Farm Vacations: How to Establish a Farm Vacations Business

If you own a farm and also like interacting with people from diverse backgrounds, a farm vacations business could be a profitable venture financially and personally. This article recounts how the Merten family established one on their Michigan farm in the early 1970s.

| July/August 1973

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    "Ma" Merten at the door of one her farm's out buildings.
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    The Mertens erected a sign to help Farm Vacations customers find their property.

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There was a time—not too long ago—when almost every city dweller had a "country cousin" (aunt, uncle, grandparent) living on a farm to which the urban relative could retreat for a relaxing and inexpensive vacation. In most cases, the exchange was a good thing all around. The town-reared children got their chance to milk a cow and jump in the haymow, and their parents were usually glad to pitch in and help with the chores as a welcome change from their sedentary occupations. To the farm family, the visit meant not only help and encouragement with their work but also the stimulation of news and conversation so often missing in the lives of semi-isolated people.

Times have changed, though, and this picture has altered greatly in just the past two decades. The percentage of our country's population living in urban areas has increased so significantly that few now enjoy the luxury of country kin. This situation—regrettable as it is in many ways—offers a fine opportunity for people with farms to make some extra money and do their city neighbors a favor at the same time. The name of the game is farm vacations.

The business is simple enough: A farm family plays the role of country cousin to city visitors (usually another family). In return for the hospitality, the guests pay a fee high enough to cover all their expenses and still give their hosts a tidy return on their investment of time and effort.


If you think it sounds mercenary to share a way of life in return for cash, consider for a moment the visitors' point of view. The average middle income American family spends hundreds of dollars annually in its two weeks' pursuit of pleasure and relaxation. The vacationers lay out their money on camping equipment, special vehicles, boats, motorcycles, gasoline, motels, restaurants, camping fees, portable TVs, movies, liquor, repair bills . . . and usually aspirin, Tums, and a few medical expenses besides. They emerge from the ordeal as tense as they began, with no alteration of consciousness and little to show for their outlay beyond a roll of snapshots.


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