Anyone who’s followed food trends for the last few years knows that eating local is one of the hottest, healthiest movements on the culinary scene–and there are no signs that this trend is going away anytime soon.
People simply want to be closer to the origins of the foods they’re feeding themselves and their families. Now, some folks are getting really close to the food—as in, vacationing on the farm where it’s grown.
Jen Swetzoff wrote about these “haycations” for Gourmet Live, and selected four rural retreats to review.
Here’s an excerpt from her story:
While common in Europe for years, “haycations,” as they are sometimes called here, are becoming popular in the United States. According to Scottie Jones at Farm Stay U.S. (www.farmstayus.com), more than 1,000 farms and ranches currently offer lodging to visitors, and that number is expected to rise steadily over the next few years. “For those open to the idea of hosting guests,” Jones said, “it’s a slam dunk to move into something that’s not dependent on the weather or the price of corn.” As financial struggles have prompted farmers to look for new ways to generate a profit, many are capitalizing on the locavore trend, offering luxurious accommodations on their properties along with a variety of perks for foodies.
In that spirit, we chose four of our favorite rural retreats, where you can pick vegetables from the garden outside your own private barn, collect eggs from the hen house next door, help corral grass-fed bison, or spend the day shadowing a master gardener or foraging for mushrooms. The highlight at all of these places is, of course, enjoying the literal fruits of your labor.
Philo Apple Farm, www.philoapplefarm.com/index.php
Farm-to-table dining is old news at the organic and biodynamic Philo Apple Farm in California’s Anderson Valley, where guests have been enjoying crisp apples and home-cooked meals for more than 15 years. To learn about agritourism from the experts, spend a weekend here with your hosts Karen and Tim Bates.
Settle into your wooden cottage nestled among apple trees and enjoy a dinner at the farm. Saturday morning starts with a tour of the grounds led by Tim. He’ll show you Philo’s idyllic orchard with 1,700 trees and 19 varieties of apples, its flourishing gardens, and the rolling pastures that are home to sheep and goats. After you’ve been inspired by your surroundings, join Karen in the family’s kitchen to start cooking a simple, seasonal meal with ingredients found right outside your door
Kinderhook Farm, www.kinderhookfarmstay.com/index.html
For one of America’s most intimate farm stays, cozy up in your own two-bedroom barn at Kinderhook Farm in the Hudson Valley, just under three hours north of New York City. This rustic-chic guest house opened recently, but the farm has been growing vegetables and raising cows, sheep, and chickens for several years. Its grass-fed beef is frequently served at popular restaurants including Diner and Marlow & Sons, both in Brooklyn.
During a stay, hike the property’s 1,200 acres, cool off in a swimming hole, or take a tour with farmers Lee and Georgia Ranney. They’ll show you how to bottle-feed baby lambs, herd sheep, feed the pigs, and box eggs. “Kinderhook Farm is not only a beautiful place but a process. It’s where animals are nurtured and the environment is cared for simultaneously. This experience is invaluable in showing the link between the animals we care for and the food we eat,” said Georgia.
Zapata Ranch, http://www.zranch.org/
At Colorado’s Zapata Ranch, owned by the Nature Conservancy and run by a third-generation family of ranchers, guests are invited to join in the daily business of raising cattle and bison (commonly called buffalo). On the property’s 103,000 acres, which border the breathtaking Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, more than 2,000 bison are managed holistically, with no branding, hormones, supplemental feeding, or weaning. Seeing a herd of wild buffalo glide across the grasslands is an awe-inspiring experience, and probably the closest thing you’ll find to a safari in North America.
Anytime of year, come hungry. You’ll devour generous portions prepared by Mike Rosenberg, who previously worked as a personal chef for the Carnegie family and catered the wedding of John F. Kennedy, Jr. Nearly all of your meals will showcase grass-fed bison that’s raised entirely on the ranch, served alongside San Luis Valley produce.
Blackberry Farm, www.blackberryfarm.com/
If you’re intrigued by the romance of traditional farm life, but not one for roughing it, you’ll love the luxurious Blackberry Farm. This Relais Chateaux resort, complete with a spa and fine dining room, is nestled on a working farm in the foothills of Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains, less than a 25-minute drive from Knoxville’s airport.
Spend a day shadowing the master gardener or the executive chef. Visit with the free-range sheep, chickens, and pigs. Learn how to make your own jam and harvest honey from the bees. Go for a guided walk deep in the woods with the mushroom forager. Depending on the season, you can dig up wild ramps, morels, chanterelles, or black trumpets. Then, after all that strenuous exploring, put on your good jeans and have an elegant dinner at this luxurious spot.
Jen Swetzoff is a Brooklyn-based writer and editor. She is a coauthor of Frommer’s 500 Adrenaline Adventures, the founder of Parenture.com, and a member of her local CSA.
Excerpted with permission from Gourmet Live, where you can download their app for iPad and iPhones, and read the full story. There you’ll find complete contact information for each of these haycation destinations.