This is our first post in a new three part series, charting our journey to becoming farm stay hosts on Airbnb.
Our hope is that they will inspire other independent farmers to consider hosting as a way to let guests experience our way of life, and provide a valuable source of extra income. Follow along to learn about our journey to hosting. You can also find out more about hosting a farm stay on Airbnb here. As a partner of Airbnb, we’ll earn a small bonus when people begin hosting through our referral link.
We always knew 2020 was going to be a busy one. Hannah and I planned to finish building our farmhouse at Modern Barn Farm this spring, get married in May and throw a barn dance to celebrate.
As we all know though, even the best laid plans can go awry (thanks Covid-19). Being farmers, we weren’t short of a job and it was nice to be outside working, especially when most of our London friends were stuck indoors. In April we spent three weeks lambing with over 400 lambs being born on the farm. We were also inundated with orders for our native breed beef boxes. It was great to be providing good food to our local community during a crisis.
The whole experience made us realise how lucky we are to live on a farm. When lockdown was lifted, we had lots of friends asking to come and stay. We were thrilled. One young family came and had their first camping experience in our front garden, though typically they chose the one weekend when it rained non-stop!
It reminded me of the time I spent 6-weeks visiting independent farmers and food producers around the UK on my scooter on my Indie Farmer road trip, with a small tent rolled up in my backpack. I remember waking up in beautiful farmers fields surrounded by curious long horn calves in Hampshire. Luckily it wasn’t the bull. Later on my journey high up in the Dartmoor hills, I woke early to help pick veg on a market garden. I was glad of my warm sleeping bag – it wasn’t even September but there was a light frost; which made everything look even more stunning. Picking veg was hard manual graft but working in a team was fun. When we finished and all the community supported agriculture boxes were packed – we shared a lunch of delicious borscht (made with beetroots grown on the farm) and locally baked sour dough bread.
I learnt so much about different farming methods and food businesses along the way. It also made me appreciate what a passionate, hard working community of farmers and food producers we have in the UK.
Those weeks on the road were some of the best of my life. Beautiful countryside, shared experiences and delicious local food and drink. It opened my eyes to what amazing places farms can be, sowing the seed that made me decide to return to my own family farm in East Sussex.
Before moving down to Sussex, Hannah worked on a community urban market garden in London. One of the things she loved the most was working with volunteers, helping them learn more about growing, and cooking lunches together. We are both passionate about farming and people and it’s been a shared dream of ours to open up Modern Barn Farm to a wider audience.
Since finishing our new farmhouse at Modern Barn Farm, we look out at the little shepherds hut we lived in whilst we built the house. We started to wonder if we could use it as a farm stay on Airbnb help support that dream of more people experiencing the farm, and provide a valued source of additional income. We love our hut – it was our first home together. We designed the simple layout and my uncle Brian built it for us.
We wanted to make it feel cosy and calm and spent several days painting the tongue and groove panelling. We both love simple pared back interiors and whilst it’s quite rustic we’ve tried to give it a scandinavian hygge feel. Externally it’s very much the traditional shepherds hut – a chassis with wrought iron wheels, wriggly tin clad walls and roof, a couple of small wooden windows, an oak stable door in the middle and a little chimney for the wood burner.
It seems like only yesterday that our farmhouse was just a hole in the ground and we spent evenings cooking on a fire pit under the stars. We had just got a puppy and all slept in the hut, under blankets with just the wood burner and candles for light. It might not have been the height of luxury, but it certainly slowed us down. We even had the odd sheep rub up against the hut in the middle of the night!
It’s this back to basics experience we want to share with visitors to our farm. We were worried that our hut wasn’t luxury enough, but actually what we do have is a peaceful setting, lots of trees and wildlife and beautiful skies, which we value now more than ever. We are both fans of Airbnb, using it often when booking holidays and weekend breaks, so it felt like a natural fit to list on their platform.
At the moment we’re putting a lot of effort into research; thinking about out how we can make farm stays here as special as possible. Both Hannah and I have been lucky enough to spend time staying on different farms in the UK and abroad in the past. These experiences have helped shape our vision for our own farm, inspiring us to become hosts ourselves. We’re excited but also a little nervous about how it will go and will be documenting our progress here in an upcoming post as we get ready to share our shepherd’s hut on Airbnb.
We’d also love to hear from anyone who has experience setting up a shepherd’s hut or unique stay on their farm. We’d be grateful for any words of advice, please leave us a comment below in the reply box (scroll down to the bottom of the page).
Find out more about listing a farm stay with Airbnb here.
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