Down on the farm

Down on the farm

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AT TOP: The Jones' farmhouse.
ABOVE: One of the many animals that roam the 64-acre farmland.
//Photos by Alexandra Shyshkina
OB: FarmStay U.S. brought in just $8,000 last year. What’s your growth strategy?

At first I put all the farms on for free. Trying to get money afterwards is a pain in the ass. But I expect to bring in $100,000 this year. There are 1.2 million small farms in the U.S. If I can get 1% to 2% to join, then we’re talking 12,000 to 24,000 members at $120 a year. That’s just two lattes a month, although you can’t say that because farmers don’t drink lattes.

OB: How do you persuade farmers and ranchers to pay for your service?

I want to talk about us as a marketing co-op. Farmers have been members of co-ops for a long time. If we join together we have momentum, and it won’t cost as much as doing it on our own. The younger farmers are pretty hip to the idea. It’s the older farmers I’m trying to encourage.

OB: If I’m paying to stay on a farm, do I have to work, too?

95% of people do work, feeding or brushing animals, although if you’re talking scooping poop that drops to 5%. People from South Africa are the best at that. Some guests come to retreat. Others want direct knowledge of farm life: how to feed a chicken, what’s the difference between cracking open an egg and getting a yolk or a chick. Some want their kids to play in a hayloft. But none of us will put you to work unless you want to.

OB: What’s your worst experience as a farmstay host?

I have never had a bad guest. I did have one mother who thought it would be helpful for her three kids to clean our barn. That lasted five minutes.