By Curt Peterson
HARTLAND—Todd Heyman and Suzy Kaplan have created Fat Sheep Farm and Cabins in Hartland to emulate the popular European farm-stay destinations — where guests live and work on a real farm and pay for the experience.
Accommodations are all new since 2017 when their first farm-stay visitor occupied one of the five new cabins and brought their horses with them (Fat Sheep has three fancy stalls available for visitors’ horses).
Heyman said the horse stalls are Kaplan’s idea — she eventually wants a horse of her own, and a place to keep it so it won’t be an obstacle.
The cabins bear local-color names: Sunset, Lull Brook, Four Corners, Ascutney and Sunrise. Scandinavian in style, the cabins are modest in size but open and well-designed to seem large once you’re inside.
Rates for a stay range from $120 to $185 per night, depending on the cabin and the days of the week. There’s a small cleaning fee and a pet cleaning charge for pet-friendly units. Air conditioning and Wi-Fi are provided, along with full kitchens. For those addicted to TV, however, consider Fat Sheep rehabilitation – no televisions.
“We tell people who are disappointed, ‘There’s more than enough to do here – you won’t miss it!’,” Heyman said. “And no one has refused to make a reservation because there’s no TV.”
Every cabin has a view of the peerlessly beautiful Hartland hills.
Besides farm-centered activities such as gathering eggs, feeding the animals, cleaning stalls, touring the property, watching the goats, sheep and chickens, and picking produce grown in Fat Sheep’s gardens, there is a recreation area with lounging chairs, a firepit and cornhole games.
He added that 80-85 percent of their guests do farm chores as part of their stay at Fat Sheep.
The couple bought the 60-acre property in 2016 and began developing their farm-stay destination right away.
The couple chose East-Friesian-Kieko sheep crosses to start building their flock. They are a medium-sized hybrid dairy sheep, mostly white with a few brown individuals, and are pasture-fed, with organic grain supplements.
Heyman is originally from the Newburyport, Massachusetts area, and Kaplan grew up on Long Island. They met in 2014 online and their daughter Autumn was born in April 2017.
Heyman had given up an early stint in law school and gained some experience working on farms. Kaplan attended the University of Vermont, dabbled in the horse event world and fell in love with Vermont activities—particularly baking and making cheese, ice cream and yogurt.
Heyman said once they get their cheesemaking equipment and pasteurizer installed and working properly, they will be making sheep milk cheese, yogurt and ice cream to sell. They already sell bread and produce at the Woodstock Farmers’ Market on the Green.
Heyman said trying to do everything at once on a farm can be overwhelming.
“We’ve slowed down a bit and make sure we finish what we’re doing and do it right,” he said.