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How To Set Up A Farm Stay Operation
Jenn Colby earned four 5-star ratings in a row with her on-farm Airbnb yurt. She says the key is to provide her guests with an experience, not just a place to stay.
“They want to connect to rural life and farming, not just get away in nature,” says Colby.
With 25 years of experience working in Extension with the University of Vermont while raising beef, sheep, and hogs on her farm on the side, Colby can provide her guests with what they are looking for.
Recently, she shared her experiences with landowners interested in setting up an on-farm stay in an online class. The class was recorded live and can be accessed via Colby’s website. She discussed her multi-year experience renting a fully furnished yurt through Airbnb as well as a more recent experience setting up a Tentrr campsite (Vol. 43, No. 1).
“Working with the public can be scary and is not for everybody,” warns Colby. “It takes focus and some thinking.”
Colby offered course participants a workbook with a checklist of things to consider, especially time management. She emphasized selecting an online reservation platform to join. These include, but are not limited to, Airbnb, Tentrr, and Hipcamp.
“Find the platform that’s right for you,” says Colby. “Consider the time you need to commit to the project.”
In her case, it was 3 years from concept to completion. That included financing, building, decorating, and testing the product. Planning included both inside and outside spaces, where people will bring groceries or bags and where they will park.
“We shared our vision with friends, and one suggested moving our steps and firepit to create a set of bleachers for people watching the fire,” says Colby. “Another with mobility issues suggested a hand railing by the toilet and other small amenities.”
Time management is essential, adds Colby. Buying in bulk eliminates emergency runs to town and saves money. Having multiple sets of linen with an extra set on hand saves time between guests. Keeping extra items at the rental unit allows guests to replace and refill, which Colby says most are glad to do.
A discounted price on her yurt helped cash flow from the beginning. Getting a good rating for her yurt, which encourages more people to reserve, required having lots of guests. Comparatively lower prices encouraged initial guests.
“If you search a platform like Airbnb for places to stay, the ones that come up first are those with lots of good reviews,” says Colby. “Once you have lots of stays with really good reviews, you move up in the company’s algorithm. Then, you can begin to raise your price.”
Getting good reviews is more than having a clean, comfortable place for guests to stay, suggests Colby. “You need to show them you care about them, their families, the reason they are coming to your site, and any special needs,” she says. “Communicate proactively and over-deliver on services and amenities. I provide a welcome basket and above all a handwritten note thanking them for coming.”
Once her yurt was up and running successfully, Colby decided to add a Tentrr site. The turnkey package is normally set up by the company, but due to the lack of installers in her area, Colby took on the setup at a discounted price.
While she is still in her first year of operating the Tentrr site, she notes that it also had cash flow from the start. It’s that regular income that she feels makes farm stays a good addition to a farming operation.
“I market my lambs once or twice a year and sell pigs twice a year,” says Colby. “Farm stays provide cash flow in between.”
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Howling Wolf Farm, LLC, 209 Tilton Rd., Randolph, Vt. 05060 (ph 802-535-7606; jenn@howlingwolffarm.com; www.howlingwolffarm.com).

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2022 - Volume #46, Issue #5