“I want to see the Guinea Pig,” asked Mason. “No, Mason, it’s a Mini Pig, not a Guinea Pig,” explained his mother. Mason, a five-year-old boy and his parents, were spending the night at our Farm House Inn and wanted to snuggle with Tazzy, our mini porch pig.
Miles Smith Farm is a working pig and cattle farm and most of our income comes from selling meat. No matter how hard we work our sales don’t quite cover farm operations. With a $30,000 yearly hay bill, $12,000 yearly electric bill plus taxes, mortgage, heat and more we often wonder how we can pay our bills. How do we manage? We brought back a tradition that is just as old as farming: Agritourism.
Many think that Agritourism is a new thing; it’s not. “Agritourism has been part of the fabric of agriculture in New Hampshire for generations. If anything, the increase in attention of late is a revival,” according to Josh Marshall, NHFBF (New Hampshire Farm Bureau Federation) Communications Director. Josh’s great-grandfather settled in Boscawen in 1919 when, “You did whatever you could to make a living.” Josh’s great-grandfather took in summer boarders and passersby. The children would sleep in the barn giving up their bedrooms for guests. They did what they had to do to keep on farming.
Not much has changed. Today at Miles Smith Farm we’re still doing what we have to do to keep on farming. To help pay bills we painted, scrubbed and redecorated an apartment that is part of our farmhouse and in 2013 opened it up to guests. Within days of publishing our listing on AirBNB we had our first guests. Since then we’ve had visitors from Australia, Israel, England, Vermont and even “staycationers” from New Hampshire and Boston. Staycationers are folks who live nearby and want a day or weekend get away on a farm. On arrival, most visitors immediately want to visit with our grumpy mini pig, Tazzy. Snuggling with Tazzy is like hugging a football and she is about as affectionate as a football. After a ten minute visit, most guests are done with her grunting and move on to visit with the cattle or our rabbit, Angus.
Just like Tazzy, sometimes I can be grumpy. Often I just want to feed the cattle or clean the pens without visitors asking questions but I have to admit their excitement and interest can give me a new perspective on farming.
Five-year-old Mason not only wanted to visit with “mini pig” Tazzy, he helped feed the cows, collected eggs, watched me treat an injured bull and let the piglets nibble his fingers. To see the farm through the eyes of inquisitive five-year-old or an adult who is new to farming always cheers me up. The ancient practice of Agritourism is good for visitors, good for the farmer and good for the budget. Even grumpy Tazzy agrees, especially when guests feed her carrots or lettuce. She is a pig after all.