When did life as a farmer begin for you?
What do you grow and raise?
Locker lamb for market, chickens for eggs, hay, .5 acre market garden, fruit trees, berries
What traditional methods do you use on your farm to grow your crops and/or raise your animals?
Organic, biodynamic, pasture-raised, no growth hormones or antibiotics, free range.
For those who have not yet discovered Farm Stay U.S.A, what is a Farm Stay?
Farm vacations are well known around the world but not so for many Americans. ‘Know your farmer. Know your food.’ is a current rallying cry in the U.S. as urbanites look for connections to their food and to the countryside, and farmers look for avenues to sustainability.
While farmers markets bring fresh food to the city, farm stays invite guests to stay overnight in the country and experience the lifestyle – for a night, for a weekend, or more. Where else can you milk a goat, hold a lamb, drive cattle, see the stars, or hear a rooster crow?
Farm stays are increasing in numbers around the country to match demand, but we are not all the same. Some of us are hands-on with chores; others demonstrate. Some are for families; others are adult oriented. Lodging ranges from rustic to luxury and from farm houses to tents. Breakfast may be prepared for you or the ingredients provided. Some farms offer classes in cheese making, spinning, gardening, cooking, even animal photography! Most are unstructured to allow you your own discovery. None are boring.
What a farm stay is not is a bed on a non-working farm or ranch. Rather it’s about the rural experience and putting a personal face and story to farming. It’s about meeting in the middle – farmer and guest. Everyone benefits. And, who doesn’t like that?
What was the inspiration or catalyst behind creating Farm Stay U.S.A?
I started to think about Farm Stay U.S.A as a concept in late 2008 when I realized there was no one place on the Internet to find all the U.S. farm stays. We were extremely busy at Leaping Lamb Farm and I would try to help disappointed travelers find alternatives when we were booked. It was frustrating!
I was also teaching a small business development class and decided to take the opportunity to write my own business plan. Research showed me that Europe had plenty of farm stays and plenty of support from governments promoting agritourism. Italy even had a formalized program. With 7200 farm stays in England and 5000 in France, the opportunity seemed huge in the U.S. which was way behind the eight-ball in offerings. On average 2-4% of all farms in Europe hosted guests overnight. That worked out to about 12,000 farms in the U.S. if we only captured 1% of small farms.
With a plan behind me, I realized it was easier to start with a website than to launch an association right away. I applied for and received two USDA grants (SARE and RBEG) and launched officially in June 2010. In 2014 we officially transitioned to a 501c6 trade association as the U.S. Farm Stay Association.
What is one of your family’s favorite meals to make with food grown or raised on your farm? Do you have a recipe you wish to share from your farm kitchen?
Well, lamb chops come to mind, but this is an easy one. Put them on the grill with some fresh rosemary, salt and pepper and just don’t overcook! You can always eat with mint jelly or chimichurri.
I don’t have a specific recipe for chimichurri but I do make it from scratch. I am one of those people who doesn’t really measure so here goes!
Ingredients: parsley, garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar.
Chop up a cup of parsley.
Add to this 1-2 cloves of garlic fine chopped.
Add olive oil until the parsley floats in it and mix together.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Add some (.5-1 teaspoon?) balsamic vinegar to add a little tang.
Heat in microwave for 20-30 seconds.
Best served warm (over lamb or steak). Store in refrigerator after use. Can be reused – just heat up again.
What are a couple of farm traditions your family upholds?
Everyone has a job to do but best to do what you are good at. Saves on time, frustration, and money. Don’t know if this is traditional, but we do a lot of canning in the summer/fall to last until the next season.
What inspires you to continue a farm lifestyle?
The landscape, the peace and quiet, growing our own food so we know exactly what’s in it, a good day’s work, a reason to stay fit.
You are the author of Country Grit: A Farmoir of Finding Purpose and Love released in 2017 by Skyhorse Publishing. What do you hope readers will experience when reading your first book?
I hope that readers will come away with a better understanding of the true challenges faced by small farms today. I believe as urbanites we are far removed from the countryside now that only 2% of the population live on farms. It is easy to romanticize the agrarian life and lifestyle…which is something we certainly did. We saw it as the simple life! Farming is far from simple and actually requires a huge amount of entrepreneurial spirit for success. And, success is not necessarily financial. So, the book, while poking fun at our naiveté, is also a cautionary tale. It’s not that I don’t think people should try and would benefit from the farming life, it’s just that one should be aware that the romance will only last for about a week, or in our case a day!
As far as what readers will experience, I think they will run the full gamut from laughing out loud to getting a little teary eyed. We met wonderful people; we faced huge challenges we were unprepared for; we road a roller coaster for the first five years; what we expected and what happened were totally different; a farm stay was never in our sights…until it was.
Where are you located?
20368 Honey Grove Rd, Alsea OR 97324 (25 miles west of Corvallis in the Coast Range. On the way to Waldport)
Where can people find you online?
My blog stories formed the basis of my book. (You will see I pretty much stopped in 2012!) Or, find on the Leaping Lamb Farm website (the later blogs are mostly about events on the farm – not really my ruminations on farming or adventures with livestock).