" Vacations are designed to take people from their every-day activities to
experience something out of the ordinary. Farm vacations, a chance to experience
the world of agriculture, is growing in popularity.
Member farms in the Pennsylvania Farm Vacation Association offer a variety of
locations, rates and accommodations throughout
The VonQualen family of Gardner, Ill. recently spent their
time at award-winning Weatherbury Farm, located in the rural southwestern community
of Avella in Washington County.
'I was looking for a nice quiet place to stay
that the kids could have as much of an experience with animals as they wanted
considering how young they are,' said Kathy VonQualen. 'It's been great.
Christian (age 2) had been looking forward to going out and feeding the
animals every morning.'
In the past, the VonQualens have spent their vacations
tent camping, either in Wisconsin or Michigan.
'This year I really wanted a different vacation
and a different location,' said VonQualen, a primary school teacher. 'We
figured the kids are a little too young to west to the mountains, which would
require more active hiking.
Both VonQualen and her husband, Ken, lived on farms while growing up. However, their children, Christian,
and sister Brittany, age 1, can only experience farm life by taking a vacation
such as the one they recently experienced.
'We'll definitely be coming back,' said VonQualen. 'Right,' chimed in son
Vacation-life on the farm can be as active or as quiet as the family chooses.
it begins for the guests with a typical farm breakfast of eggs, pancakes or
coffee cake, juice, milk and coffee. The family is on their own for the
remaining meals each day. The VonQualens took advantage of local
restaurants and even packed a picnic lunch one day.
Getting lots of pictures to take back home was the goal for VonQualen, who
will be teaching a unit on agriculture in the fall.
'The pictures will fit perfectly into the class,' she said.
Weatherbury Farm is owned and operated by Marcy and Dale Tudor with help from
their son, Nigel.
'We bought the farm with a Bed and Breakfast in mind,'
said Marcy Tudor.
The idea came through their experience of living in Germany at one time.
'The wonderful thing about living in Germany was getting six weeks vacation so
we got to travel,' said Tudor. 'We stayed in lots of wonderful pensiones,
guest houses and bed and breakfast places. We decided we'd like to find an old
house with 10 acres, and we found an old house with 100 acres.'
Currently in its seventh year of operation as a bed and breakfast, Weatherbury
is primarily an active cow-calf operation with a small herd of Scottish
Highland Cattle, a flock of registered Southdown sheep and a beginning flock
of bantam chickens. Hay is raised on 50 acres and the animals are rotated on
the other 50-plus acres of pasture.
According to Tudor, historically the farm has been a sheep operation dating
back to about 1860.
'Weatherbury Farm is the setting of Thomas Hardy's novel, 'Far from the
Madding Crowd,'' said Tudor. 'We chose the name to emphasize that the farm,
while onl9y 20 miles from the hustle and bustle of Pittsburgh, is a place
apart, where life passes at a different pace, slower, somehow richer.'
Preparing breakfast for guests is a family effort, explained Tudor. Her son
makes the pancakes, her husband prepares the
coffee and juice while Tudor makes the eggs.
'That's when we're all here,' she quipped. 'However, there are days when I'm
here alone to do it all.'
With the exception of the garage, the 'new' milk house (circa 1950) and the
metal storage shed in the barnyard (circa 190), the outbuildings exist as they
were in the 1920s.
The summer kitchen, with its walk-in fireplace, was once used as a wash house,
sewing room and for storage. It was renovated into two guest rooms in 1998.
Tudor said the farmhouse was built around 1870, with the addition of the
kitchen, bathroom and two bedrooms made in the 1910s. Since purchasing the
farm 13 years ago, the Tudors have worked on interior restoration, keeping as
much of the past intact as possible.
While exterior restoration will continue, the family dismantled an old livery
stable that was located in Washington. Plans are to restore the stable on the
farm as three suites and a handicapped accessible room. The bottom floor will
offer a breakfast location for guests and room for receptions and meetings.
Also in the planning stage is the possibility of a Weather Farm Folk Fest in
June 2000. it would combine both folk art and music with workshops, concerts
'We keep trying to find different things that will attract guests,' said
All guests are presented with an information packet. For children, the packet
includes an official farm kid workbook designed by Marcy Tudor and the
official Weatherbury farm kid worksheet.
'The packet provides an enjoyable learning experience about farming and
involves the children in farm chores,' she explained. 'All the children
receive an official Weatherbury Farm Kid Certificate suitable for framing.'
Besides sharing in the operation of the farm and bed and breakfast, Tudor is
president of the Pennsylvania Farm Vacation Association and a member of the
boards of the Washington County Tourist
Promotion Agency and the Pennsylvania Travel Council.
'Tourism is Pennsylvania is very important,' said Tudor.
'This project provides an opportunity both for city slickers
who don't know anything about farms and for the farmers who are looking for
another way to make money.'