Work­ing Va­ca­tion

This travel des­ti­na­tion has lambs—and the chance to gather eggs for break­fast.

Farm & Ranch Living - - GRASSROOT VENTURES - BY SCOT­TIE JONES

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).

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