Eight-year-old Toby wants to be a farmer when he grows up. So instead of spending a few perfect days in May enjoying a traditional family vacation in a hotel or resort, we headed to Leaping Lamb Farm in the coastal range of Oregon, where we got to play farmer for two days. I’ll admit that before arriving at Leaping Lamb, I half-hoped doing farm chores would cure Toby of his farm-love. Instead, the whole family departed at the end of our farm stay with an unnerving desire to move to our own acreage. While this dream may not become reality, our appreciation for family farm stays has been solidified.
Leaping Lamb Farm is located just outside tiny Alsea Oregon, approximately 30 minutes from Corvallis (and two hours from Portland). You can find it, and many other farm stays in states across the U.S., at aptly-named Farm Stay U.S., which serves as a one-stop farm stay directory and how-to guide for families. The founder of Farm Stay U.S. is Scottie Jones, proprietor of Leaping Lamb Farm, so on-property, you know you’re in great hands.
All farm stays are unique, but at Leaping Lamb Farm, everything is hands-on, all the time. With two active boys in tow, I can’t tell you how much this approach to learning about the workings of farm was appreciated. We arrived in the dusk of a Friday evening, and Scottie met us at the gate, ready to give us our initial tour. We became familiar with the Leaping Lamb barn, paddocks, pastures, chicken enclosures, and gardens, and all its residents. The main (and just about only) rule: if a gate is closed, close it again behind you, and if it’s open, keep it open. Beyond this, kids (and parents) are allowed to roam as freely as the livestock in Scottie’s care.
A day in the life of Leaping Lamb:
Our full day at Leaping Lamb started with a morning hike through the coastal range (trails start on Leaping Lamb’s 60 acres), followed by chore time at 9 am. All farm and recreational activities are optional, but we wouldn’t miss the morning feeding for anything. The boys assisted in getting grain, doling out hay, and letting the horses, donkey, and sheep out to pasture. We took some time out to herd and catch Boots, one of Leaping Lamb’s smallest lambs (and now love of Toby and Calvin’s lives). After a special hand-feeding for Boots, it was time to collect the eggs and let the chickens, roosters, turkeys, goose, and resident peacock out to free range.
By 10 am, the morning chores were done, save for the task of mucking out stalls. We jumped in wholeheartedly, but those who opt out could spend the rest of the morning swinging on the orchard swing, exploring Honey Grove Creek, or picking produce from the garden (in season, of course).
We spent the afternoon in the far back pastures befriending sheep (the boys) and reading a good book (me). When a light spring rain began to fall, we retreated to the spacious hayloft, where a basketball hoop and ball beckoned the boys. Later, we ate a picnic lunch and took another hike before evening chores. Should you need more to do, several additional hikes begin nearby, and within a few miles is a fish hatchery. The Oregon coast is a mere hour away, and the fun of Portland is two hours. Had we longer than two nights, we would have used Leaping Lamb as a base for many Oregon adventures.
The Leaping Lamb Experience:
Because the farm is open to your family as their home away from home (only one family of guests stays at a time), and children are encouraged to make the place their own, Leaping Lamb begins to feel like yours within only a matter of hours, not days. We only stayed on property 48 hours, and yet upon departure, the kids felt they knew each nook and cranny and each animal personally. Scottie has a truly special way of including families: the boys knew they were truly useful and helpful, not in the way. Depending on the timing of a stay, guests can be called upon to help find lost sheep, witness births, or other natural farm occurrences. You feel like part of the Leaping Lamb family, not a visitor.
Lodging at Leaping Lamb:
Leaping Lamb Farm has one guest cottage which sleeps up to six. The cottage is as welcoming as the rest of the property, with many windows, cozy rugs, and gas stove heater, a full kitchen, bathroom with tub, and a wide porch. From the futon by the window, you can watch song birds at the bird feeder (we had so many, we filled the feeder twice in 24 hours!) and from the kitchen table, you can watch the rams in their enclosure. The cottage has two bedrooms (with queen beds) and the futon pulls out to become a double. The cottage is already stocked with a port-a-crib, fireplace screen, and high chair, and the kitchen comes stocked for all you need for breakfast (and then some).
Your cottage kitchen comes stocked with the makings of breakfast (including waffles and pancakes) and basic spices and seasonings for all meals. We brought lunch foods with us, which we stored in the full-sized fridge, and we were given all the fresh eggs we could eat. Scottie also brought by freshly baked bread. We could have easily eaten eggs and toast for dinner as well, but opted to drive the mile or so to Alsea, where a small cafe is open part-time and a convenience store (with a lot of character) offers take and bake pizza). If you want more for dinner than such basics, you’ll need to bring your own dinner groceries or be prepared to drive to Corvallis (30 minutes minimum).
What to bring:
Leaping Lamb has truly thought of everything: stocked in the cottage is a full first aid kit, plus plenty of over-the-counter medicines should they be needed. An assortment of rain boots and work boots line the porch, so you can save your own sneakers and boots and use those provided while playing in muddy and manure-y pastures. The bedroom closet contains extra sweatshirts and rain gear as well. We brought our own rain jackets, and used them, and good hiking shoes for the trails. Bring play clothes: they will get dirty. But there’s a washer and dryer in the cottage to use!
The Pit Stops for Kids Leaping Lamb Video:
At the time of this posting, daily rates were $150 nightly at the cottage for two guests, which includes breakfast. Additional guests and kids are $25/nightly (age three and under free).
Leaping Lamb Farm is located at 20368 Honey Grove Road, Alsea OR. From I-5, it’s about a hour’s drive. Don’t use your GPS navigation’s directions, however. With the many logging roads in the area, it’s easy to be steered wrong. Instead, take Highways 34/20 through Corvallis and Philomath. Turn onto 34 as you leave Philomath heading west toward Alsea. Go about 17+ miles and at mile marker 41, look on left for Honey Grove Road. Drive 1.7 miles up Honey Grove (a maintained, dirt road).
Disclaimer: As I disclose whenever applicable, we were hosted at Leaping Lamb Farm for the purpose of review. While appreciated, this hospitality came with no expectation of a positive review.