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The Rise of Farm Tourism: Rent a Cow and Other Trends

You may be used to renting a house or a car when you go on vacation, but how about a cow? An enterprising farmer in Switzerland is offering the chance to do just that. It’s part of a trend toward farm tours, extended farm stays and other vacations that promote sustainability and the preservation of indigenous lifestyles and family agriculture.

The rise of farm tourism is associated with a growing interest among urban residents in eating organic and knowing where their food comes from. Affluent city dwellers are eating in-season foods, making purchases locally and buying from small farms or butchers that minimize waste. Farm tourism takes reduce, reuse and recycle into the culinary realm. Farm tourists not only contribute to the local economy but also act as supplemental labor and help promote the sponsoring farm’s produce.

In the “Rent a cow” program in Switzerland, farmer and herder Michael Izor offers nonfarmers the opportunity to rent one of his animals for a period of time ranging from a month to a whole season. As part of the deal, renters agree to complete a set number of hours of labor on the farm, including activities such as clearing pastures, cleaning barns and preparing cows for milking. In addition to the pleasure of interacting with the animals participants receive certificates of merit for their work and discounted prices on farm produce such as cheese and meats. Izor says, “I think city people need nature, not necessarily cows, but nature in general and everything that goes with it, and I provide people with that excuse by letting them have the cows.”

World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOFing) is another organization that matches farm tourists with work opportunities on organic farms throughout the world. Founded in 1971 by London secretary Sue Coppard, WWOOF now operates in more than 45 nations and also works within 58 independent farm collectives reaching a total of 103 countries.

The many farm tourism opportunities available around the world include harvesting cup gum honey from Ligurian bees on Australia’s Kangaroo Island, working in a fruit orchard or vegetable garden in Argentina, and picking arabica coffee beans in Northern Thailand. Indigenous cultures participating in farm tourism programs include Egyptian Bedouins, Andean and Amazonian tribes in Bolivia and the Ibaloi peoples of the Philippines.

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