Must Love Goats: Why You Should Take a Farm Vacation This Year
Here's how to do it in style in Pittsboro, North Carolina.
A few years back, farm stays experienced a surge in popularity, as rolling up your sleeves to feed farm animals, harvest crops and milk cows became increasingly trendy. Some would call these vacation activities "chores"; others, however, are ready and willing to spend paid time off learning the ropes of farm and garden upkeep. The new way to marry a farm stay and relaxing vacation, though, is a little more luxurious. In other words, you can work up an appetite on the farm and then enjoy outstanding meals—all while learning about the history of the land and thelocal ingredients cherished by chefs.
Enter The Fearrington House Inn, a historic farm-turned-stunning-property set on an old dairy farm in Pittsboro, North Carolina. It feels worlds away—like you’re in the picturesque English countryside—but Chapel Hill is a short 20-minute ride away. “In this digital age, I think guests are seeking somewhere they can truly relax and reconnect with themselves and their surroundings," says the property’s general manager, Theresa Chiettini. “This does not mean giving up the amenities that guests enjoy, but rather experiencing something simple, yet sophisticated. This is why historic farms are providing the ideal outlet to reconnect with nature, the food we use to nourish our bodies and ourselves.” Home to incredible eats, chilly nights paired with cozy fires and relaxing baths with heated tiles so your feet never get cold, it’s like no other farm stay you’ll ever experience. Plus, there’s an entire village with farm animals, restaurants, a spa and multiple shops to keep you busy.
Here, a guide to experiencing the ultimate farm stay.
Rise and shine
The Belted Goat is where your morning will start. Over 150 pounds of coffee are roasted on-site each week, so it’s smart to order a cup of joe and croissant or scone to start the day. Try to fight it all you want, but the smell of freshly baked pastries and coffee beans roasting is the only alarm clock needed during your stay. Then, take a walk out to see the black and white Belted Galloway cows (a rare breed of Scottish beef cattle), goats, donkeys and Wyandotte chickens. Forewarning: the goats will make googly eyes at your pastries, but don’t give in.
Before lunch, hit up Zac Hackney, resident “culinary gardener,” who will gladly show off the perfectly manicured boutique garden and beehives. “The terroir of Fearrington is in the honey,” he says, of the golden magic that’s used seasonally at the restaurants on property. He pulls the most vibrant turnips and tiny carrots straight out of the ground. “It’s intimate,” he says. “You can eat the entire carrot.” Herbs and other vegetables and items that are not attainable from neighboring farms are grown specifically for restaurants’ needs.
You’re in the South, so indulging in Southern staples is required. Post up at The Belted Goat for lunch and order wisely, as in split the mac and cheese, shrimp and grits and a twice-baked cheese soufflé with a friend—or better yet, conquer them all solo and take a luxurious nap afterwards. The shrimp and grits is so creamy and flavorful that it could be mistaken for your favorite queso. If you’re up for it, opt for a gelato for dessert. Local cream from Maple View Farm is what makes it so tempting, as do the seasonal, rotating flavors. For a lighter option, sit up straight and enjoy a dainty, afternoon tea session filled with exclusive Fearrington Afternoon Tea blend, Southern-inspired tarts, French cake and classic tea sandwiches.
Fine dining at its finest
North Carolinians drive near and far for a celebratory meal at The Fearrington House Restaurant, under the direction of executive chef Colin Bedford. “I like to view the tasting menus as an opportunity to cook more freely and utilize our garden to the maximum degree,” says Bedford. “Ingredients in our garden are harvested and used quickly, and an ingredient can potentially only be available for a few days during the season. Since our menu is heavily influenced by our garden and surrounding local farms, the tasting menus allow our kitchen to put these short-term ingredients to work in fun ways.”
Dessert is a no-brainer: the iconic chocolate soufflé, introduced over 40 years ago by the late Edna Lewis. As for boozy pairings, sommelier Paula de Pano knows her stuff. Sign up for a wine tasting before dinner to get a real snippet of what’s behind closed cellar doors. Or, visit Watson, bartender extraordinaire, who will whip up a beautiful cocktail on a whim utilizing peppers and herbs straight from the garden.
Casual and cool
For a more casual meal, post up outdoors at Roost Beer Garden, especially during warm summer nights, for wood-fired pizza and local North Carolina brews. Or stop by The Belted Goat and choose the perfect bottle of wine to go with your pie. Garden pizzas change daily, based on what Hackney and Bedford choose from the garden, and they're always the first to sell out. Combos entail anything from a red sauce pizza with smoked prosciutto, pecorino, roasted lemon eggplant and pickled sweet chiles to a super savory white sauce pizza with duck breast, grilled green onions, smoked mozzarella and thyme pickled cherry tomatoes. The classic mozzarella, tomato and basil option is always a good idea, so it’s best to order a few. After all, you just had a long day at the farm.