We did it! After a busy couple of months getting everything ready and putting the finishing touches to our little shepherd’s hut , we began our journey as farm stay hosts on Airbnb in December.
Since becoming a couple in 2017, Hannah and I have chatted a lot about the sort of farm we want to create together at Modern Barn Farm. We are both passionate about regenerative farming and food, and want to build a community of people around what we do. So opening up our farm to more people via Airbnb has been a dream come true.
Interested in hosting a farm stay like we did? Learn more here. As a partner of Airbnb, we’ll earn a small bonus when people begin hosting through our referral link.
Getting our first booking
Hannah and I were both a bit worried that the wintery weather might put people off. So, we were delighted to receive a booking notification within 24 hours of listing the hut! We were glad we opted to offer a 20% discount for the first three bookings, a tip advised to first time hosts to help generate more stays and reviews by Airbnb (you can read more about the listing process in our previous getting ready to share our hut post here).
Our first booking was for two nights over the weekend. This gave us a few days to prepare: carry out some final cleaning, double check all of the equipment, and prepare a little hamper of breakfast goodies (including fresh eggs from our chickens) for our first guests. Communication with them was straightforward—all carried out using the easy to use messaging service in the Airbnb smartphone app.
We created a little handbook of our shepherds hut that we sent to our guests a few days before their arrival, with instructions on how to find us (our farm is tucked away down a long track—often even delivery drivers can’t find us). It also includes an overview of the facilities in the hut, instructions on how to use the wood burner, and suggestions of things to do locally. At the time, our two local pubs were open and on Saturday the Ninfield village hall was host to the monthly farmers market.
Intrepid first guests
We’d assumed our guests would come by car, so were a little taken aback when they said they’d be travelling down from London by train and hiking the last 3 miles to our farm. They gave us an ETA and took up my offer to get the wood burner started an hour before their arrival (it was a chilly day). When they knocked on our farmhouse door, Hannah and I put on our boots and set off down our farm track towards the hut.
We instantly hit it off chatting about regenerative farming and food; they’d looked us up on instagram during their train journey down. They explained how they were thrilled to get out of London for the weekend, having both been working from home.
Having not been able to leave the farm much this year, it felt great to have a social connection with city dwellers, and we found the interaction really energising. It was doubly good that people who have been craving some peace and quiet were able to enjoy the outdoors and felt welcomed and wanted on the farm. All couples talked about revisiting again, and expressed an interest in learning more about farm life, so we hope to build these stays into more interactive experiences.
As we approached the hut you could see smoke rising from the little chimney. We gave them a quick tour of the hut area, explained the fire, the compost loo, mains water tap and water trough, our pallet bench and outdoor cooking area. We handed them the key to the hut and exchanged phone numbers in case they had any queries or wanted to order any burgers from us.
Getting to know our guests over the fire pit
The following morning they messaged us to order a couple of packs of burgers and invited us to join them for an outdoor supper in the evening. We got the burgers out of our freezer and Hannah made a marinade and prepared a salad from our garden. I took down some extra wood in case we needed it, as we weren’t sure how much wood two people would burn through!
Wrapped up in our woollen jumpers and winter jackets, we chatted round the fire pit waiting for the logs to burn down to embers. We exchanged stories of rural and urban life. We cooked the burgers on the tripod grill over the fire. The experience felt energising and made us appreciate how lucky we are to be able to share our little farm with others. It also made us realise that being farm hosts was going to be a lot of fun.
What our guests are saying
The conversation turned to their experience of staying in our hut. We were thrilled when they said they loved it. They said it was the perfect antidote to city life. Being able to slow down and embrace ‘hut things,’ topping up the fire with logs, warming water over the stove in the enamelware and preparing simple meals. They’d been on a couple of walks in our woods and had gone to check out the local market. We were so relieved, as I confess we spent the first morning trying to look for smoke signs from the chimney, worried the fire had gone out and they were freezing! They said they can’t wait to come back in the spring and we were delighted when they left us a glowing review.
We are keen to develop more of a pack on local things to do and places to see, for guests who might want to stay longer.
Watching our guestbook grow
We’ve since had two other couples stay in the hut. Our second couple also came down from London by train, booking a taxi to take them to the farm. Keen walkers, they visited nearby Herstmonceux Castle, the original site of Greenwich Observatory. They couldn’t believe how clear the sky was at night; they even saw a shooting star and remarked how comfortable our bed was.
Our last couple drove down from Surrey and stayed just one night but said they would definitely come back for a few days next time. They even left us a lovely surprise, some chocolates to say thank you.
We’re learning so much already
It wasn’t until after our first guests left, that we realised how much work goes into changeover: stripping the beds, washing the sheets, cleaning the toilet, mopping the floor, replenishing the pantry, chopping more kindling and logs for the wood burner.
It’s quite a long list and can take a few hours to do properly. With our own safety and that of our guests of paramount importance, we follow the Airbnb 5-step cleaning process. For added peace of mind during these times, we decided to block at least one day between bookings (this is easy to do within the calendar section of the Airbnb app).
This takes the pressure off and allows us to give the hut a thorough clean and ensure we maintain our high standards. With a few practice runs, you start to get a bit of a system, which helps speed things up.
So far we’ve met all our guests on arrival, showing them to the hut and making them feel at home. We’ve noticed that some guests are looking for a more interactive experience during their stay (like our first couple), whilst others prefer to get on and do their own thing. We’ve found that it’s best to give guests space and the option to contact us should they want to.
What we’re planning next
We’ve been pleased to discover how nice it is to have other people staying at the farm. It makes you feel more positive about it too, and serves as a valuable reminder that all your hard work is paying off.
We are thinking about looking into hosting Airbnb Experiences for people who come to stay, or for those who’d just like a day trip away from the city. We could host gardening classes, or guided walks to see local wildflowers, or farm-to-table dinners around the fire pit. We’re excited for the adventures ahead!
Thinking about listing a stay on Airbnb? Here’s how we approached the idea of hosting.
Getting your special space ready to host? Here’s how we prepared our shepherd’s hut for guests.
Ready to list your unique stay on Airbnb? Get started here.
As a partner of Airbnb, we’ll earn a small bonus when people begin hosting through our referral link.