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Q+A with Anya Fernald, CEO of Belcampo

Anya Fernald

After a slew of food industry jobs, including a stint as the director of Slow Food Nation in San Francisco, Anya Fernald turned her attention to Belcampo, a food and agritourism company that owns and sustainably manages farms in California, Belize and Uruguay. The Belize property, located in Punta Gorda, is also a 16-room resort where guests can learn to harvest coffee beans and roast their own blends, or pick cacao to make bars of chocolate.

Below, Fernald, who travels up to two weeks of every month, tells us about her jet-setting style—and her favorite in-flight foods.

Q: What is Belcampo best known for in the U.S.?

A: Meat! We produce excellent grass-fed and finished beef as well as pork, poultry, lamb, and goat on our 20,000-acre farm in Northern California. All of our meat is sold through our own shops. The first one is open in Marin County, and we’re opening five more in the Bay Area and greater Los Angeles area in the next few months.

Q: What’s the latest news from Belcampo Belize, your resort in Punta Gorda?

A: We have four new rooms. They’re atop a water tank that’s feeding our whole farm and hotel with gravity-fed water, saving us lots of electricity consumption and minimizing our environmental footprint. We’ve also started construction on our rum distillery. The staff is developing an awesome rum menu for our lodge bar, where we’ll use our own product.

Q: How often do you travel and where does your work take you?

A: I travel at least 10 days per month. My last trip took me to two great cities: New York and Austin. My next trip is to Colorado for a conference; from there I'm headed up to our farm in Shasta, California. I am going bow hunting for boar with a few people from the Belcampo team on our new winter grazing pasture.

Q: Do you make a point of experiencing a destination’s cultural highlights on business trips?

A: My cultural highlights are usually culinary-related but I try to loop in broader experiences as well. In an overnight in Austin last week, for example, I took a five-mile walk to visit a small farm-to-table butcher shop, and also passed through the historic downtown. A big grocery store is also a must-see in every city I visit. I love to check out regional products, look for what cuts are in the butcher case and see what people are putting in their carts. I've always been fascinated by that!

Q: What are some of your top tips for air travel?

A: I bring my own food. My go-to snacks for flying are rotisserie chicken, a chunk of good bread, a bag of almonds and beef jerky. I also like the pay-as-you-go menus that most airlines have now, so if I am left without time to prepare for a trip, I can buy a bag of nuts and dried fruit.

Q: When traveling for business, do you have any go-to outfits or accessories for the plane?

A: I never opt for the fully dressed-down yoga pants option, as I usually am meeting people I know right when I get where I arrive. Dansko clogs, though, are one informal accessory I wear often for flights: They slip on and off for the metal detector and I can run in them if I need to get to the gate fast.

Q: What kind of luggage do you carry?

A: When you travel as much as I do, you appreciate well-made luggage! I end up carting around a ton of stuff because I usually need a really wide mix of clothing. In any one trip I can be on horseback, on a boat, or in more typical business/restaurant environs. Right now, I rely most on a large Tumi roller bag, a Ghurka wool duffel, and a Mandarina Duck garment bag.

Q: What do you always have in your carry-on?

A: I always pack a canvas tote so that I can stuff any magazines or an extra jacket in there. I also always have a dark chocolate bar in the pocket of my purse, which in handy for low-energy moments. Last year I started traveling with one of those Styrofoam rollers for my muscles—it’s a lifesaver after a long flight!

Q: When deciding on what hotel to stay in on a business trip, what are your most important criteria?

A: I love having space to spread out, so I like it when hotels tell me the square footage. I want a comfortable desk space, especially since I need to be on my computer at night and in the morning. I also want to work out on the road, so a gym is a deciding factor for me. I am not looking to spend more than $300 a night typically when traveling for work, but I make an exception if there is a property with a similar food and agritourism focus to us.

Q: How do you fight jetlag?

A: I work out first thing in the morning. Also, I usually drink wine at night and coffee in the morning. This is probably not generally recommended but it works for me! Uruguay has the biggest time difference among the places I regularly travel to and their yerba mate is crazy caffeinated, so that’s a real savior when it comes to jet lag.

Photo courtesy of Belcampo

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