We had three hours to get the farmhouse apartment ready for our next guests. Husband Bruce volunteered to vacuum while I made the beds and took out the recycling. Farm chores were left undone, waited while we folded towels and scrubbed toilets. These were unwelcome but necessary chores that allow us to do what we love: Farm.
Cleaning is not what we want to do. Growing cattle is. Unfortunately, meat sales do not entirely cover our expenses, so we painted and remodeled half of our farmhouse and listed it on AirBNB for visitors to rent for a farm experience. Families from Australia, Germany, and even Nashua, NH have stayed with us. Tazzy, the porch pig, has welcomed them with grunts. Curious Bleu a Scottish Highlander steer has given little cowgirls and cowboys rides. The pigs have nibbled children's shoes. Visitors become “farmers for the day,” and take home farm memories to non-farm lives and jobs.
Yet visitors leave more than they can know; income to help us farm. We also hold events, birthday parties and family days on the farm; anything to attract visitors to the farm. These events don't always fit with farm operations. We exclude cattle from our best fields to protect city feet from little “surprises” sprinkled around in the grass. We mow fields that would be better left long for grazing. We let soil compacted by cars recover after every event. Events aren't always the best use of land, but they certainly help pay the bills.
When I started farming, I didn't know I would also be an event coordinator. I want to keep cattle on the farm. I want to train working steers and riding cows. I want to raise grass-fed beef and pastured pork. I want to eat what I raise, and I want to raise the happiest fat cows possible. If we divided our hilltop farm into house lots, we might become millionaires but then where would the cows live?
If the survival of the farm means that we have to host events, we will. We'll do anything; anything legal, to keep farming. I'll be a “Jack of all Trades, Master of None” to keep the farm viable. What you call "Agritourism" we call survival.
But there is hope. You can do your part to help local farms survive. Find a farmer you trust and buy from them. Get what you can from your farmer and only visit the supermarket for staples and paper goods and stuff. Do that, and you will not only be rewarded with delicious food, but the local farm will stay a farm and not house lots.
And don't forget to hug a cow and love your local farmer. Farmers are depending on you.