Expert touts tourists' farming fascination
Extra revenue stream helps keep family operation profitable
By JOHN SCHMITZ
For the Capital Press
ALSEA, Ore. -- Those attending the Willamette Valley Ag Expo could very well walk away with a whole new way of thinking about how to earn extra money on their farm or ranch.
"Do you actually think people would pay to stay on my farm?" is a question that guest speaker Scottie Jones of Alsea, Ore., gets a lot. Her answer is a resounding "Yes."
And she's got the numbers to prove it.
After moving to Oregon from Arizona in 2003, Jones and her husband, Greg, have turned part of their farm in the forested Oregon Coast Range into a countrified version of a bed and breakfast that draws city folk, mostly families, from as far away as Los Angeles and Texas.
What's remarkable about Jones, who knew nothing about farming until she moved to Oregon, is that she not only established a lambing operation, called Leaping Lamb Farm, but is also shepherding a website that tells farmers and ranchers around the country about a program called Farm Stay US.
"I help farms and ranches come up with the hoops they need to jump through to add lodging to their operations," Jones said.
The Farm Stay US website also gives the names of hundreds of farms around the country that now welcome guests.
In addition, the website lets visitors search for the type of farming activities they want to do, such as milking cows and collecting eggs.
As is the case with many farm stays, guests, most of whom are professional people, are invited to help out on the farm, a feature that kids especially enjoy.
Jones said she and her husband were "naive" about the income they could make when they first moved onto the farm.
"Once I realized the farm was costing us money to live here, I looked around for other opportunities," she said.
One obstacle she faced was that Benton County zoning officials didn't know what farm stays were, she said. The Joneses had to obtain a conditional-use permit to build the cabin where visitors stay.
Jones will speak Wednesday, Nov. 17, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the expo. "(Jones) is a great person and a wonderful resource for the OSU Extension Service," said Oregon State University small farms Extension agent Melissa Fery, who asked Jones to speak at the expo.
She said she keeps the cabin occupied about 60 percent of the time, with over 100 families as guests each year. Her gross income last year was $20,000, which netted $13,000.
Most of the guests found Leaping Lamb Farm via the Internet.
Leaping Lamb Farm Stay website: www.leapinglambfarm.com