9 Farmstays, Ranches, and Ingredient-driven Hotels Around the U.S.
When the pandemic disrupted food supply chains, restaurant models, and grocery store shelves, the idea of being "rooted" at home took on a different meaning meaning.
Many in the U.S. began looking for more conscious ways to connect with the earth and the food it provides. A rise in CSA memberships and produce delivery subscriptions like Aina meant more farmers could sell food directly from fields to our kitchen counters. And with millions experiencing food insecurity, many advocated that food is not only about sustenance, but also about equity: social-justice-focused agriculture projects, like Black Soil, in Lexington, Kentucky, and Soul Fire Farm, in upstate New York, have supported farmers of color and set up initiatives to end food apartheid in marginalized communities.
Farmstays and food-focused properties are also finding ways to stay rooted in the land on which they are built — encouraging visitors to be an active part of the food they enjoy. Digging hands in dirt and enjoying the fruits of the farm can remind us that a thoughtful relationship to agriculture is critical for a sustainable future. Here, nine properties where meaningful (and delicious) experiences are drawn, quite literally, from the soil.
Beach Plum Farm
After supplying New Jersey hotels and restaurants with sustainably grown ingredients for more than a decade, Beach Plum Farm, in West Cape May, has opened its doors for guests. More than 100 varieties of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers grow on its 62 acres. Visitors can experience this abundance firsthand during one of Beach Plum's culinary retreats, which include botanical-cocktail classes and private farm dinners in the fields. Five cottages and barns, some dating back to the late 17th century, are stocked with produce from the property and can accommodate up to 12 guests — making this an ideal getaway for groups with an appetite. beachplumfarmcapemay.com.
Carmel Valley Ranch
Much of the produce used at Valley Kitchen, the restaurant at Carmel Valley Ranch, is literally picked within walking distance from the kitchen. The resort's culinary team, led by chef Ritchard Cariaga, and the on-site organic gardener, Mark Marino (a.k.a. the "Dirt Whisperer"), collaborate on a menu that's a love letter to California bounty. The beet salad, for example, comes with feta from the property's own goats, truffle honey from the beehives, and even salt from the on-site salt house. Guests have a number of opportunities to get familiar with the Ranch's sustainable ecosystem, including culinary demonstrations and candle- and soap-making. The "A Bee's Life" program introduces participants to the ancient magic of beekeeping with a honey tasting and a suited-up visit to the apiary for a closer look. carmelvalleyranch.com.
As fifth-generation Sonoma County farmers, sibling co-owners Joe and Catherine Bartolomei have invested in local, sustainable food since they opened this Forestville property 20 years ago. At the Michelin-starred Restaurant at Farmhouse Inn, the rabbit is sourced from nearby Devil's Gulch Ranch; a seasonal highlight this year is chervil and asparagus from neighboring Sayre Farms topped with Osetra caviar, a soft-poached quail egg, and an aioli made with Meyer lemons from the Inn's trees. "We know that supporting local farmers benefits our community, decreases our carbon footprint, and is overall just a better way to go," says Joe. "Plus, we're blessed to live in a region where so much grows so well. We have, arguably, some of the best produce in the world." farmhouseinn.com.
Even in the middle of downtown San Luis Obispo, the edible garden at Hotel Cerro not only provides organic produce for the property's restaurant, Brasserie SLO, but also invites guests to stroll through, nibble on vegetables and fruit, and soak up the sunshine. Chef Kenny Seliger procures ingredients like edible flowers, micro-herbs, and beets — supplemented by other produce from local farmers — for fresh dishes like wood-grilled Morro Bay oysters in a pecan-parsley gremolata, watermelon compressed in cantaloupe vinegar, and an unforgettably tender steak paired with fire-roasted kale and herb oil. hotelcerro.com.
The Inn at Newport Ranch
Set against towering redwood trees and the sweeping vistas of California's Mendocino Coast, The Inn at Newport Ranch highlights all that the surrounding 2,000 acres has to offer. As of last summer, the Inn sourced nearly 80% of its produce from its extensive organic gardens, where regenerative gardening practices are deployed to reduce the property's carbon footprint. Edible flowers serve as pollinator protectors for the property's five beehives, and a culinary herb and tea garden grows chamomile, mint, lemon balm, motherwort, tulsi, and more. There's even a mushroom farm: workshops here include lessons in medicinal mushrooms, foraging for fungi, and growing your own oyster mushrooms at home. Wrap with tea around the campfire brewed from turkey tail mushrooms, or eat the mushrooms you've foraged with a picnic dinner prepared by chef Adam Stacy (paired with local wines). theinnatnewportranch.com.
At the edge of Hiawatha National Forest on Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Chicago chef Iliana Regan and her wife, Anna, have opened Milkweed Inn, an exclusive wilderness B&B surrounded by 150 wooded acres. The experience at Milkweed — which is open on summer weekends — includes activities like kayaking and hiking. Guests can refuel with meals foraged and prepared by Regan: whitefish with berries; fresh radishes with cultured butter; fire-roasted wild apples. Accommodation options include the three-bedroom main cabin, an Airstream trailer, or, for the more adventurous, a wood-floored tent. milkweedinn.com.
Nicewonder Farm & Vineyards
The Blue Ridge Mountains are the backdrop to Nicewonder Farm & Vineyards, a 400-acre refuge in Bristol, Virginia. At the on-site restaurant, Taste, chef Travis Milton celebrates Appalachian cuisine and traditional techniques like canning and curing. Hearty dishes include cabbage stuffed with beef from nearby Wolf Hills Farm and served with Milton's version of chowchow, the ubiquitous Southern relish. (Pair it with a Merlot from Nicewonder's 10 acres of vines.) You can spend the night at one of nine new glamping yurts; a luxe 28-room inn will open later this summer. nicewonderfarm.com.
Sagra at Stemple Creek Ranch
Hospitality start-up Sagra partners with sustainable farms to set up boutique agritourism stays on their properties. Cofounders David Rust, Kathryn Arffa, and Jason Grauer all have a background in farming. Their first getaway, at Stemple Creek Ranch in Tomales, California, offers immersive experiences like natural dye-making and helping out in the vegetable garden. The cabins and tents highlight locally sourced materials — the Coyuchi duvets are filled with wool from Stemple Creek's very own sheep. Ingredients for meals are procured on site and prepared by chef Alan Hsu. "Beyond sustenance, a meal is a gathering," says Hsu. "The food will highlight where I come from as a Taiwanese American and a California native, and emphasize the practices we want to live by." sagrafarms.com.
Vintners Resort continues its reputation as Sonoma's original farm-to-table destination — a title it's held since chef John Ash opened his adjoining restaurant, John Ash & Co., more than 40 years ago. Having control over how produce is grown, cared for, harvested, and prepared is integral to the property's identity. Four acres of the estate are used for organic fruits and vegetables, and another two-and-a-half are covered by olive trees; "living fences" reveal themselves to be espaliers laden with figs (for a mostarda to pair with charcuterie) and pears (destined for a vinaigrette). Executive chef Tom Schmidt expands on Ash's original menu using grown-on-property produce. vintnersresort.com.