Pennsylvania Farm Vacation Association (PA Farm Stay) promotes a fun agricultural learning experience where the public can take part in as many or as few of the farm activities as they choose in a very rural, pastoral setting. It’s as close as you can get to experiencing the joys of farm life, without becoming a full time farmer. With many participating farms across Pennsylvania, every PA Farm Stay experience is truly one-of-a-kind. We chatted with Gary Schubert, PA Farm Stay member and owner of Hummerhaven Farmstead, to learn a bit more about those experiences.
Can you explain how the idea of Pennsylvania Farm Vacation Association was born?
Pennsylvania Farm Vacation Association has it’s roots back with Governor Milton Shafer administration more than 50 years ago. It was and, many times over that time span, has been part of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. I’m sure then, just as now, people liked staying on a farm, but back then there were lot’s more farms. Anyway, the story is the Ag. Dept. wanted a more organized version of farmstays and we were included under their umbrella.
With AirBnB, WorkAway, VRBO, and many more traveling and vacation services popping up these days, what does PA Farm Stay offer that no one else can offer?
We still have a few drive-in movie theaters near us and this has turned out to be a giant hit with adults, either parents or grandparents, wanting to take the young ones to a drive-in. We have an Amish community nearby who are very welcoming including one who cooks a full blown Amish meal (everything is prepared by her) for around $20 ($10 for children). We also have campfires and stargazing with storytelling almost every night, egg gathering and cow milking most every morning, and chores, which may include planting or picking. The kids love hiking and fishing. I probably have taken well over 200 children of all ages fishing for the first time (we practice catch and release). Guests have spent time looking for fossils in a giant shale hill, walking in the woods identifying mushrooms, trees, birds, and other wildlife.
So, my feelings are most bed and breakfasts give you just that, a nice bed and breakfast, then they see you go. With a PA Farm Stay, breakfast is where we’re just getting started.
As the owner of Hummerhaven Farmstead, a participating farm, can you share any personal host-visitor connection experiences that felt extra special to you?
At Hummerhaven we have hundreds of animals including many heritage breeds: chickens, ducks, geese, goats, sheep, donkeys, pigs, alpacas, and horses, including draft, regular, and mini, as well as a variety of dogs and cats. Last summer two doctors (brothers), one from upper New Jersey and one across the bridge in New York, and their families came for a daughter’s birthday (her choice). She was sitting alone at the end of our drive playing with some cats on her 8th birthday. I told her I had someone who wanted to sing happy birthday to her and I took a box of tiny kittens (barely had their eyes open) that we had rescued from several litters. Of course they were screaming to be fed.
I told her “they are singing happy birthday in kitten. Would you like to help me feed them.”
Her smile was ear to ear, but she squeezed the dropper of milk a little too hard and it came out of the kitten’s nose. We laughed so hard and, in a minute, she was a pro. Her dad snuck up behind me and I swear he had tears in his eyes and he said they had been to Disney World two months earlier and she did not have near this much fun.
Two summers ago we had a family who seemed to be enjoying themselves except a teenage boy (not the best cell phone reception or internet speed), so my daughter found a chicken egg ready to hatch and she asked him to hold it. Well, to his surprise after a lot of struggle, out popped a baby chick. His attitude changed 180 degrees and for the next two days they were inseparable.
If people are interested in doing a PA Farm Stay, what’s the first step?
- Go to the website http://pafarmstay.com/.
- Choose “Find a Farm” in the top menu.
- See what all the farms have to offer.
- Narrow it by location and/or prices.
- Call! There will be a farmer on the other line or they’ll get right back to you.
If a potential guest visited our website, they would find all our members have lots of repeat customers who post pictures and customers are often learning how fun it is to stay on a farm.
You can also find them at Philly Farm & Food Fest on Saturday, April 8, 2017 at the PA Convention Center and PF3 will be GIVING AWAY A TWO-NIGHT STAY at one of the participating farms to one lucky attendee. All ticket holders will qualify so snag your tickets today if you didn’t already.