Winter Recreation on the Farm

Wintertime isn’t the most profitable season for your average Northeast farm. Depending on the type of farm and its resources, income may be slow to nonexistent.

Enter agritourism. Agritourism, or agrotourism, is commonly defined as a commercial enterprise at a working farm, ranch, or agricultural plant conducted for the enjoyment of visitors that generates supplemental income for the owner.

In New England, farms, especially those with horses or other livestock, may rely on sleigh rides, snowshoe or cross-country skiing trails, winter festivals or other family activities to bring in visitors and extra income.

Locally, educational farms such as Stonewall Farm in Keene and Retreat Farm in Brattleboro continue to engage the community through the cold season. Stonewall Farm, 242 Chesterfield Road, will host a Frozen Farm Festival Sunday, Feb. 9, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Activities will include sledding into the cow pastures (bring your own sled), guided snowshoe hikes at 11:30 a.m., 12:30, 1:30 and 2:30 p.m., animal tracking activity for kids, a community-built igloo, sleigh rides, food by Street Savory Food Truck, a hot cocoa bar (while supplies last), kids winter- themed crafts, a warming fire and storytelling.

Tickets sold at the farm on the day of the event. Admission is $5 per guest. Last tickets will be sold at around 2:15 p.m. A Valentine’s Day Dance and Fundraiser is also planned for Feb. 14.

In addition to guided snowshoe hikes, Retreat Farm, 45 Farmhouse Square in Brattleboro, has also planned its own Valentine’s Day events for the weekend of Feb. 14-16, called Snowshoes and Sweethearts. Adults-only events, each 5 to 7 p.m. evening features a softly lit guided hike on trails (snowshoes included) followed by a romantic campfire with cheese and chocolate fondue with Vermont beer, hard cider and wine available for purchase. Advanced registration is required and tickets are $35 and available at retreatfarm.org.

And for the entire family, Retreat Farm will hold its “Winter Playground” from Feb. 15-23, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. Events include guided snowshoe walks, campfires with homemade marshmallows, face painting, Abenaki storytelling, farm animals in The Barn and more. The cost is $8 for adults, $6 for children and seniors, under age 2 free. Reduced admission of $3 available for EBT, Medicaid and Reduced/Free School Lunch letter holders. A daily event schedule can be found at retreatfarm.org/winterplayground.

The Inn at East Hill Farm, 460 Monadnock St. in Troy, is no stranger to winter agritourism. The farm offers what is calls, “an authentic New Hampshire farm vacation” for families and groups that features themed weekends planned throughout winter such as Sled Dog Weekend, Jan. 31-Feb. 2; Winter Outdoor Adventure Weekend, Feb. 7-9; Presidents Day Weekend, Feb. 14-17; and Winter Family Weekend, Feb. 21-23.

Each weekend includes activities such as snow hikes, outdoor cooking, ice fishing, snow volleyball, milking cows and interacting with other farm animals and sledding. Weekend packages include lodging and meals. Visit east-hill-farm.com for more information.

Agritourism efforts provide a year-round opportunity to connect with and support our local farms. It may be cold outside, but bundle up and head off to one of these winter farm activities for some heartwarming fun.