Teenagers are now travelling with friends, unchaperoned, to farm-stays that score high on safety and sustainability
This might be straight out of an Enid Blyton book, with a group of teenagers heading to a farm for days filled with adventures and picnics. For though there might not be any mystery in the making here, the rest of it is typical Famous Five style: youngsters, 13 years and above, heading with friends to farm-stays for barnyard adventures complete with squawking chickens, friendly dogs and curious cows in tow.
A relatively new concept in India, the idea of teenagers travelling in groups, sans any chaperone, is slowly gaining traction. And farm-stays, located a few hours away from major cities, have emerged as the destination of choice. There is even a farm-stay aggregator.
Parents prefer farm-stays as they allow children to be one with nature, give them much needed time away from the screen, and help them enjoy the freedom such a trip brings, offering a deeper awareness of mindful living. Travelling at an early age enables children to be emotionally and physically strong, making them responsible and enhancing decision-making abilities. Most importantly, perhaps, they offer safety and security. Some options.
TIME WITH A GRANDMA
Vaksana Farms, two hours from Chennai, is spread over 13 acres of lush green. Set up 12 years ago, it is run by three generations of a family—90-year-old Lakshmi Paati, her daughter, Kasturi Ammal, and grandson, Kiruba Shankar. It’s common to see teens squealing with joy at the sight of farm animals while helping out on the farm that grows exotic fruits, vegetables, rice and millets. All the food is prepared by Paati with help from the children, who harvest the produce.
While schools from in and around Chennai send children on day trips to the farm, Vaksana organises overnight stays for children too. Security is taken care of. No alcohol or drugs are allowed on the premises. The farm has old, trusted employees who go through a strict verification process periodically. It is not unusual for Shankar to chaperone children from nearby destinations, ensuring pick-up and drop.
Recently, Ravi Kumar, CEO, INQ Technologies, Chennai, sent his 17-year-old daughter, Sripriya, with friends to Vaksana to unwind after exams. During the three-day trip, they helped graze cattle, planted trees, went on sightseeing trips, swam in a pond with life jackets, played mud kabaddi, and sat by the bonfire, regaling one another with ghost stories.
₹8,500, plus taxes, per night
One-year-old Farmwalk is a farm-stay aggregator that has tie-ups with over 50 big and small farms in the National Capital Region (NCR), Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa, Kerala and Karnataka, among other places. The company hopes to get more youngsters to experience the richness and simplicity of rural life.
The aggregator has a strict screening process for the farmhouses that want to come on board. They have extensive conversations with parents to understand just what they are looking for in a kids-only vacation. Some findings include an emphasis on security, with cameras in place, routine background checks of staff, layout of the farm, a doctor on call, availability of first-aid kits, SOS numbers.
Three months ago, Farmwalk arranged for 12 children in the 15-plus age group to visit a farm in Shilaroo, near Shimla, for a four-day trip. The activities included pottery, nature walks, birdwatching, hiking, plucking apples and cherries in orchards, eating local meals, engaging in fire-less food preparation, visiting local cheese factories.
₹25,000 onwards for a two-day trip
BY THE HILLS
Located in Naurangpur, Punjab, Walden Living is nestled in the foothills of the Himalaya. Just an hour’s drive from Chandigarh, the property, with its minimalist and sustainable interiors, attracts youngsters who study in the architecture colleges nearby. Founder Siddhartha Jindal says he is getting a lot of queries from parents of 14- to 15-year-olds too.
Children can enjoy walks in the fields, tractor rides, harvesting sessions, understand the concept of farm-to-table dining, hiking, visits to the local gurdwara. There are sand pits to romp in, and Jindal organises outdoor picnics as well. The star attraction is the handsome Baloo, the resident dog.
₹15,000, plus taxes, per night on a twin-sharing basis
SCIENCE AND NATURE
Hoping to encourage “early naturalists”, Tree House Resort, Jaipur, has upped the number of activities for children in the 12-plus age group. While many come on school trips or with their parents, the inquiries are now veering towards children-only vacations. Some of the queries have come directly from parents. “We have created numerous activities and experiential zones for children and we want them to appreciate nature in all its glory,” says Puneet Dutta, general manager, Tree House Resort.
While they offer painting, pottery, birdwatching, and gardening, many children are attracted to the unique science lab created for them. As of now, DIY Chandrayaan kits are popular, apart from star-gazing, microscopic viewing of plants, and other science-led activities. There’s a doctor on call and a hospital nearby.
₹16,800, plus taxes, per night on twin- sharing basis
Abhilasha Ojha is a Delhi-based art and culture writer.