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A Tom Sawyer approach to agri-tourismPosted Tuesday, December 15, 2009, at 6:14 PM
I've always admired Tom Sawyer. Remember him, the little scoundrel in Mark Twain's novels who talked the neighborhood into "paying him" for the "fun" of doing his work: whitewashing Aunt Polly's fence?
It's probably the admiration that made my imagination run wild at a recent agri-tourism seminar.
The speaker talked about how much tourists enjoy "sitting on a tractor" and having their picture taken.
We have tractors, I thought. We have a combine, with an extra seat ... we could provide rides.
And then I thought of harvest and of our home during that time. To put it mildly with the whole family in the field, there are times the word "mess" is too mild. Disaster is much more like it.
Finding people experienced in truck or tractor driving would probably be tough-and harvest is not the time to train newcomers. And the truth is we have good harvest help for those jobs.
What we really need during the two harvest months is simple ... we need a "wife."
It was then, channeling my inner Tom Sawyer, I thought of an agri-tourism concept for our farm. After all, with more and more people several generations removed from farm life, it would be a chance for city people to find out about the life their ancestors once lived -- with the added benefit of modern conveniences.
"Come be part of a working farm during our yearly harvest," our advertising slogan could read. "Experience farm chores from the inside ... feeding livestock, riding combines, trucks, tractors and cooking large harvest meals for the crew."
Or it could read: "Harvest Time Bed and Breakfast. We'll provide the bed in a charming tractor decorated room" (okay, one of the boy's rooms).
Perhaps we should put the details in fine print: "You prepare the breakfast ... and the lunch and the dinner for us, our crew, yourselves, of course (what kind of hosts would be be if we didn't) and 50 cows. (Cost of food included.)"
The ad could continue: "Wake before 5 a.m. Prepare breakfast for a farm crew. After deep cleaning kitchen in the 'farm tradition,' get dressed in authentic 'farm clothes' and head outside in the fresh country air to do a chore farmers have been doing for centuries: check and feed cows.
"Experience the exhilaration of a job well done, watching a group of cows follow you in a John Deere Gator (provided.) Who needs high priced exercise classes when you can use muscles you've haven't used for years loading and hand feeding five gallon buckets of corn.(Friendly, smart, working border collie included.)
"After a few minutes of warming up inside, throw in a load of laundry for more authentic farm fun," the ad could read.
"Once you're done cleaning authentic grease and dirt stained clothing from a hard-working farm family, take time off by enjoying a ride in a 21st century combine. (Cost of snack you prepare and deliver to crew included.)
"After a combine ride where you can ask questions and learn the ins and outs of modern farming from a real seventh-generation farmer, hurry back to the farm home to prepare sandwiches for working crew.
"Enjoy a leisurely afternoon on the farm with a list of activities for you to enjoy: work in an authentic, large farm garden -- learn to gather, freeze and can vegetables to prepare farm family for winter months; take trip to charming local apple orchard -- purchase two or three bushel apples (purchase price included), prepare 30 or more pints authentic country apple butter and applesauce from farm recipes - vacationing family gets to take two (maybe even three) pints home to share with friends.
"Any extra time will be spent enjoying fresh country air, walks on gravel roads, cleaning house with original and thick farm dirt, shopping in small-town grocery store, learning to feed hay with farm tractor, taking truck, tractor and combine rides, along wih playing with and feeding real barn cats. And on any given day you might get a chance to drive to town retrieving an authentic combine or tractor part, helping farm family gather in crops.
"As evening approaches you can start preparing a seven-course country dinner for a hungry farm crew.(No elf food here -- meat and potatoes required.)
"Experience the 'fun' farm wives (and your great-grandmother) have had for generations, trying to keep warm and re-warm a meal that could be served anytime between 9 p.m. and midnite depending on a large variety of harvest conditions.
"After a thorough cleaning job in kitchen, a few more loads of laundry and talk of the days 'news' with the farm crew, hit your pillow satisfied in a hard day's work. Sweet dreams thinking of another fun day on the farm tomorrow!"
As I was daydreaming of my new "plan" I remembered my mother-in-law always said fish and company are the same. After three days they both begin to stink! In this case, I'm pretty sure the "vacationers" might think three days is plenty, so I think for our "Bed and Breakfast" three day packages would be about right.
"Directions for day three ... be sure and wash and replace bedding to get ready for new farm crew coming in tomorrow."
Hey, it might just work? After all, they say its all in the marketing!
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