A field of pink wildflowers gently swaying in the breeze and thousands of sunflowers standing tall behind them… this is the first vista that drivers see when they reach the end of the country road where Maple Bottom Farm is located.

That dead-end road has become a land of dreams thanks to the design and hard work of Vickie and Mike Baker, who saw the agritourism potential of their dairy farm in Fayette County, Pennsylvania.

The sunflowers, zinnias and cosmos flowers came first, an idea that Vickie’s brother, a crops consultant, suggested to diversify their operations. The big farmhouse on the property also made an ideal bed-and-breakfast, so the Bakers added that to their operations, as well. The family made these additions to the farm in the spring of 2020 amid the Covid-19 pandemic, but they were hopeful that their ideas would resonate with the public. Well, the Bakers were right. The community responded in a big way with more than 8,000 visitors stopping by their farm that season for engagements, picnics, and photo shoots. The farmhouse, with its big front porch overlooking those sunflower fields and barn, is now a wonderful place that guests enjoy. Vickie says the incredible enthusiasm from the public illustrates just how intrigued people are with farm life.

“Agritourism is something we were always interested in,” Vickie says. “We really believe in sharing what we do so people understand where their food comes from. By opening up our farm, we can show how much we care for our animals, how we tend the land, always with our eyes on the future. It’s been amazing to see the response we’ve had.”

Despite their growth and diversification, Maple Bottom Farm is still a family-run business. Mike does the day-to-day work as Vickie has an off-farm job in animal health. Their two children, 14-year-old Lee and 10-year-old Clara, have daily chores, feed calves and even scoop ice cream for guests. Vickie’s mother, Susan Ansell, runs the bed-and-breakfast. The family milks an all-Guernsey herd now, and they helped start a cheese curd cooperative in recent years.

The Bakers’ farm is a small dairy with only 60 cows. Like Maple Bottom Farm, Vickie says, most Pennsylvania dairy farms, large or small, are family owned and operated. “That’s how dairy farming is. We are family members who care about our herds and producing a quality product for consumers,” she says.

Vickie can’t remember when she first fell in love with cows. She explains that she has always had a special bond with the animals, having been raised on her parents’ dairy farm in the area.

Ansell says her daughter, at just two years old, would slip her barn boots on and sneak out of the house, running across the lawn in her nightgown on early mornings to help her father with the day’s first milking.

“I heard the door close and looked out the window. I called out to her, ‘Vickie, where are you going,’ Ansell smiles. “And she yelled back, ‘Dad needs help in the barn,’” she recalls.

“Vickie has a very strong work ethic, as dairy farmers do, and I’m very proud that she is so dedicated to the farm,” Ansell says. “It’s a family thing that we are doing here together, and we really love it.”

While Vickie has always loved cows, she has also grown to love the golden glow of the sunflower fields.

“Sunflowers create a sense of hope for people. They truly make you smile,” Vickie says. “Every morning, they wait for the start of a new day and look toward the sun. I think that is what makes them so warm and welcoming,” she says.

“Planting the flower fields was the start of something special here. We took a dead-end road and created a destination for people and a destiny for ourselves,” Vickie says.

Learn more of the Bakers’ story by watching the “Land of Dreams: Couple Creates Dairy Destination” episode of This American Dairy Farmer below.