This travel destination has lambs—and the chance to gather eggs for breakfast.
wasn’t born to be a farmer. I think, as a child growing up in suburbia, I might have dreamed of life as a cowgirl on the open range, but not as a sheep farmer in a slot valley of Oregon’s coast range. My husband, Greg, landed us here. But he’s not entirely to blame. I was right by his side, ready to dig into the romance of living off the land.
We were searching for the cool, moist green of Alsea as we ran from the urban sprawl of Phoenix. The ideal of a rural, sustainable life appealed to us, and the farm we found on the internet had the most magnificent old barn. The romance lasted right up until the first pipe broke in our extensive irrigation system, blasting me with cold water from our mountain creek. Or maybe it faded the first morning our dogs tried to kill the rooster. Whatever lifted the veil, it did so within days of our arrival at our new home.
We moved in June, and by the end of our first summer, we had dealt with livestock births, escapes and deaths; tractor breakdowns; and daily irrigation woes. We had also met most of our neighbors, who tried to help where they could. Where they couldn’t, they offered advice over a cold beer. I knew friends were making bets, both back home in Arizona and right in our little community, about how long we would last.
They shouldn’t have bet against me, even though our learning curve
Ifor farming was steep. And it wasn’t all about how to do things. For us it was also about how to be sustainable without dipping into our retirement. The profit from the sale of 40 locker lambs and 5 tons of excess hay a year didn’t cover the farm’s repairs and upkeep. That desperation led to an aha moment: Our family and friends loved to visit our farm so much, sometimes it felt as if we ran a dude ranch during the summer.
What would happen if we charged guests—not family—interested in staying on a farm? We had a cottage, ostensibly waiting for our youngest daughter to return after college, but we reasoned she could just as well stay in the farmhouse with us. I had brought hospitality and marketing experience with me to the farm, but I’d had no use for it tending sheep. We had all the lemons—now was the time to make lemonade.
So I began my foray into the farm-stay business, the practice of offering overnight lodging to paying guests interested in vacationing on a farm. The concept had revitalized many rural farming communities in Europe, where tens of thousands of farms welcomed vacationers. But only a handful in the U.S. had tried something similar when Leaping Lamb Farm Stay opened in 2006. We have never looked back.
We started with our full-service cottage: two bedrooms, one bath, a living room-kitchen setup, a deck and a killer view over the hayfield. Ten years later, we added our 1895 farmhouse with its five bedrooms, three baths, large kitchen, dining room, living room and a deck overlooking the orchard. Greg and I moved to a smaller house on the
Greg and Scottie Jones (in barn) opened Leaping Lamb Farm Stay in 2006 to overnight guests—and frequently, their grandson, Henry (far left).