Rocky Acres Farm Bed & Breakfast View from the front

Rural Escapes: Agritourism in the Heart of Amish Country

Written by Melody Moser | Photographs by Melody Moser –

Imagine waking up to the gentle clucking of chickens, the soft lowing of cows, and the scent of Amish-baked oatmeal wafting through the air. This may sound like a bucolic dream, but it’s a reality in the world of farm stays. Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, with its lush rolling hills and rich agricultural heritage, offers an idyllic setting for this unique travel experience: rural escapes known as farm stays.

More than just a getaway, a farm stay is an invitation to slow down and reconnect with nature. And that’s exactly what I needed when I left my suburban New Jersey home and drove to Rocky Acre Farm Bed & Breakfast in Mount Joy, Pennsylvania.

A Warm Welcome at Rocky Acre Farm Bed & Breakfast

At first, I was concerned I’d feel lonely spending a weekend solo at a rural escape farm stay, but within minutes of arriving, a family of guests welcomed me as if I were a trusted friend. Their laughter and friendly banter filled the air, creating an immediate sense of community. Later, Eileen Benner, who operates the farm bed and breakfast with her husband, Galen, and her daughter, Holly, offered to take me on a tour of the farm. By golf cart, of all things–if I would drive.

Driving a golf cart was only one of the fun new experiences I’d have that weekend. As Eileen showed me around, she shared some of the farm’s history. Their business is called “Yippee! Farms” and includes the farm at Rocky Acre and two additional dairy farms operated by Benner’s son, Arlin, and his wife, Deborah. Together, the farms milk about 1900 cows.

I was amazed as we explored the area. Everything seemed so clean, even the cows and endless rows of lush green corn. A sense of serenity overhung everything.

One of my first adjustments to this rural escape was the keyless stay. On arrival, a slip of paper taped to the front door had guests’ names and room names written on it. But no keys.  As I carried my computer and bags upstairs, I worried–would I be able to relax enough if I left my things in an unlocked room? Surprisingly, I did! Having no key to worry about and no lock to fiddle with, aside from the one used when I was inside the room, gave me the feeling of being a guest in a family’s home. I hadn’t felt that way in a long time, and it made my heart swell.

A Rich Tapestry of History

Eileen’s grandfather bought the farm in the 1920s, and it became Eileen and Galen’s home in 1959.  At first, Galen farmed tomatoes and beef but moved to dairy in 1965. That year, Galen found Eileen hammering in an upstairs bedroom. When he asked what she was doing, she said, “We’re going to open our home as a farm vacation for guests.” Galen wasn’t sure what that was, but Eileen’s instinct was good. Her idea became profitable and grew into a thriving business. Today, she enjoys watching guests like me appreciate the simple things in life.

The house has an interesting history. The original building, with its thick stone walls, is believed to have been built at the end of the American Revolution between 1776 and 1779. The Benners found evidence of a secret room that is said to have been part of the Underground Railroad. Had the stone house where I slept once given refuge to runaway slaves? I like to think that it had. The town of Mount Joy was an official stop on the Underground Railroad in the mid-1800s, so it is easy to imagine this could be true.

What type of traveler chooses rural escapes?

It came as no surprise that Rocky Acre is popular with families and multigenerational groups. Most of the guests I spoke to said they’d been there before, some visiting yearly for as long as twenty years, long before rural escapes were a travel trend. I met one young guest who used to visit with her family and brought her boyfriend with her to share the nostalgic experience.

Couples and honeymooners also like to stay at Rocky Acre, and it’s a lovely place for a wedding. Holly’s daughter Taylor was married in the farms’ meadow, a green expanse surrounded by trees alongside a burbling stream. I spent a happy hour gazing at the wedding photos Eileen shared with me.

As Mennonites–more liberal, theological cousins to the Amish–the Benners highly value family and community. As a guest at Rocky Acre, you’ll eat in their dining room, sleep in one of their bedrooms, and say a prayer with them before eating if you so desire. This feeling of connectedness and belonging is why I felt so comfortable there. By the end of the first day, I completely forgot that I was alone.

Where Comfort Meets Authenticity: Cozy Accommodations

I stayed in the Fireplace Room, a cozy, Victorian-themed bedroom that could sleep a family of five but would be perfect for a romantic stay. I slept better than I had in months. As I tucked myself into the comfortable bed each night as a chorus of crickets began their nightly serenade outside. Each morning, I awoke to the soft lowing of cows. Rural escapes hadn’t been on my radar screen before, but I was so happy to have found such an incredible first pick.

There are a variety of rooms of various sizes to choose from; mine had a refrigerator and a modern bathroom that was a joy to shower in.

A Breakfast to Remember

Kids start their day at the farm by gathering eggs, still warm, in the henhouse. Then, at 8:15 AM, a bell rings, and the guests gather at two large tables in the kitchen and dining room to eat an abundant buffet breakfast. The menu is mouthwatering: fluffy scrambled eggs, smoked turkey bacon, blueberry and chocolate chip pancakes. My favorite dish was a delicious, freshly baked cobbler made with juicy summer peaches. The breakfast was probably the best I’ve ever had.

The camaraderie amongst the guests was almost as good as the food. My suburban life had kept me too busy to meet new people, but within minutes, I was conversing with everyone as if I’d known them for years.

A Day in Farm Life: Activities and Experiences

After breakfast came the entertainment. Galen drove up to the farmhouse in a bright green, homemade train, and the kids piled in for a ride. Next came a family hayride, which took us through the farm where staff milked the cattle and the calves were born. We learned that guests could help bottle-feed the calves; if you’re lucky, you may even see one being born.

I enjoyed the hayride, not only because it gave me the chance to see the farm and the area around it but because I could appreciate the scenery without worrying about driving. It was fun to see everyone’s delighted faces as we rode through one of Lancaster County’s twenty-nine-covered bridges.

How much you take part in farm chores is up to you. In addition to bottle-feeding newborn calves, guests can gather eggs and feed the goats, who love leftover pancakes. The goats were among my favorites–I loved how they hurried to the fence to see me each time I visited to pat them on the head. Their fur was surprisingly course, a tactile reassurance of my connection to them.

Older kids can carefully groom Cupcake, the miniature horse, or go for a ride. Everyone loved the cats, and the seven kittens provided endless entertainment.

For kids, there were bikes to ride and toys to play with. Families can take the golf cart out for short rides around the farm. You can also head down to the meadow to fish for bass or trout in Little Chiques Creek. There, you’ll also find kayaks and an old-fashioned tire swing.

I found the Pickleball court very interesting. It was surrounded by a large blue tank that was originally part of the manure storage system. Manure is pumped underground to the manure digester at Yippee Farms instead of going into the blue tank. The digester is a green energy resource that generates enough electricity for 110 homes and bedding for all the cows.

In the evenings, I sat on the porch to relax with a book, and sometimes other guests joined me.

Beyond the Farm: Exploring Nearby Attractions in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania

While it might be hard to drag yourselves away from the farm each day, Lancaster County is replete with unique and fun things to do. I spent my days shopping in local markets and exploring charming towns like Intercourse, where I sampled Lapp Valley Farms’ creamy homemade ice cream at Kitchen Kettle Village. In Lititz, I tasted silky-smooth hand-crafted chocolate at the Wilbur Chocolate store, flavors so intense they momentarily transported me back to the farm’s own kitchen.

To learn more about the Amish culture, ask the Benners if they can arrange a dinner with an Amish family or opt for a buggy ride. Kids will want to visit Hersey Park or Dutch Wonderland.

To see the real Amish country, though, I suggest you follow the “Back Roads of Lancaster County” tour in the book in your room. The route takes you away from the tourist areas and to places where the Amish shop, such as the Bird-in-Hand Bake Shop, Stoltzfus New and Used Furniture, and Riehl’s Quilts and Crafts. This is the ultimate in rural escapes!

There are also some enticing places to eat in the area. In Mount Joy, I descended 43 feet below the street to dine in the stone-lined vaults of the candlelit Catacombs, a restaurant in the aging cellars of Bube’s Brewery. In Lititz, I had a delicious quiche at the Tomato Pie Café.

My First Rural Escape Was a Transformational Experience

As I bid farewell to the rolling hills, the gentle animals, and the warm-hearted people I’d met at Rocky Acre, I felt a profound sense of gratitude. This was more than just a weekend-long rural escape; it was a transformative journey that reconnected me with the simplicity and beauty of rural life.

I left with a rejuvenated spirit and a longing to return soon to my ‘new family.’ The world of farm stays had opened to me, and I knew now that whenever the hustle of everyday life got too much for me, I could escape back to the simplicity and authenticity of the countryside.

If You Go:

Tips to Help You Plan the Perfect Rural Escape at Rocky Acre Farm:

  • Planning Your Visit: Booking in advance is highly recommended. Many of the guests book the next year before they leave.
  • Contact Information: Visit the Rocky Acre Farm Bed & Breakfast website at https://www.rockyacre.com/ to book your unforgettable rural escape farm stay experience
  • Activities: From hayrides to farm tours, activities vary seasonally. If you have specific interests, such as witnessing animal births or participating in feeding, check with the farm in advance.
  • Experience Lancaster County: For more on agritourism and attractions in the region, visit the official Lancaster County tourism website at https://www.discoverlancaster.com/
  • Packing Tips: Bring comfortable clothing and footwear suitable for outdoor activities. Don’t forget your camera to capture memories!

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