June 19, 2018
Italy may have defined the concept of agriturismo (a working farm that takes in guests), but you don’t need a passport to have an authentic experience that brings you closer to the source. Domestic agritourism is on the rise. Potential reasons for the boom? The appeal of open space, starry skies, fragrant meadows and adorable animals is nothing new. But we live in a hyper-connected society and, while technology certainly has its benefits, the compulsion to be constantly plugged in has spurred a longing for simpler times.
“People are looking for ‘real’ vacations,” says Beth Kennett of Vermont’s Liberty Hill Farm. “On a deeper level, most folks are generations away from having family involved in agriculture. Parents want their children to understand more about what they eat and the environment, and how those things are connected.”
These days, travelers interested in learning where their food is grown and produced have an increasing number of options. Vacationers can hunker down at working farms and ranches throughout the United States. The result is a culinary immersion. More than just picking herbs and veggies from the garden, rural getaways allow people to reconnect with the land.
Geography plays a major role in agritourism, which means your experience on a ranch in Oregon will differ from a dairy farm in Vermont. That said, you’ll find some commonalities. Topping the list are fresh fare, affordable accommodations and scenic surroundings. Think: Organic gardens, chicken coops, beehives, fruit orchards and verdant pastures for cattle to graze.
Inviting guests to stay is a chance for growers, croppers and cultivators to share their world with others. Farm life isn’t easy — in fact, most will tell you it’s hard and humbling — but it’s rewarding and, best of all, delicious.
If your fantasies are five-star fancy, agritourism probably isn’t for you. However, if you’re craving a truly meaningful trip (and you’re not afraid to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty), these picturesque farms and ranches might be the perfect place to spend your next vacation.
Liberty Hill Farm
This family-run dairy farm has welcomed tourists since 1984. Adults and kids of all ages can take part in an array of activities, from milking cows and bottle-feeding calves to fly fishing and hiking. Of course, you’ll need energy for all that. Luckily, a stay at Liberty Hill Farm includes lodging and meals. Days begin with a hearty breakfast and end with a home-cooked dinner.
Seeking an off-the-grid escape? Consider Willow-Witt Ranch in southern Oregon. Guided by a commitment to environmental conservation and sustainable agriculture, this 445-acre property beckons visitors to discover the bounty of nature. There are some 200 plant varietals on the grounds, plus tons of animals. Whether you prefer gathering eggs, feeding pigs or sowing seeds, you’ll find plenty of Arcadian pursuits to fill your time.
Situated on 4,200 pristine acres in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, Blackberry Farm is a gastronomic destination, where traditional aggie practices still thrive. Guests are encouraged to participate in foraging excursions, gardening seminars, tasting tours and cooking classes at the acclaimed restaurant. Of course, epicurean delights aren’t the only draw. Horseback riding and archery are also popular.
Los Altos Hills, California
When you think of Silicon Valley you probably don’t envision the countryside, but maybe you should. Forget high-speed Internet and social media — Hidden Villa (a nonprofit educational organization) is a tech-free zone, where roosters replace alarm clocks and the gentle babbling of Adobe Creek lulls you sleep at night. In addition to farm stays, the 1,651-acre land trust hosts after-school programs and summer camps.
Monteillet Fromagerie is the first artisanal cheese farmstead in the Walla Walla Valley — although it feels more like France than Washington. Helmed by Pierre-Louis and Joan Monteillet, the riverfront retreat is a glorious getaway. Rent the gîte (French for “holiday home”) and spend a few days soaking in the rustic charm, mingling with animals and mastering the art of hand-ladled chèvre.
El Prado, New Mexico
Nestled in San Cristobal, Taos Goji is an organic farm that offers WWOOFers and foodies alike a chance to stay on a homestead dating back to the 1880s. Historic cabins are fitted with functional kitchens, bathrooms, wood fire stoves and eco-friendly linens. Also up for grabs? Real-life lessons in harvesting, adobe brick building, caring for livestock and beekeeping.
Inn at Valley Farms
Walpole, New Hampshire
Agrarian enthusiasts flock to the Inn at Valley Farms, part of a multi-generational countryside estate, in the fertile Monadnock Region of New Hampshire. Rooms are cozy and comfortable. Free weekly movie nights in the barn enhance the experience. Before you depart, stock up on grass-fed beef, local maple syrup, homemade jams as well as pasture-raised chickens, turkeys, pork and eggs at the farm store.
Mountain Goat Lodge
Mountain Goat Lodge is a bucolic farm and B&B in the high desert of Colorado. Visitors get to interact with dairy goats and even bottle-feed kids (depending on the season). More than just cute pets, these critters provide milk for in-house cheese-making. Burgeoning shepherds can take classes on breeding, raising, herding and husbandry.