Leaping Lamb Farm (and farm stay) is a special kind of place. Tucked into the green hills of the Oregon Coast Range and backed up against Honeygrove Creek (raging in the winter, lazy in the summer), the farm has idyllically green pastures, mossy split rail fences, and a menagerie of adorable as well as eccentric animals. It might be something out of a fairy tale, but for new farmers Scottie and Greg Jones, maintaining the farm is a messy, imperfect, and labor-intensive process.
The couple moved onto the property in 2003, seeking a change of pace and a change of climate from their long-time home in Tempe, AZ. They had some experience with keeping horses and raising chickens, but initially, they didn’t plan on being farmers. The place’s previous owner had kept sheep for 30 years, so Scottie and Greg took charge of 14 Romney/Suffolk ewes in order to keep up the pasture. Lambing season that first year was not pretty, but they kept at it, learning from books and experience (much of it bad experience). Scottie attended a course on lambing at OSU College of Veterinary Medicine, and they began to sell lambs to sheep buyers in the area.
As their animal husbandry skills improved, their profits from the farm did not. They came up in the red every year. Scottie was considering getting a job off the farm (Greg already had one that required 100 miles of driving per day), but the farm and its animals demanded more attention and a more flexible schedule that a 9-5 day job would allow. Scottie was familiar with the European model of farm stays and decided that hosting one would be the best way to bring more in revenue without sacrificing quality of life for themselves or their animals.
The Joneses knew that their own home, the original farmhouse with a series of updates/remodels done by the previous owners, was not suitable for guests, but they also had a two-bedroom cabin that they had built for their daughter who was thinking about moving to the area to help out on the farm. The cabin would be the perfect retreat for farm-stay visitors who wanted their own fully-loaded living and dining space with a beautiful view of the farm. Scottie brought her idea for a farm stay to the Benton County planners to acquire the appropriate permits, and though they had no experience licensing farm stays, the county officials worked with her, and eventually she got the go-ahead.
These days, the cabin is booked up most nights of the week during the spring, summer, and fall. The accommodations, including ingredients for cook-your-own breakfast, are surprisingly affordable, making it especially popular for young families and couples looking to “get away from it all”. Anyone staying on the farm gets the opportunity to collect chicken eggs, bottle feed lambs, work in the large garden, or just relax on the porch with a nice glass of local wine. It becomes obvious by reading the fan mail art on the refrigerator that for some children and adults, their brief experience on the farm is a terrific eye opener into the world of food production and land stewardship.
The Joneses are still operating the farm with an eye on their bottom line. A couple years ago, they invested in a number of Katahdin hair sheep that are bred for their low-colesterol meat and don’t need shearing. (There is essentially no market for fleeces anymore, so wool production is a money-draining byproduct of keeping sheep.) Lambs and ewes are sold every year to a local sheep buyer, and a number of their free-ranging heritage turkeys end up on someone’s Thanksgiving table. Scottie and Greg’s daughter, Emery, will be attending vet school in the fall, but in the meantime, she’s living on the farm and offering a lot of suggestions about improving animal genetics and adding diversity to the flock. Emery began tracking birth weights and other qualities of lambs. With a couple years of hard evidence, she recommended culling a number of ewes, keeping only the ones that consistently produced robust sets of twins without difficulty. She’s also brought in new breeds of chickens to showcase the diversity of farm-fresh egg colors. Emery is the one to with the intestinal fortitude to perform a late-night emergency C-section on a ewe in distress or doctor a turkey hen mauled by a raccoon.
In addition to running her own successful farm stay, Scottie has also launched the website Farm Stay U.S., a comprehensive directory of farm stays across the country. This resource is both for interested individuals and families wanting to visit a farm stay and for farm stay hosts to connect with each other, allowing them to navigate some of the logistical challenges with the advice and support of their far flung counterparts. Scottie’s definition of a farm stay is “a working farm that also provides lodging,” but the variety of the hundreds of farm stays nationwide is amazing. There are horse-centric, goat-centric, and vegetable-centric farm stays; farms stays in arid climates, high mountains, the sultry Southeast, and even within major metropolises; big, small, high-end, dirt-cheap; you name it, Farm Stay US has got it.
For more information:
20368 Honey Grove Road
Alsea, OR 97324
Phone/Fax: 541-487-4966 | 1-877-820-6132 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Facebook Facebook Twitter