Farmstays becoming a mainstay in vacationing, rural Virginia
Alta Jones, proprietor of AltaTerra Farm Bed and Breakfast in Loudoun County, said farmers in England and the U.S. have discovered a market for the opportunity to spend time on farms. She said it creates a unique experience, which is important to many people and their families on vacations.
“This is not a beginning farmer training; it is sharing the farm activities with guests,” Jones explained. “Some farms allow guests to harvest eggs, vegetable or herb garden products or fish in the farm pond. Some offer cooking lessons for farm-to-table, art or photography lessons and more.”
Danny Johnson of Bedford County owns Elmo’s Rest, which open in 1986 and is a vacation rental house on a working farm.
“Things have changed a lot during that time,” Johnson said. “We did not have air conditioning or television then, and people loved it. They wanted to get away from television and wade in the creeks, fish, walk in the woods or read and enjoy the quiet.”
Elmo’s Rest sits amid Peaks of Otter Winery and Johnson’s Orchard. Johnson said vacationers love coming to pick fresh fruit, fish and enjoy other farm experiences, including the farm animals. The house is surrounded by llamas, pigs, donkeys, chickens, turkeys, a peacock, rabbits and cattle that guests can feed. With a winery on the property, there also is plenty of wine to purchase.
Roslyn Farm & Vineyard owners Richard Fox II and Alexia Richards of Albemarle County have been promoting their farm bed and breakfast on Airbnb since 2015. They’ve hosted about 2,500 guests, some from as far away as the Czech Republic, China, Liberia, Iraq and Sudan.
“This has been wonderful, because it helps us diversify farm revenue and brings excited customers directly to us, giving us the chance to highlight both our products and passion for what we do,” Richards explained.
Guests can cook meals in the kitchen and have access to farm-fresh chicken and duck eggs. During the spring and summer there are fresh microgreens, tomatoes and corn.
Guests are able to interact with cows, chickens, ducks, goats and horses on the farm. Richards also teaches horseback riding and offers both riding lessons and a summer riding program.
She said many of the people who come have never experienced a farm, ridden a horse or seen livestock in person. “Many come from big cities and different paces of life. Our guests get so excited about the animals. They walk around the farm, pet the animals or help us with the chickens and goats. It’s amazing to see their reactions.”
To explore a working Virginia farm for a day, visit the state’s tourism website at virginia.org/visitafarm, or for a longer stay, go to: virginia.org/farmstays.