May 20, 2010 -- Have your milk and meet the cow too at one of the many farm stays across America. And there's no better time than now, as the local food movement intensifies and more and more people want to connect what grows in the field to what winds up on their fork. Farmers producing everything from flowers to fleece are opening their barn doors to give experience seekers the chance to escape the city and spend a night or two down on the farm.
Farm stays run the gamut from rustic, down-and-dirty digs to peaceful, even luxurious, country retreats. Here are 10 great places to hit the hay for different types of travelers:
Great for Localvores… Liberty Hill Farm Inn (Rochester, Vermont)
Nothing says Vermont like a bright red barn on a hill and a pasture of Holstein dairy cows. And few farms are as idyllic as Liberty Hill. For years, Beth Kennett has invited a wide range of visitors into her home, including families, older folks, and young couples wanting to connect to their food source. Anyone can give a hand with milking cows or helping to prepare fields for planting. When it's time for a break, many take scenic drives up Route 100 to sample Vermont cheeses, such as those from Cabot Creamery where Liberty Hill supplies milk. The 1825 farmhouse has seven country guest rooms, and Beth cooks family-style breakfasts and dinners with local and seasonal foods: Think baked oatmeal with maple syrup and fresh rhubarb pie.
$90 per adult, per night ($50 per child); open year-round; libertyhillfarm.com
Great for Families… Hull-O Farms (Durham, New York)
Bottle-feeding baby calves and nanny goats. Collecting just-laid eggs. Playing with puppies and barn kittens. Is this farm school or kid heaven? At Hull-O, the answer is both. Families of all ages can experience country life in the Catskills at this historic farm founded in 1779 by the Hull family. After a day of hands-on EdVenture, kids can enjoy a hayride in the fields or romp through a late-summer corn maze. Farmer Frank and his wife Sherry Hull serve homemade dinners in the farmhouse and end evenings with toasted marshmallows around a bonfire. After spending the night in one of three private guest houses, guests wake every morning to farm-fresh breakfasts like buttermilk pancakes with real maple syrup and sweet cream butter.
$130 per adult, per night ($50-$75 for kids 2-14); open May 15 – October 31; hull-o.com
Great for Couples… Abbey Road Farm Bed & Breakfast (Carlton, Oregon)
Seeking a different pace of life, owners John and Judi Stuart left Las Vegas behind and brought the best of their hospitality know-how to Abbey Road Farm, set in the heart of wine country in Oregon's Willamette Valley. Modeled after European agritourism establishments, the farm integrates local food, wine, arts, and culture, creating an environment where aspiring oenophiles can taste some of the world's finest pinot noirs by day and enjoy music at an outdoor concert pavilion by night. And this is not your grandfather's farm experience. Set in a converted silo, the circular guestrooms are designed for comfort, with plush king beds, Jacuzzi tubs, and radiant floor heat. Guests can choose trips to nearby wineries and restaurants with help from the farm's concierge service, or stay back to assist with low impact chores or learn to make goat cheese.
$160-$210 per room, per night; open year-round; abbeyroadfarm.com
Great for Animal Lovers… Farm Sanctuary (Watkins Glen, New York)
As a nonprofit, Farm Sanctuary's priority is ensuring the happiness and well-being of more than 500 rescued farm animals, many of whom survived untold horrors from abuse or neglect. But that doesn't mean human guests get left out in the cold. Overnight visitors to the upstate New York farm can stay in comfortable red cabins with double beds, basic furniture, and stunning views of the countryside. They're also treated to a healthy continental vegan breakfast, which the pigs and chickens more than appreciate. Those who come can help make a difference in these animals' lives by volunteering on the farm, or they can simply take a free tour and meet the residents. The Sanctuary's second location in Orland, California, also welcomes visitors.
$85-$115 per night members ($95-$125 non-members); open May – October; farmsanctuary.org
Great for Beach Bums… North Country Farms (Kilauea, Kauai, Hawaii)
When most people picture a Hawaiian vacation, they think of sand and surf. But the islands are also big on agriculture. North Country Farms, located on Kauai's north shore, combines the best of everything on its three acres of gardens and orchards. While guests can enjoy complimentary beach chairs and boogie boards, they're also encouraged to pick their own organic fruits and vegetables, including oriental steaming greens, bananas, and of course, pineapples. Hand-crafted wooden cottages blend in with the farm's tropical setting, and come with kitchenettes for indoor cooking and lanais for barbequing. Guests will also find a breakfast basket filled with coffee and tea, granola, and muffins. Observe farmhands in action or laze in a hammock. It's all good at North Country.
$150 per cottage, per night; open year-round; northcountryfarms.com
Great for Luxury Seekers… Blackberry Farm (Walland, Tennessee)
For the ultimate country experience, albeit not necessarily the get-your-hands-dirty kind, Blackberry Farm has created a consummate union between a working farm and a top-notch resort in the foothills of the Great Smokey Mountains. The Relais & Chateaux property is a feast for the senses, where artisans like the cheese maker and preservationist (a.k.a. jam lady) supply homemade ingredients to onsite chefs. When not busy with equestrian outings or renewing at the Farmhouse Spa, guests can study with these masters, tracing the path food takes from farm to plate. Accommodations range from estate rooms to multi-bedroom cottages, and are packed with amenities like feather beds and plush robes. While pricey, stays include pantry snacks and three meals per day at one of two restaurants serving Southern "Foothills" cuisine.
$795-$4,500 per room, per night; open year-round; blackberryfarm.com
Great for Nature Lovers… Pagett Farm (Palermo, Maine)
When you want to get close to nature, nothing gets you closer than camping on a Maine wildlife refuge. Committed to sustainable living and the environment, Pagett Farm's 12' by 14' platform tents provide creature comforts to campers while preserving wild creatures' natural habitats. Tents are outfitted with queen-sized beds, handmade quilts, and propane fireplaces, along with running water and composting toilets. When you're not out exploring nature trails or bird watching, you're welcome to work on the 63-acre organic farm by tending chickens and turkeys or harvesting wild blueberries. A self-proclaimed "tent and breakfast," the farm, located about 25 miles east of Augusta, serves up morning fare like pancakes with maple syrup from the grounds or homemade granola.
$149 per one or two adults, per night; open Memorial Day – Columbus Day; pagettfarm.com
Great for Knitters… Juniper Moon Farm (Palmyra, Virginia)
Wannabe shepherds can get all warm and fuzzy at Juniper Moon near Charlottesville, a no-kill farm occupied by lovable sheepdogs and a flock of some of the woolliest sheep and goats around. Owner Susan Gibbs raises her flock for fleece rather than for food, and has built a craft room equipped with weaving looms and spinning machines for guests to knit sweaters or scarves on the spot. Those wanting to keep the skeins coming post-departure can buy a share of the farm's Yarn CSA. The less crafty are welcome to help out with feeding the animals or hoof trimming. Two guestrooms with views of the pastures are available in the three-year-old farmhouse, and stays include all meals.
$750 per person for three nights; open year-round; fiberfarm.com
Great for Environmentalists… S&S Homestead Farm (Lopez Island, Washington)
S&S Homestead, tucked away in the San Juan Islands, is more than a farm. It's also an educational center for sustainable agriculture. The 50-acre biodynamic, self-sufficient farm produces food by honoring nature's rhythms and cycles, while also focusing on ecology and energy. Many come just to escape urban life, while others get involved in daily activities like making butter and cheese or harvesting hay. Guests can also go on farm tours or take classes in sustainable living and food preservation. An onsite studio apartment with bathrooms and basic cooking facilities sleeps one or two people, and a straw bale bunkhouse can accommodate up to four. Farmers Henning and Elizabeth Sehmsdorf welcome visitors for dinner, but meals cost extra.
$150 per room for two nights; open year-round; sshomestead.org
Great for Food Enthusiasts… Philo Apple Farm (Philo, California)
While most farms produce things to eat, true food lovers will doubly appreciate the labors of Tim and Karen Bates, who run this small working orchard in Anderson Valley, California. Their family, which originally owned the famous French Laundry restaurant in the Napa Valley, sought to leave the fray and purchased this apple farm over 20 years ago. Though much of the land is used as a commercial orchard, visitors can sleep in airy cottages among the fruit trees and learn old family recipes at the farm's cooking school. Guests can spend the days gathering eggs or herbs for class, or just hang out. Stays come with a simple breakfast served with the farm's own juices and jams.
$175-$250 per room, per night; main season February through Thanksgiving; philoapplefarm.com
This work is the opinion of the columnist and does not reflect the opinion of ABC News.
Anne Banas is the executive editor of SmarterTravel, as well as a columnist, and a frequently quoted observer of travel trends and issues. Anne particularly enjoys helping travelers find great deals to both popular and up-and-coming destinations. SmarterTravel provides expert, unbiased information on timely travel deals, the best value destinations, and money-saving travel tips.