Photo from the Canadian and Gazette files from the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum
Tracy Thompson – Wells— Those are my Grandparents. They ran Farm Vacations for many any years. The farm is on the 7th line of Ramsay, just out past Carembeck school. They had eleven children, all of whom are still living. They were very active in their community and church. Amazing people. He also wrote a column in the Almonte Gazette at one time.
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There were several excited shouts from the barn as someone announced that the black cow was finally having her calf. Owner Alan Thompson went to have a look but declared it a false alarm. So the others returned to then-own pursuits feeding the stray rabbit, putting the hay rack on the wagon, saddling the horse or just sitting in the shade on the front lawn. Tt was a typical summer afternoon on the farm of Alan and Bet ty Thompson, about three miles from here. However, the scene differs from that on other Ottawa Valley farms at this time of year since 10 of the 16 people living in the large brick farm house don’t really belong there.
They are city dwellers who haie come to the country for a brief break from the hustle and bustle of urban life. On the list The Thompsons’ 200-acre farm-known as Meadowside Farm is one of 45 listed by the provincial federation of agriculture in a brochure for prospective farm vacationers. The Thompsons got into the farm vacation business 11 years ago when Betty wanted a new linoleum floor for the kitchen. In order to pay for the renovation, she decided to take some city children for the summer and introduce them to rural life. Advertisements in local newspapers brought many inquiries from parents and inevitably Mrs. Thompson’s summer business stretched beyond the initial experiment.
“Each year I always needed something else a second bathroom, a veranda, a dishwasher, and so on.” The farm couple, who have 11 children of their own, decided it would be “more interesting” if they accepted adults as well as children for their summer program. As a re-tull, most of their reservations now tome from family groups who stay gn average of one week with their rural hosts. Old and young Last year the Thompsons hosted a total of 55 children and 26 adults. Reservations so far this year add up to 30 children and 22 adults. Visitors are charged $60 a week for room and board; a reduced rate of $33 applies to children. The Meadowside home has taken on a new appearance, thanks to ihe added revenue from the tourist program. The kitchen now sports modern gadgets and appliances and in the iback yard sit a small swimming pool and a wading poo! for visiting toddlers. Despite the hard work and long hours.
Betty Thompson is enthusiastic about her small enterprise. “1 really don’t understand why more farm couples don’t do it. There are not nearly enough hosts especially here around Ottawa. Every year I have to turn many families away.” Unlike some of the other hosts listed in the government brochure, the Thompsons open their farm to guests only during the summer months. The remainder of the year is reserved for some rest and visits from their seven away-from-home children and their six grandchildren. “You certainly meet some interesting people in this business,” Betty Thompson observes. Last year about half of her guests were from the United States. So far this summer she has not received one inquiry from south of the border. ‘T guess it’s because of the gas rationing and because the government is urging people to spend their monev in the U.S.” The day begins at about 6.15 a.m. for the Thompsons. For Betty there are meals to prepare, dishes to do and the house to clean. Her special summer chore is keeping a full supply of popsicles and freshie in the refrigerator. The large and tasty meals served on a huge kitchen table highlight the day at Meadowside. Farm-fresh produce, including home-grown beef, is featured, as well as home-baked breads and pastries. Alan Thompson’s day is occupied with work in the barn and the fields and “running into town every so often to get groceries,” his wife adds. It is also Alan’s task to ex-..ptainjhe farm operation to the visitors both adults and youngsters.
“You’d really be surprised at some of the questions they come up with,” Mrs. Thompson says with a smile. She also has tales of She souvenirs her guests pick up on the farm and take back to city. “One boy took home a skeleton of a horse’s head. I’m not too sure what his mother thought of that. Another man took an old wagon wheel and said he was going to make it into a table.” Besides the natural beauty of the farm setting, there are numerous live attractions as well cows,’ a couple of pigs, pony, banty hens. Buddy the dog and some cats. Plenty to do There’s always something to do. When the empty hay wagon takes off from the barn for another load, the wagon can hardly be detected because of the many helpers some Thompsons, some not. “We quit for the day at about 10 p.m.,” says Betty. “Our work is not always finished by then but we quit.”
The farm vacation business has meant many small and a few difficult adjustments for the Thompsons. In Mrs. Thompson’s estimation, the noon-time meal has presented the biggest headache. Farm people, being early risers, are accustomed to having their large, hot meal at mid-day. On the other hand, city dwellers often nibble at lunch time, saving their appetites for the evening meal. “We went to a convention last yr;ar for all the Ontario hosts and the first thing the women asked each other was, ‘What do you give them for lunch?’ ” More and more families are bypassing the regular motel-hopping vacation and escaping instead to the rural countryside for their holidays. “What could be more ideal than this?” one Toronto visitor to Meadowside replied w hen asked why she and her husband chose a farm vacation. A plain Li iVU eom One advantage of the trip, she adds, is that her children aren’t constantly complaining, “There’s nothing to do, Mummy.” Another guest from Montreal said she came simply to relax. “I’m enjoying it but I’m not a haymaker or horseback rider like the others. I’m happy just to find a spot in the shade and sit.” As for the Thompsons, they haven’t had a vacation in four years “except for a few short trips.” In the winter, it’s hard for them to leave the chores for the four children who live at home. Besides, Alan drives a school bus on week-davs when school is in session.