Remember the movie City Slickers? Billy Crystal and his friends are unsatisfied with their mundane lives and sign themselves up for a working vacation at a ranch. You don’t need to wait for a midlife crisis before seeking out a new kind of getaway though; you just need an open mind for adventure.
A farm stay is traditionally any kind of accommodation on a working farm—but they aren’t necessarily going to work you to the bone from dusk ‘til dawn. Depending on the needs of the proprietors, your involvement can vary from very interactive to really relaxed. Either way, you’ll be surrounded by everything from farm fields and forests, to friendly animals, and good food. Staying down on the farm can also describe a work-exchange agreement. A guest might work a set number of hours a week in exchange for inexpensive accommodations.
Wikipedia credits the origin of farm stays in Europe, where they propagated as a trend in the 1980s. One of the reasons for starting a Farm Stay business is to diversify and create some dependable income while letting vacationers reconnect with some rural heritage and rediscover where their food comes from. Some spots allow families or just adults only, and some even allow you to bring pets.
Some locations, such as the following rural respites, offer year round tourism-based experiences, but others book on an as-needed or seasonal basis, so the list of available stays can vary. Consider collecting eggs in the morning before enjoying your morning cup of coffee, enjoy a big farm style breakfast, help wrangle the goats or just relax in the agricultural setting and while you craft memories in the form of new experiences and events.
Get the Stay of the Land
Alabaster Acres, Caledon
Get a little taste of farm life mixed with glamping in one of their tree luxury tents surrounded by trees. Delicious breakfasts along with playtime with pygmy goats will be part of your stay. Various workshops are also available, including gardening or homesteading. Note: don’t be surprised if you open your tent at some point during the day and see an alpaca grazing out front.
Foymount Farm and Equine Retreat, Cormac
Here’s 140 acres of farm and forest deep in the Ottawa Valley. There are two private cottages attached to the farmhouse suitable for you and it’s pet friendly (full kitchen, bathroom, and Wifi-equipped). Between self-guided walks and horse riding, there’s always something to do. If you’re feeling philanthropic in the mornings, you can assist with egg collection, feeding the horses, and help look after some of the animals.
Haute Goat, Port Hope
An excitable throng of animals await your arrival on this 200-acre farm near Port Hope. Nigerian dwarf goats, baby goats, alpacas, exotic chickens, Icelandic Horses, Tornjak Livestock Guardian Dogs, and Lucy the mule. Be sure to get a good dose of “goat shmurgle” while you’re there. Book the Alpaca Sleepover via AirBnB: rustic rest of inside the alpaca enclosure and settle into a big, comfy queen-size bed. “Big farm breakfasts included.”
Littlejohn Farm, Picton
This agritourism destination specializes in farm-to-table living and teaching guests where their food comes from. Littlejohn Farm does not do farm stays, but rather experiences, letting you take part in wine tours, workshops (learn to make sourdough, pickling and preserving, make your own charcuterie, cheese making). No matter what you choose to do here—while enjoying great food—your hosts at the Littlejohns will encourage visitors to “learn by doing and gain hands-on experience that they can take away something (knowledge and souvenirs) that they will connect with a specific memory for a lifetime.”
Texas Longhorn Guest Ranch, Strathroy
This working cattle ranch is truly a quiet place (moos excepted)—so don’t anticipate TVs, and no amplified music or pets are allowed. What you can expect from this tranquil adult-only (46-years-old plus) escape is to relax, unwind and eat well (according to one reviewer, the biscuits were rave worthy). Go horseback riding, take a ranch tour, or a dip in the Texas-sized pool. Open to guests Wednesday to Saturday nights from mid May to the end of October.
If you really want to roll up your sleeves and help make hay while the sun shines, there are also places to stay where you can earn while you learn. Workaway.info lists homeowners who are offering homestays, volunteering and working holidays in Ontario and elsewhere across the globe. The types of stays available on this site are wide ranging and just might appeal to the working wanderer.
Stays are categorized under types of stays, including cultural exchanges, language exchanges, sustainable projects, and more. The host will also include if they’re offering payment, and the minimum time they request that you commit to working with them.
For example, maybe you’ve got horse training experience and could find yourself assisting on a farm in the Ottawa Valley. Help out a family farm near Cobourg by assisting if you’ve got carpentry experience. Suit yourself up on a 40-acre hobby farm and take part in gardening, farming, painting, and chicken processing. Over on Weslemkoon Lake a family’s looking for help with their cottage garden during the spring, summer, and fall. Another property owner is looking for help in May 2022 on their island cottage property in Muskoka.
There’s a fee to sign up: $56 per year per couple, or $44 per person.
Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF)—another outlet for opportunities—is connects visitors with organic farmers, as a way to promote a cultural and educational exchange. In order to have WWOOF, they request that you register online: create an account and pay the $55 fee for one, or $80 for a joint account. It’s valid for one year from when you register and remember: because this is an educational and cultural exchange, WWOOF hosts don’t offer stipends or other monetary compensation.
You can be as choosey as you want when searching for a place to go. For instance, you can look for farms that are certified organic, WWOOFing with kids in the mix, opportunities for winter WWOOFing, or at a farm stay/work experience is on a farm with pets and animals.
So, have you booked your working vacation yet? The opportunities do seem endless.