After my last post about home swapping, a reader asked this question:
It sounds fabulous, but what if you live in the middle of nowhere in Indiana, and have farm animals that need care? How likely is it that Northern Europeans (or anyone else) want to milk a cow and feed chickens for two weeks on vacation, while traveling nowhere and seeing nothing but cornfields? — Elizabeth
This was a very good question! I promised Elizabeth I’d look into this and then write another post with my findings.
So, here goes…
The first thing I found was that farm swapping is not mentioned very often on the web! I might be missing something. If I am, please give me your thoughts!
But, where there’s a will, there’s a way. As with anything else in this modern, connected world, your ideal trip is possible if you only start looking around for it. Talk to everyone you know, find people through social media or websites and email them, and browse as many farm and travel websites as you can find. As best-selling self-help guru Tony Robbins said,
“If you want to be successful, find someone who has achieved the results you want and copy what they do and you’ll achieve the same results.”
START HERE: POSSIBLE FARM EXCHANGE OPPORTUNITIES??
The only website that I could find that clearly offered a swapping program, farm for farm, was this one:
This website seems to offer information on all kinds of farming topics, like homesteading, country living, self-sufficient living, urban farming, and more. I will say that the exchanges posted on this link seem to be outdated, with the most recent exchanges from 2015. But you could try to email these folks and see what happens! Email addresses are included in the listings and most of the people seem to want to swap for anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months. Countries represented in these listings include Australia, Canada, Poland, Spain, US, UK, Norway, and New Zealand.
Anyway, give it a shot and, if you end up planning a farm swap, please let me know!
THEN CHECK: HOMEEXCHANGE.COM
As I’d mentioned in my last article about home swapping, we are members at HomeExchange.com. Since, as a member, I can access the full search parameters, I tried there.
When I asked for help, a customer service representative advised me to check the drop-downs for “Rural” and “Off-the-Beaten-Track,” as well as type “Farm” as a keyword on the search page.
When I did this, I came up with 398 results. All of these, of course, will not be looking to stay at a farm, nor do they have an actual farm. Some are just country properties that are rural and remote.
However, a few do seem to be actual farms, and you never know–they might want to visit a farm somewhere else in the world. There’s a horse farm in NJ, as well as a 21-acre hobby farm in New Zealand that requires some animal care. (This one sounds so good, in fact, that I wouldn’t mind even inquiring about it myself.) Another property in New Hampshire requires some chicken care.
The thing to remember using this website is that, behind each of these nearly 400 listings waits a person or family looking for an adventure, just as you are. They might not be looking to exchange for your farm–maybe they just want to get away from their responsibilities for awhile and kick around at a beach somewhere. But you never know–and it’s worth reaching out to ask.
I believe you do have to be a member on this site to start emailing people but it’s only $120/year and, as we’ve found, well worth the price, considering the wonderful experiences you gain from being a member of this multi-cultural community!
MAYBE CONSIDER: HOUSE SITTING (OR FINDING A HOUSE SITTER)?
There are a bunch of house sitting websites out there, including TrustedHousesitters, HouseCarers.com, MindMyHouse.com, and AussieHousesitters (a great site to check out since farm sitting is apparently relatively common in Australia).
On Trusted Housesitters, you can apply filters that allow you to search for sitters who can provide animal care. On Aussie Housesitters, click “Find a House” and then click “Pet Care” tab–there you can click “Farm Animals” to find 85 listings.
As far as House Carers goes, you can search for house sitters who are willing to farm sit by filtering out only those people who are willing to sit for a farm.
IF you can find someone to sit for your farm while you’re away, you might be able to then search for a farm-sitting experience in another part of the world.
Here’s the thing; If you don’t really care about living on another farm during your vacation, though, you can at least find someone to sit for yours to free up some time to travel.
Prices to join these websites range from FREE to $119/year. Not a large price to pay to find a trust-worthy, experienced house sitter to take care of things so you can leave your fields and animals behind for a family adventure.
In researching this blog post, I met a woman who completed a farm sit for a 1,200-acre beef cattle farm near Canberra, Australia. Along with her husband and three children, Melanie Henrikson spent six weeks taking care of chickens and dogs, collecting eggs, watering gardens, learning how to operate the farm’s pump and geothermal systems, and basically be on call 24/7 for whatever would come up at the farm.
All in all, the Henriksons, who have been unschooling their children for the last six months, had a great experience. “My husband and I both grew up in rural locations and have often dreamed of this lifestyle for our children. We are confident looking after dogs and chickens so felt it was a good fit,” Melanie told me. “In between farm chores we were free to relax and enjoy rural life or drive to Canberra, which was 45 minutes away, to catch up with friends. It was so wonderfully peaceful to be completely undisturbed, away from people and noise yet still have the reassurance of amenities within a short drive.”
WWOOF: WHY NOT HAVE A TRAVEL EXPERIENCE WITHOUT LEAVING HOME?
WWOOF is a website that matches people who want a farm experience with people who have farms. Just like the house sitting idea, joining WWOOF can be a way to 1) find people to help look after your farm or 2) find a farm to visit in another place in the world.
I wouldn’t think it would be as easy with WWOOF to find someone to completely care for your farm. Instead, WWOOF is more geared as a way to find farm helpers. However, that said, finding helpers from all over the world is a way to invite the world to come to you. This way, you stay home, get some help, and meet people from other parts of your country or even other continents.
If travel is something you’d like to do–but it just doesn’t seem like the right time–then maybe try a program like WWOOF to have a fun experience with international visitors while remaining on your farm.
AND LAST: FACEBOOK REMAINS A GREAT WAY TO MAKE CONNECTIONS
As always with online research these days, Facebook is a great place to start. There are Facebook groups for everything these days, and family traveling is no different. I’m a member of many such Facebook groups, one of which is a group for worldschoolers who are looking for house swaps.
If you are on Facebook, it might be good to ask around in some of these groups. You might just find another farm family on the other side of the globe who wants to swap with you!
Alright, folks, there’s the round-up of what I dug up! Keep in mind I don’t have a farm and so have never farm-swapped, nor have I much experience in farm-sitting (we only have one experience so far in the memory bank of caring for chickens and dogs on a housesit in Belize–photos below).
I hope I have given you some food for thought. If you try any of these suggestions and end up organizing a trip, please let me know about it! Happy travels. 🙂