Dale Tudor loves
the life of a farmer, when every work day is a half day.
He just has to
choose which 12 hours he wants to work.
The joke sends a
smile across the affable man's face, but his family knows there's truth behind
the humor. The Tudors — Dale, wife Marcy and son Nigel — own and operate
Weatherbury Farm in Avella, Washington County. Though as an agritourism
destination, they occasionally have some extra help.
act of incorporating a farm-life education into a vacation or outing, has become
a trendy choice across the country in recent years. Farms offering agritourism
brought in around $700 million in 2012, a 24 percent increase over five years,
according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
has become more popular,' says Marcy Tudor, who is a manager at the Pennsylvania
Farm Vacation Association. 'It's a great opportunity for farmers who are looking
to make additional income without leaving the farm. The really nice thing is
every one is different. You can learn something different everywhere.'
In addition to the
Tudors, Weatherbury's 100 acres are home to grass-fed cows and lambs, chickens,
geese, ducks and goats.
mainly set up as a grazing farm,' says Dale Tudor, aka 'Farmer Dale.' 'The only
time one of our cows leaves the farm is as product.'
While the farm
didn't host 'haycation' stays this year, as the family got their on-site flour
mill up and running, they plan to offer the option again next summer. For one
weekend each month, June through August, visitors can get hands-on experience in
love having guests and educating people,' Marcy Tudor says.
includes breakfast around 8:30 a.m. in the dining hall, then it's off to chores.
Guests can gather eggs, work in the garden, get a lesson in cow raising from
Farmer Dale or tour the new flour mill.
entirely up to each guest.
want to come and do chores. Some just want to be on a farm, 'Marcy Tudor says.
For either group,
there's much to enjoy. Guests stay in one of three two-story suites in the barn,
featuring dark-wood floorboards and rustic ceiling beams. A second-floor deck
boasts sprawling views of the fields.
do encourage people to just relax, take a walk in the garden,' Dale Tudor says.
But for those
willing to learn, the Tudors appreciate the opportunity to enlighten. Marcy
Tudor recalls one guest who took his daughter out to the garden, where he
pointed out various vegetables. He didn't identify one correctly.
have become further and further removed from their food,' Marcy Tudor says.
“They have no idea what it is. It's really important people know where their
food comes from.'
For anyone looking
to get a little farther away from home, Lancaster County offers several farm
getaways. At Rocky Acre, a 200-year-old dairy farm, guests can feed calves,
gather eggs, milk cows, take a hayride or just enjoy the peaceful scenery from
the porch overlooking the wooded creek and rolling hills.
130-acre property is just a short drive from Hershey and Amish country, some
guests leave to explore for the day while others opt to stick around and enjoy
the farm, says Holly Noll, daughter of innkeepers Galen and Eileen Benner, who
are nearing 50 years running the business.
a lot of people come back every year,' Noll says. “We're definitely family
Some visitors opt
to put a more formal spin on the term 'agritourism.' Armstrong Farms near
Saxonburg, established in 1816, hosts weddings in its two restored barns.
most of our history, our primary focus has been raising purebred Angus cattle,'
spokeswoman Kristan Allen says. 'As our bed and breakfast and weddings have
taken off over the last 15 years, we've downsized our cattle herd and currently
raise about 250 head. We encourage guests to really enjoy our 1,000-acre farm
with unique experiences like our pasture walking trails and rustic cabin. Guests
can also bring their own horses so they can enjoy even more of the farm.'
include overnight accommodations on the farm to allow couples and their families
to fully enjoy the environment.
wedding is completely unique, and we've had everything from casual barbecues to
black-tie affairs,' Allen says.
When Nancy Zwigart
married husband Brian in May, Armstrong Farms provided the ideal location.
and I were looking for something nontraditional,' Zwigart of Sewickley says. 'We
didn't want the ‘hall feel' of a reception. We wanted something very laid back
and casual. We wanted our guests to come and party and have a good time.'
The moment she saw
the property, Zwigart knew it was a perfect match.
area is gorgeous with the open field and the barn,' she says. 'We fell in love
Some guests were a
bit skeptical about the venue at first, but all ended up adoring it, she says.
reaction from guests that night was, "This is like a movie," ' she says. 'It was
The Zwigarts went
with soft, natural decorations to stay in keeping with the farm feel. Since
their wedding, the couple started a family business, Rustic Chic Decor and More,
and partner with Armstrong Farms to help brides decorate the unique space.
a unique environment in that it's a clean slate,' she says. 'You go in and make
it whatever you want it to be. You can decorate it or leave it as is, because
it's just as gorgeous.'
Another way to get
down on the farm this time of year is through fall festivals, celebrating the
best of the season with hayrides, pumpkin patches and corn mazes. There are
several throughout the area.
Trax Farms in
Finleyville is hosting its 45th annual event on the 148-year-old farm every
weekend from Sept. 20 through Oct. 26. The festival also features live music, a
petting zoo, hot apple cider and apple dumplings. This year, guests also can
shop at Trax's craft beer store, set up in the specialty market.
The festival is a
favorite among residents in the South Hills and beyond.
'It is the biggest
thing we do here,' says Courtney Robinson, Trax advertising manager. 'By the end
of October, thousands of people have come to find their perfect pumpkin and take
a hayride.' "