But when the Joneses launched their farm stay, there was very little information available - either for farmers who wanted to offer one, or tourists who wanted to book one. So Scottie secured two U.S. Department of Agriculture grants to launch http://www.farmstayUS.com, a website that connects small farmers and ranchers nationwide who offer farm stays with travelers seeking them.

Now, if you're looking for a farm stay, you can search by location, cost, size or type (farm, ranch or vineyard). In the Northwest, the range of experiences offered is vast: From $20 tent-camping on an alpaca ranch near Granite Falls (( http://www.pacapride.com ), to deluxe accommodations in a $395-a-night estate on a vineyard near McMinnville, Ore. (( http://www.stollerfamilyestate.com )

At some, communal meals are included; at others, you cook for yourself. Some allow and encourage children; others don't. The one commonality: They're all working farms or ranches - not just B&Bs with bucolic views.

Even with farm stays helping to pay the bills, Scottie Jones says farming remains hard, physical and often solitary labor. But the rewards of sharing the lifestyle with others are great:

"We're sending people back home who are now more likely to pay farmers-market prices, because they see the amount of work it takes to get the produce to the market from the ground," she says. "We're getting people more comfortable with farming and nature."

City dwellers are sometimes disconnected from the land and the sources of their food, she observes. Occasionally, she's astonished at what some of her guests don't know: "There are some people who call a sheep a goat, or call a goose a duck."

When we arrived at Leaping Lamb, we weren't sure if Paco was a donkey or some kind of miniature mule. Now that we've looked him in his liquid brown eyes, we'll never forget him.

That's the sort of thing that happens on a farm stay. As Scottie writes on her website, "Many people might like to have a farm experience without buying the farm (literally). Just being on a farm is good for the soul."

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IF YOU GO:

WHERE: Leaping Lamb Farm is west of Corvallis, Ore., about a five-hour drive from Seattle. From Interstate 5, take Highways 34/20 through Corvallis and Philomath. Turn left onto 34 as you leave Philomath, heading west toward Alsea. Go about 17-plus miles. At mile marker 41, look on left for Honey Grove Road. Drive 1.7 miles up Honey Grove (a maintained dirt road). The farm is on the right.

NEARBY: Alsea, less than two miles from Leaping Lamb, has a gas station, a seasonal restaurant and an old-fashioned general store. The Oregon coast is 40 miles to the west.

COST: $150 per night for two people; $25 per night per additional guest. Breakfast makings included (you cook). Two-night minimum on weekends. Extra charge for single-night stays during the week.

MORE INFORMATION: 877-820-6132 or http://www.leapinglambfarm.com

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FINDING THE FARM LIFE

Find a farm stay, or just learn more:

http://www.farmstayUS.com

Agritourism info and resources including day trips, U-picks, tasting rooms and more:

http://www.ruralbounty.com

Volunteer opportunities on organic farms:

http://www.wwoofusa.org