Vacation Rentals Like Airbnb Help Maine Farmers Earn Extra Income


Vacation rentals like Airbnbs can be controversial in cities – they take business away from local hotels, escape occupancy taxes, and are often tied to gentrification, for example. But in rural Maine economies, vacation rentals provide additional income to farms while providing much-needed services.

Income from agricultural agri-tourism in Maine nearly quintupled between 2012 and 2017, according to the US Department of Agriculture. Vacation rentals have a lot to do with it.

For farms like Darthia Farm in Gouldsboro, vacation rentals provide a steady and steady increase in income that especially helps when other sources of farm income run out. Platforms like Airbnb allow its guests to rent a house or a room to tourists. A survey conducted by Airbnb in 2018 showed that 51% of rural hosts polled said the platform’s income helped them stay at home.

“It’s a real asset,” said Cynthia Thayer, who has owned the farm with her husband since 1976. “Our income has really improved by [our vacation rental]. Farm incomes are not always high and farm expenses are very high. It is a very good income. I can’t think of the downsides.

Thayer said his vacation rental, which they market through Airbnb, accounts for about 10 percent of his farm income. She is even considering converting another building on her property into an Airbnb unit.

“I know a few farmers in the region who have [Airbnbs] when ten years ago there were none [Airbnbs]”Thayer said.” It seems like we can’t get enough of them. They fill up right away.

From farm to Airbnb

Thayer said she had never been interested in running a hotel, but offering a vacation rental through a service like Airbnb is doable for her as a farmer. Before even joining Airbnb, people asked him to rent a room in his house for a week in order to visit Maine.

“People wanted to stay, they wanted to see a farm, they wanted to see the area and there were only a few places on the [Schoodic] Peninsula, ”Thayer said.

To get started, it took a bit of elbow grease and planning – painting, replacing beds and dishes – but overall it was pretty straightforward, Thayer said.

Managing their Airbnb efficiently on top of making sure all farm chores are done involved some troubleshooting – once their farming partner moved a whole herd of sheep right next to the cottage in the early hours of the morning, which Thayer said. , was probably not the most welcome wake-up call. for the guests – but overall Thayer said there hadn’t been much difficulty.

“Sometimes if they say they’ll be here at 3pm and they don’t show up until 6pm, it’s a challenge because we’re all very busy,” Thayer said. [but] almost everyone we have had in all these years have been truly wonderful people.

Still, it can add more to the farm’s already loaded to-do list.

“The farmers stay put and farm life goes on as normal, sometimes even offering a glimpse of the value of appreciating the spaces that farmers tend to support their business,” said Anne Trenholm, Promotion Coordinator. for the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.

For some other farmers, seasonal rentals are now the main source of farm income.

Karl Schatz and his wife, Margaret Hathaway, opened an Airbnb on their Ten Apple Farm in Gray about six years ago, after Margaret’s father passed away and the guesthouse where he lived vacated left. They’ve also started running hikes and workshops through Airbnb Experiences, which is another part of the company’s online platform.

“We’re only in the second year as a full-time business and there was a pandemic in the middle of that, so we’re still figuring it out,” Schatz said. “We hope this can more or less be a full time income for us and support us, but it’s a little hard to say at the moment.”

On-farm experiences generate more income for Ten Apple Farm than its agricultural produce, but Schatz said they have a stall on the farm, sell milk locally, and their daughter sells granola at the farmers market. For them, they are still a farm.

“We didn’t start out as a hospitality hotel with a farm,” Schatz said. “We started this as a farm. The hospitality industry has grown organically because that’s where our interests were. We process the goats twice a day, whether there are guests here or not.

What Makes a Firm Airbnb Experience in Maine

There is a wide range of customers who are drawn to Maine farm vacation rentals. Darthia Farm, for example, attracts guests from all over the country and as far away as China. But it still attracts locals too.

Schatz said most people come from cities and are looking for a place to stay where they get “a taste of the local community.” But others only stay for a city wedding – Ten Apple Farm is one of the only places to stay in an area with a number of wedding venues – and barely interact with family.

Farms in Maine are uniquely suited to be good vacation rentals, as many are small businesses with lots of natural beauty nearby, so this has been good in stabilizing farm incomes, which depend on the season.

“I think Maine is well known across the country for having a lot of small organic farms,” Thayer said. “I think Maine is a place of destination and people kind of combine the [Airbnb] on a farm and also be able to visit Acadia and be able to visit the mountains or other.

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