Lancaster1The sun was just poking out from beneath the horizon as I rolled out of my bed at Cherry-Crest Farm. The clock read 5:00am, it was time to milk the cows. Milking waits for no-one, especially a city slicker. On my way to the barn, the sight of the eighteenth century limestone farmhouse and dairy barn paired with open pastures and rolling hills made me feel happy to be out of the city. I listened to the distant sounds of cows and chickens, and watched as cornstalks gently swayed in the morning breeze. I was as far away from city life as I could get and I loved it.

Lancaster2Nestled into the hills of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania is Cherry-Crest Farm, a 175-acre vacation mecca for those anxious to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life and get a taste of life on a working farm. At Cherry-Crest, participating in farm chores is up to the guest. The day begins at 5:00am and you can join in as much or as little as you like or you can simply put your feet up and do nothing except soak in the country atmosphere. Guests can help milk the cows, gather fresh eggs which they can take home or help feed the farm animals, including bottle feeding the calves. The farm is an actual working dairy and poultry farm. Over 5,000 pounds of milk is produced daily, yet it is the taking on of guests and other attractions such as the Amazing Maize Maze and petting zoo that keeps the farm going. This concept gives farmers a chance to supplement their income without leaving their farms and allows visitors to see a part of Amercia that is rapidly disappearing. Cherry-Crest owners Jack and Donna Coleman did just this when they opened a two-unit guest house on the farm. The first unit which is ideal for families has 2 bedrooms, a large living room, full bath and fully equiped kitchen. The second unit has 1 bedroom with a king size bed, a large living room with a sofa-bed and fireplace, a full bath and kitchenette. The house has a large deck with a picnic table and grill with a scenic view in a peaceful country setting.

Lascaster3While visiting Cherry-Crest Farm, you can’t miss the Amazing Maize Maze. What began as a corny idea in 1996, has grown into a craze of helping thousands of people get lost. This is a 5-acre maze with more than 2.5 miles of twisting paths cut into a cornfield. Your challenge will be to find fifteen puzzle pieces located throughout the maze at roadside mailboxes. In my opinion, the most difficult challenge is finding your way out of the maze. This is easier said than done. The stalks are seven to eight feet tall, so once you make your first turn, you are immersed in corn, causing you to quickly lose your bearings and become disoriented. Inside the maze you will find water stations, a corn cafe, observation bridges and even an outhouse! One hour and fifteen minutes after I entered the maze, I exited. All in all that wasn’t a long time considering it took one man three hours. Whether it be husbands versus wives or parents versus kids, competitions for the best times through the maze are a regular favorite. In addition to the maze, you will find a petting zoo, hayrides, hands-on-displays and a giant hay chute slide at Cherry-Crest.

Lancaster County in Pennsylvania’s southest corner is a collection of farms on some of the country’s most productive and beautiful farmland. The area, otherwise known as Pennsylvania Dutch Country, was settled in the early seventeenth century by German groups like the Mennonite and Amish, who came to the New World in search of religious freedom and fertile fields. The name Pennsylvania Dutch is really a misnomer since the settlers were German. They were originally called the Pennsylvania Deutsche, but as time wore on, the term was shortened to “Dutch”. Shunning the trappings of modern life, they raised strong families and relied on traditional spiritual values. Farms, passed from generation to generation, have remained largely intact, although tourist attractions such as outlet malls and miniature golf courses are beginning to take their toll. A few of the remaining farms are still run in the traditional way, without electricity or engine power. Mixed in with the Amish farms, you’ll find many non-Amish farms with farm families happy to offer visitors a chance to sample this lifestyle.

One such farm is Cedar Hill Farm Bed & Breakfast. On a country road nestled in the wooded hillside above the babbling Chiques Creek, sits Cedar Hill Farm. This gorgeous fieldstone house built in 1817 is surrounded by 51 acres of beautiful meadows. Simple pleasures like hiking, fishing or bird watching let people get back to their roots. Birders, for instance, will often be up in the meadows for hours. Cedar Hill is also a wonderful location for biking along the country roads of Lancaster County. Upon arriving at the farm, your hosts Gladys and Russel Swarr will provide you with biking maps of the area. Extensive views of surrounding farmlands along with possible glimpses of an Amish carriage going to town, make this a great place for artists and photographers as well.

Guests will enjoy the comforts provided in the five rooms uniquely furnished with antiques and eclectic family heirlooms. Each room is air-conditioned and has a private bath and a sitting area with plenty of reading material. Separate guest room access offers privacy and freedom to guests. While staying at Cedar Hill, you will share delicious home-cooked meals around the large family table by the walk-in fireplace which was used for cooking in the early 1800’s. I cannot say enough good things about the breakfast. Gladys served an array of fresh fruit, western omelet casserole, blueberry cobbler, coffee, tea, juice and the best baked oatmeal I have had the pleasure of tasting. After spending your day on the farm or in the nearby Amish communities, evenings can be spent on the front porch in a rocker or hammock chatting about the day’s activities or playing a game of chess with Russel.

A farm stay provides you with a unique opportunity to enjoy the hospitality of friendly local farmers in the comfort of their homes. You can meet people who are genuinely interested in sharing their culture, their lifestyle and themselves with visitors. You stay in a guest room within the home and become part of the family for the duration of your stay. There is no better place to experience a farm stay than Lancaster County. Farmers here welcome visitors from all over the world, many of whom come back time and again to enjoy the unique atmosphere of staying on a farm. For some it’s the peace and quiet of the countryside, for others it’s the thrill of taking part in farm life.

Getting There:

Cherry-Crest Farm 150 Cherry Hill Road Paradise Township, Ronks, PA 17575 Telephone: (717) 687-6843

Cedar Hill Farm Bed & Breakfast 305 Longenecker Road Mount Joy, PA 07552

Telephone: (717) 653-4655

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