Oregon in top states for farm-stay business, home to national website

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Leaping Lamb Farm has turned its financial viability around with farm stays.

Children on Leaping Lamb Farm get at taste of rural life during a farm stay. (Photo courtesy of Leaping Lamb Farm)

An Alsea-based farmer-entrepreneur discovered that putting city folk up in her farm's cabin was a way to keep her struggling small farm afloat.

Now she's building up a national database of farm-stay options to help other farmers learn the same thing.

This week, Farm Stay U.S. named the top states for farm travel and tourism in its first ever top-10 list of states with farm-stay venues. Oregon made the cut.

So-called agritourism — which covers everything from pumpkin patches to farm stays — is a $566 million business nationwide, according to a 2007 survey by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Farm Stay U.S. features listings from 750 farms in all 50 states. The top states for destination farms include:

1. Pennsylvania with 73 farm and ranch listings.

2. California with 52.

3. Vermont with 45.

4. Wyoming with 42.

5. Virginia with 38.

6. North Carolina with 34.

7. Montana with 33.

8. Colorado with 31.

9. Oregon with 26.

10. New York with 25.

Scottie Jones is the founder of Farm Stay U.S. and proprietor of Leaping Lamb Farm in Alsea. Launched last year and backed by $25,000 from two USDA grants and Jones' own investment, it publicizes farms available for vacation — or "haycation" — stays.

Jones said a recent survey of the farms who list on her site indicated that 82 percent of respondents have seen sales go up in the last year.

For her own farm, charging $125 a night and up for overnight stays has allowed her to employ two part-timers and make a profit of $18,000 last year — her 32-ewe farm and hay operation lost money in the same period.

"We've only been farmers for seven years," Jones said. "I didn't really understand that small farms don't make it. But I did know, coming from a city, what people didn't know."

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christinawilliams@bizjournals.com | 503.219.3438

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