When the pandemic disrupted food supply chains, restaurant models, and grocery store shelves, the idea of being “rooted” in the home took on another meaning.
Many in the US were looking for more conscious ways to connect with the earth and its food. An increase in CSA memberships and produce delivery subscriptions like Aina meant more farmers could sell food straight from the fields to our kitchen counters. And with food insecurity affecting millions of people, many advocated that food is not just about food, but about justice: agricultural projects that are geared towards social justice, like Black Soil in Lexington, Kentucky and Soul Fire Farm, in upstate New York, have supported color farmers and launched initiatives to end food apartheid in marginalized communities.
Farmstays and food-focused accommodations also find ways to stay rooted with the land they were built on – and encourage visitors to actively partake in the food they enjoy. Digging your hands in the dirt and enjoying the farm’s fruits can remind us that a well-considered relationship with agriculture is critical to a sustainable future. Here are nine traits that literally bring meaningful (and delicious) experiences out of the ground.
After supplying sustainably grown ingredients to hotels and restaurants in New Jersey for more than a decade, Beach Plum Farm in West Cape May opened its doors to guests. More than 100 types of fruit, vegetables, herbs and flowers grow on 62 hectares. Visitors can experience this abundance up close at one of the Beach Plum’s Culinary retreats, which include botanical cocktail classes and private farm dinners in the fields. Five cottages and barns, some of which are from the late 17th and 18th centuries. beachplumfarmcapemay.com.
Many of the products that are used at Talk kitchen, the restaurant at Carmel Valley Ranch, is literally within walking distance of the kitchen. The resort’s culinary team, led by Chef Ritchard Cariaga, and the on-site organic gardener, Mark Marino (aka “Dirt Whisperer”), are working on a menu that is a declaration of love for the California premium. The beet salad is served, for example, with feta from the in-house goats, truffle honey from the beehives and even salt from the in-house salt house. Guests have a number of opportunities to familiarize themselves with the ranch’s sustainable ecosystem, including culinary demonstrations and candle and soap making. the “The life of a bee” The program introduces the participants to the ancient magic of beekeeping with a honey tasting and a suitable visit to the apiary. carmelvalleyranch.com.
A fifth generation farmer in Sonoma County, siblings co-owners Joe and Catherine Bartolomei have invested in local, sustainable food since opening this Forestville estate 20 years ago. In the Michelin star Restaurant at the Farmhouse Inn, the rabbit is from the nearby Devil’s Gulch Ranch; A seasonal highlight this year are chervil and asparagus from neighboring Sayre farms with Osetra caviar, a soft poached quail egg and an aioli with Meyer lemons from the trees of the Inn. “We know that helping local farmers will benefit our community, reduce our carbon footprint, and overall is just a better way,” says Joe. “We are also blessed to live in a region where so much grows so well. We have arguably some of the best products in the world.” farmhouseinn.com.
Even in the middle of downtown San Luis Obispo it is edible garden at Hotel Cerro not only supplies organic products for the in-house restaurant, Brasserie SLO, but also invites you to stroll, nibble on vegetables and fruit and soak up the sun. Chef Kenny Seliger sources ingredients such as edible flowers, micro herbs and beets – complemented by other products from local farmers – for fresh dishes such as wood-grilled Morro Bay oysters in a pecan and parsley gremolata, watermelon pressed in melon vinegar and an unforgettable tender steak paired with fire-roasted meat Kale and herb oil. hotelcerro.com.
Surrounded by towering sequoia trees and sweeping views of California’s Mendocino Coast, The Inn at Newport Ranch highlights everything the surrounding 2,000 acres have to offer. Last summer, the Inn sourced nearly 80% of its products from its sprawling organic gardens, which use regenerative horticulture methods to reduce the property’s carbon footprint. Edible flowers serve as pollinator protection for the property’s five beehives, and chamomile, mint, lemon balm, feverfew, tulsi, and more are grown in a culinary herb and tea garden. There’s even a mushroom farm: workshops include classes in medicinal mushrooms, mushroom hunting, and growing your own oyster mushrooms at home. Wrap yourself around the campfire with tea brewed from turkey tail mushrooms or eat the mushrooms you’ve gathered at a picnic dinner prepared by Chef Adam Stacy (paired with local wines). theinnatnewportranch.com.
On the edge of the Hiawatha National Forest on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Chicago chef Iliana Regan and her wife Anna have opened the Milkweed Inn, an exclusive wilderness B&B surrounded by 150 acres of forest. The Milkweed experience – which is open on summer weekends – includes activities like kayaking and hiking. Guests can fortify themselves with meals collected and prepared by Regan: whitefish with berries; fresh radishes with cultivated butter; fire-roasted wild apples. Accommodation options include the main three-bedroom cabin, an Airstream trailer or, for the more adventurous, a wooden floor tent. Milkweedinn.com.
The Blue Ridge Mountains are the backdrop for Nicewonder Farm & Vineyards, a 400 acre hideaway in Bristol, Virginia. In the in-house restaurant, tasteChef Travis Milton celebrates Appalachian cuisine and traditional techniques such as canning and curing. Hearty dishes include cabbage stuffed with beef from the nearby Wolf Hills Farm and served with Milton’s version of chowchow, the ubiquitous southern flavor. (Combine it with a Merlot from Nicewonder’s 10 hectares of vineyards.) You can spend the night in one of the nine new glamping yurts; A luxury 28-room inn will open later this summer. nicewonderfarm.com.
Hospitality start-up Sagra is working with sustainable farms to set up boutique agrotourism stays on their properties. Co-founders David Rust, Kathryn Arffa and Jason Grauer all have backgrounds in agriculture. Your first outing at Stemple Creek Ranch in Tomales, California offers immersive experiences such as making natural dyes and helping out in the vegetable garden. The cabins and tents highlight local materials – the Coyuchi bedspreads are filled with wool from Stemple Creek’s own sheep. Ingredients for meals are sourced on site and prepared by Chef Alan Hsu. “A meal is a gathering alongside food,” says Hsu. “The food will highlight where I come from as a Taiwanese American and a native Californian and highlight the practices we want to live by.” sagrafarms.com.
The Vintners Resort continues its reputation as Sonoma’s original farm-to-table destination – a title it has held since Chef John Ash opened his adjoining restaurant. John Ash & Co., more than 40 years ago. Control over how products are grown, cared for, harvested and prepared is an integral part of the property’s identity. Four hectares of the property are used for organic fruit and vegetables, and another two and a half hectares are covered by olive trees; “Living fences” reveal themselves as trellises loaded with figs (for a mustarda with sausages) and pears (for a vinaigrette). Chef Tom Schmidt is adding grown produce to Ash’s original menu. vintnersresort.com.