different and that’s what’s great about them,’ says Marcy Tudor, who’s been an association member for 13 years.

‘What they have is very unique in the whole tourism industry, ‘ says Brant Bickel, who is chief of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s brand new Division of Economic Development and Agri Tourism.

Besides farm stays, the state is also trying to raise visitor awareness of county fairs, farm markets, wineries and other agriculturally oriented businesses. It’s also offering new state grants and low interest loan programs to farmers who may want to start agri-business ventures or expand their present operations.

Farm Vacation Association members who’ve reported back to Bickel average about 500 visitors per year–a small number to the hotel and motel industry, but very important to families seeking a way to augment their farm income.

Accommodations vary from rooms in bed and breakfasts to separate cabins and homes built as far back as the 1700s. The Tudors, for instance, have just finished moving a century-old barn from Washington, Pa., to their land. The structure has been remodeled into three, two-story suites. It joins the two rooms and summer kitchen already available to guests.

Prices at Weatherbury start at about $83 per night per couple, depending upon the accommodations. Each additional person is $12.65 per night. Visitors tend to stay two or three days, according to Tudor. And couples usually bring two or three children to roam the farm.

‘We mainly cater to families,’ says Tudor. ”