Farm Stays Give Guests An Authentic Experience – Harrisonburg Daily News Record

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Editor’s Note: This story first ran in the DN-R on Jan. 9. 

ELKTON — From cabins tucked into hollows of the Blue Ridge Mountains to private rooms in Victorian-era farmhouses, Rockingham County is laden with farm stays and short-term rentals of just about every kind.

While the concept of short-term rentals have been used for generations, there’s no doubt that modern takes on tourism and companies like Airbnb have redefined traveling in the United States. Plus, it doesn’t take a data analyst to see that Airbnb’s and other types of short term renting have exploded in popularity in the past few years, touching every corner of the continent including the Shenandoah Valley.

According to the county’s Economic Development and Tourism Coordinator Josh Gooden, there are more than 625 registered accounts of short-term rental owners with the commissioner’s office. Within the town of Elkton itself, there are a total of 12 approved short term rentals — 10 of which are operational right now.

“With the growth in popularity over the last several years, there has been an increase in types of rentals, particularly in rural areas of the county from tree houses to even historic service stations,” Gooden explained. “What’s particularly unique in the county is the addition of on-farm lodging opportunities — which provide a glimpse into the agricultural roots of not only the county but the valley as a whole.”

Based on conversations with local hosts, short-term rentals have proved to be a viable source of supplemental income despite the flooded market and provides a way for locals to connect with travelers and create an interpersonal connection with their land and the people who take care of it. One small and one large example of an agriculture-based short term rental — both based in Elkton — gave a tour of their space and some insight and what it means to host for Airbnb.

Elkton Dairy Barn

Andy and Emily Barone aren’t farmers and don’t plan to farm much more than a healthy flock of backyard chickens anytime soon.

Andy Barone works full-time as a regional sales manager for Ventrac, while Emily Barone has a career in local real estate. Together, they spend much of their time raising a young family. When they purchased their current home behind the BP gas station five years ago, however, they also inherited a hobby-sized milking parlor that the previous owner used with a small operation.

The Barone’s started renovating the 1940s- or 1950s-era dairy in 2021 and completely transformed the space from open barn with uneven concrete floor to modern tiny house with a full kitchen and tiled bathroom.

“It’s stayed really busy,” Emily Barone said, “and most people who stay here are coming to go hiking.”

At this stay, guests enjoy a private space to themselves located halfway between Massanutten Resort and Shenandoah National Park — where they can relax from a full day’s adventure on a screened-in porch, sit by a fire ring inside a converted grain bin, sleep in a farmhouse-style lofted bedroom and take home farm-fresh eggs.

Riverbank Farm

Jack Dixon on the other hand, recently started his full-time venture as a farmer raising pastured chickens and traditional Shenandoah Valley hogs.

Dixon’s roots run deep on the property where his family has been living for generations — a property that holds a unique piece to the puzzle of Rockingham County history. Dixon noted that his grandfather was actually one of the first people in the area to advertise “farm stays” in the 1970s and hosted many government officials from Washington, D.C.

For several years now, Dixon and his wife have used the grounds as an event center and just recently added short-term rentals to their list of diversified income.

“The short term rental has been great,” Dixon remarked. “We get to meet a lot of really cool folks.”

At this stay, guests have an entire three bedroom house to themselves and can be fully immersed in rural living by taking farm tours, watching lambs in the backyard paddock, and fishing from a private section of the Shenandoah River. Dixon has even included a farm-to-table upgrade for bookings by offering poultry and pork produced on his budding farm.

Other Farm Stays Nearby

And there are many more locations where friends, family members and vacationers can crash for a unique Rockingham County stay-cation. These Airbnb’s are hosted by local folks with farms to share:

  • Hilltop Apartment above Glendor Farm — Harrisonburg
  • Cider House at Showalter’s Orchard — Timberville
  • Entire Cabin inside Historic Grist Mill — Quicksburg
  • Bungalow at Cave Hill Farm — McGaheysville
  • Glamping Tents at Sweet Magnolia Farm — Singers Glen

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