DURHAM, N.Y. -- Agritourism — the family fun that comes from the intersection of agriculture and tourism — is growing in both popularity and availability. Staying on a farm is not only an educational experience, but a truly unique and interesting one that the whole family can enjoy.
For many, farming was the way our ancestors made a living, and quite a few Americans today farm full time. Family farms, however, are fast going the way of horse drawn carriages and mechanical watches — it gets harder every year for them to survive. Enter agritourism. Not only does this help family farms stay afloat, but also gives today’s families and children insight to the inner workings of farm life, rural living and a whole day being outside — without a video game in sight.
We recently took such a trip to Hull-O Farms in the Catskills of upstate New York. This is not a petting zoo — you can actually take part in farm chores. You will learn to milk a cow, feed the chickens, find the eggs from the coop, bottle feed baby goats and more. The family is the sixth generation of farmers who have lived on the property. Mr. Hull (aka “Farmer Frank”) was born in a room right by the kitchen.
Your family stays in a guest house on farm property, eating breakfast and dinner made with fresh farm ingredients prepared by Mrs. Hull, who prides herself on her pancakes, and with good reason. She has produced a cookbook, sharing some of her secrets with readers (though she refuses to share her pancake recipe). Farmer Frank has spent years perfecting his sausage patties — yes, made from scratch. You know where your food comes from at Hull-O Farms.
We spent quite a bit of time with Farmer George, a hired hand. His patience with the children and guidance were greatly appreciated, as we “city folk” had never fed baby goats before nor had we cast a fishing line in a very long time. My son, being only 5, was slow and clumsy, but George was patient, calm and gentle with him, letting him make mistakes to learn from them.
My son learned the right way to hold a bottle, how to feed pigs, where eggs come from and why they come out white or brown. He met some animal friends, including a large white turkey named Frick. He was enthralled with the farm experience, so much that he is still asking when we will return.
We had some downtime from farm chores and were able to go fishing with Farmer George and participate in a sunset sing-a-long and s’mores roast with the other guests while local musician Greg Stewart plucked at his guitar.
Giving your children the experience of being outdoors, as well as working with and having hands-on time with animals and farm chores, are experiences that are lacking today. Being able to look out your window and see cows grazing is a treat for any child not used to it — and, I must admit, for parents as well.
• Information: 518-239-6950, www.hull-o.com. Open Memorial Day through Oct. 31. Two-night minimum. Charges are per-person, per-night, and include breakfast and dinner daily. Child rates range from $50 to $80, depending on age (under age 2 are free); adults are $140.