Experiencing the great outdoors and spending time on a real-life working farm is a great way to switch off from the modern world. Not only will you slow down, but you’ll also be amazed at how much you learn. And nothing bonds a family more than enjoying the eggs that you’ve just collected from the chickens for breakfast or milking a cow together.
While staying at a five-star resort with all mod cons can be fun, farm stays let you connect with nature and with each other. You’ll always remember the time you fed the goats, cleaned out the pig pen, picked apples, or made cheese — and then ate it on freshly baked bread. Here’s why a farm stay should be on your family milk-bucket list.
You get to slow down.
A farm stay is an easy way to slow down, discover, and disconnect — a bit or a lot, depending on what you desire. Switching off and connecting with the outdoors means stepping back from the frantic day-to-day rituals of modern life. Once you’re on a farm, you’re at the mercy of Mother Nature — and not of your smartphones, deadlines, or school runs.
You learn where food comes from.
On a working farm, you get up close to the food you eat, and sometimes you’re even involved in making it. Over the course of our farm stay weekend, our son Jett fed and milked goats, pushed a wheelbarrow around like his life depended on it, and fed horses, ducks, pigs, and turkeys. He watched a sheep get sheared and picked out an egg from the chicken coop. Woken by roosters at the crack of dawn, Jett’s first excited words were, “Can I go eat my egg now?”
Some farms have a variety of crops that kids will recognize and consume during their stay. We’re so accustomed to seeing our food neatly packaged that this immersion is a true journey of discovery. Those moments where you see the joy on your kid’s face when they come face to face with animals they only ever see in brick form on Minecraft is heart-warming. Kids learn to make the connection between plants and animals and the food they eat.
You need to work for your food.
Often on a farm, you may be able to participate in picking and harvesting the food you eat. It’s not uncommon to have the chance to go apple or pumpkin picking, as well as getting involved with crops such as tomatoes, potatoes, and squash — which are all easily recognizable to kids.
Bringing your little ones to a farm for a few days to learn about the cycle of life is more effective than spending weeks in a classroom far away from the source. Our family farm-stay experience taught our son how much work is involved in getting food to the table and encouraged him not to waste it. Even now, our son only goes for second helpings when he knows he can eat it all, and he’s more conscious about what food we are buying in the supermarket.
You spend all day with animals.
On a farm, animals are everywhere — goats, horses, chickens, pigs, dogs, cats, and even the occasional llama or two. Caring for the animals — including cleaning up poop — is a great way to show the work and love involved in keeping others comfortable and alive.
At some Western-style ranch stays, you can also go bird-watching, fishing, or cattle herding. At a couple, you can even train racehorses before sharing your animal stories around the campfire at the end of the day.
Kids play outdoors.
Depending on where you live, your kids may spend most of their time playing indoors, or have to adhere to playdates and scheduled activities like karate, dance, or music lessons. On a farm, playtime is always simple and great fun. There’s kickball, swings, baseball, swimming, boating, or biking. Plus, activities like fishing, cooking, and jam-making keep kids outside and away from screens.
You can enjoy a non-hotel experience.
Farm stays tend to have a variety of lodgings, from farmhouses to cabins, cottages, B&B accommodations, campers, or tents. They often require a little bit of flexibility, planning, and togetherness. This isn’t a room service situation where breakfast appears out of nowhere after you hang a menu on your room door the night before. You tend to make your own, and you might even share a kitchen with other families. This can be lots of fun and add to the rustic experience, especially if you end up sharing the omelette you had a hand in making happen.
It’s good, old-fashioned family fun.
There aren’t many vacations that everyone from grandparents to toddlers can enjoy, but a farm stay definitely ticks all the boxes. In a world that seems so divisive, a farm can really be a great leveler. The animals need looking after, and the food you eat comes from them. That’s it. It’s so pure.
If you’re three-years-old or 83-years-old, you’ll end up learning something. There are so many jobs to do that a well-run farm will always find something to suit all abilities. And there’s nothing better than cuddling a little chick or help shear a lamb.
You’ll learn new skills.
Many farms hold classes in anything from canning, pressing, and cooking to fiber-making, breadmaking, and cheesemaking. It’s a rich and memorable learning experience, so encourage your kids to embrace as many activities as they can. Unlike school, which is a controlled and scheduled environment, your kids won’t know they are learning. They’ll just be having a good time. The same goes for the adults too.
Farms teach responsibility.
On a working farm, it’s really important that your kids listen to the adults who are in the know and learn how to take instruction. They need to think before they act, be mindful of the land and the animals, and learn how to be responsible with tools. There’s hardly a better place than a farm to learn lessons of responsibility, attention, and care — and all while having fun.
What you need to know
You do need to be prepared to end up covered in dirt, dust, and probably a little poop as you go about business. Leave your flip flops at home, wear sensible shoes, and always remember to cover you and your family in a high factor sunscreen.
To research your own perfect farm stay, check out Farm Stay US, as they have their own accreditation standards. Their star rating system is designed to show how much of their criteria — such as safety, cleanliness, the farmer’s presence on the farm, and visitor friendliness — each farm or ranch on their site meets.