Rural Reprieve

Experience Life Magazine | October 2008

As reported by Laurel Kallenbach, in Experience Life Magazine  October 2008:

“.. Barnyard Lessons
Once the backbone of American agriculture, small-scale, nonindustrial, self-supporting farms have become an endangered species. But today, many food experts suggest that preserving such independently owned and operated farms — and buying local food systems going forward — is essential to stabilizing and securing our country’s future food supply…

‘The growing agritourism trend helps us — and a lot of other farmers — keep operating,’ says Marcy Tudor, president of the Pennsylvania Farm Vacation Association and the owner of Weatherbury Farm, southwest of Pittsburgh. She and her husband, ‘Farmer Dale,’ raise grass-fed beef and lamb and teach guests about farming — and invite them to help with chores.

Farm tourism’s value extends to education, as 48-year-old University of Pittsburgh professor Joan Vondra, PhD, can attest. She and her daughters, Miranda and Erica, have visited Weatherbury Farm for each of the past nine summers. ‘My own childhood visits to my grandparents’ farm were idyllic,’ she recalls. ‘Farm-stay weekends give my kids those memories, plus hands-on experience.’

Each morning, after waking up in one of the restored historic farm buildings, the girls accompany Farmer Dale to feed goats, sheep, cows and fowl.’ When the girls were little, they were cautious about feeding calves and lambs from a bottle, so I got to help,’ says Vondra. ‘Now that they’re 12 and 15, they do everything themselves.’

The girls observe firsthand the food cycle, which influences their lifestyle choices (both are vegetarians). ‘They’re always proud that they collected the eggs we eat for breakfast every day,’ says Vondra. After chores, the family relaxes, swims in the pool, and walks or runs the country roads. ‘It’s pleasant following a routine governed by the sun and the needs of the animals,’ says Vondra. ‘Weatherbury Farm is my kids’ dream come true.’ ”