The Best Farms in Every State
It has always been so, this year more than in recent memory, but if you are looking to feel hopeful, like everything is going to be alright, the first thing you must do is listen. Listen to where the noise is coming from, and then back the hell away. Slowly, thoughtfully, retreat wherever you must, in order to feel whole again.
What exactly that looks like is personal. For me, the answer has always been the closest farm I can find, most likely because I grew up on one, picking tomatoes, making maple syrup, and mucking out barns in New York's Hudson Valley, a place that seems to fall in and out of fashion without ever really changing all that much, at least in terms of the landscapes, both natural and man-made. This enduring sameness felt so stifling to a teenager; with each passing year, the more I see of the world, my hometown's ability to resist wholesale reinvention seems more and more like a miracle.
When the world ground to a halt in March, I found myself in another country entirely; after the worst game of musical chairs ever, I landed in California, counting myself lucky at the time, as anyone should. Still, ten years after the last time I left for good, which is a thing I have done more than once, I found myself possessed with the urgent need to go home. I waited, and then waited some more, wondering when would be the right time to attempt a return to New York. To fill my time, I disappeared into the vineyards of Napa, and the farmlands of cool, coastal Sonoma. I visited with friends at a sun-drenched farmers' market in Sacramento. I spent weeks smelling the blooms in the orange groves of Ojai, trying to feel that feeling that all would be well, and while I kept coming damn close, it still wasn't, and never would be, home.
More than three months later, realizing that there was no hoping for the best—not this year, anyway—I bought all the hand sanitizer and paper towels I could find and made my beeline across the country, favoring uncrowded rural idylls, my pace quickening, the closer I came. A week or so later, on a pristine Saturday morning in June, I bounded out of bed in my hometown, eager to be one of the first customers at my favorite farm stand. It was warm, but not too warm, my eyes still adjusting to the simple but marvelously vivid greens and blues of a Northeast summer.
One last very short drive, and I was there, it was there, it was all still there, things exactly as I had left them, so many times before. The carefully curated, artfully-arranged early season produce, the cherries, the zucchini, the healthy-looking mixed greens. Strawberries were over for the year, but there were jams, there were bountiful bouquets of those humble East Coast wildflowers I had missed so much, strolling beneath the Jacarandas, past the bougainvillea. So what if I had to wear a mask, or if I had to remind myself to sanitize my hands after buying up as much as I could carry? I was home, I felt safe, for the first time since February, and I wished to never, ever leave.
Home feels different for everybody, true enough, but throughout this confounding year, from those orange groves in California to the peach orchard in the Texas Hill Country, where I bounded onto the lot with such enthusiasm, so early in the morning, that I must have scared the manager half to death, to the Amish farm in Lancaster County that had no internet or air conditioning (I had the best time), I have found, again and again, that farms can be a place of true healing, or at least a marvelous place to temporarily set things right.
Wherever you are right now, there is most likely one close by; blueberry patches in Maine, cattle ranches in Montana, urban farms in Phoenix or Tucson, oyster farms in the Pacific Northwest—go to these places in silent expectation, and see how they speak to you. You may be surprised.
Which brings us to this list. While things are often going to be slightly out of the ordinary, 2020 being 2020, there are many farms where things have already fallen into the rhythm of the new normal. I have tried not to exclude too many worthy entrants that have chosen to pull back for the time being, and it will be wise to check specifics before you visit any of these. And if I didn't mention anything in your area, I apologize, I had to stop somewhere. Try beginning your search at the farmers' market and meeting your local farmers, who may not have the infrastructure or the high profile just yet, but who are so often are doing some of the finest work. Be well, eat well, and thanks for reading.
There are many reasons to recommend a week of fun and sun along Alabama's underrated coastline, where you get those white sand beaches, and often crystal clear northern Gulf waters, but you also get some really great local food traditions, such as the royal red shrimp that are taken for granted locally but rarely found elsewhere.
Another major bonus? Within minutes, you can swap white sand between your toes for red dirt. Dirt where delicious things are grown, like at the scrappy Hillcrest Farms in Elberta, where you'll find gorgeous blueberries and figs, and homemade ice cream whenever they manage to make some. Nearby, at Fidler Farms in Silverhill, the jumbo peanuts—boiled, roasted, or do-it-yourself—inspire many a modest pilgrimage. On your way back north, because all vacations must end, fuel up on dinner at the Bates House of Turkey in Greenville, famously powered by the nearby Bates Turkey Farm; a bit further north, at the long-running, family-operated Penton Farms in Verbena, picking your own strawberries is a regional tradition, and there's a wealth of produce all season long. (Come back for pumpkins in the fall.)
Said to be one of the most diverse census tracts in the country, the Anchorage neighborhood of Mountain View is known for its open door policy to new arrivals from around the world, many of them experienced at growing their own vegetables. There are larger farmers' markets in Anchorage, and you should see them, but the one held in season at Mountain View's Grow North Farm is perhaps the most memorable, a place to mingle with the leaseholders who already made the project, spearheaded by the Anchorage Community Land Trust, self-sustaining before the end of the first growing season.
In a climate as rugged as Alaska's, you expect unique kinds of farming—the state's largest oyster farm, Hump Island in Ketchikan, leads entertaining day tours (complete with a boat ride, and an oyster tasting) for anyone interested in learning more about aquaculture. Up in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, where many of Alaska's famously large vegetables are grown, Palmer's Reindeer Farm offers a year-round opportunity to get up close with an animal many American children will only ever see in the movies.
First-timers in the Valley of the Sun—what a clever, romantic-sounding name for blinding-bright Greater Phoenix—might wonder what, if anything, can grow here, and not only because it is hot, very hot, for most of the year, but also because there are just so many people now. True fact—there were farms here, plenty of them, long before the millions rolled into town. Today, you'll find more than a few green shoots, hidden between the stucco-blasted subdivisions, and baking-hot parking lots.
One of your first stops ought to be Agritopia, a certified organic farm at the heart of a 166-acre planned community (on an old family farm), designed to encourage its residents to get back to the land, or at least closer to it; the community farm store is a must-stop, and there's a CSA as well. One of Tucson's finest farms can be found in the shadow of the mighty Mission San Xavier, on Tohono O'Odham land; the San Xavier Co-Op Farm is firmly dual purpose, educating and driving economic development in the community, while also being a great stop for produce, plants, grains, and more. And if you ever thought a state like Arizona isn't up for the classic fruit orchard experience, you have much to learn about its diverse landscapes—that, and you've also clearly never been to Apple Annie's, out in Cochise County: there's a country store, a pumpkin patch, pick your own fruit, and, of course, some very good pie.
Farming is in the blood of a state that loves to tout its credentials as the number one rice producer in the country; it's extremely common to find out that your farmer is third, fourth, fifth generation, often on the same patch of ground, from the low-slung deltas, on up into the Ozark highlands.
The tomatoes of Bradley County, where nearly five hundred acres of vines are planted at a recent count, are legendary. In fact, the South Arkansas Vine Ripe pink tomato is both the official state fruit and vegetable. Hamilton Farms in Marsden has been in the same family for generations, their tomatoes are some of the finest. For a classic orchard experience, head up into the hills of the Northwest, where Vanzant Fruit Farms has been at it since the end of World War II—their stonefruits, apples, and berries are prized by locals.
Few Angelenos will ever set foot in in the spartan, high-desert town of Tehachapi, let alone find their way to the modest-seeming Weiser Family Farms, but drop the name around Southern California and you'll quickly find out who knows their food. From colorful new potatoes to elegant melons, Persian mulberries to Russian peppers, Alex Weiser's offerings are the talk of LA's many fine farmers' markets, and for good reason.
Weiser is also co-founder of the Tehachapi Grain Project, which works to promote (and grow) drought-tolerant heritage organic grains. Up in the greener north, at a particularly photogenic spot on the road to Point Reyes, McEvoy Ranch is a proper destination for appreciators of American olive oil, of which there is now a great deal. This is some of the best on the market.
Depending on how much you like surprises, subscription-based produce buying (they're called CSAs, short for community-supported agriculture) can be either the greatest thing about your summer, or a source of anxiety. At the long-running Miller Farms in Platteville, they do things a little differently; CSA members can either come out to the farm, or show up to one of many Front Range farmers' markets, and select their own weekly haul—there are multiple options for meat, as well, if you're into almost-one-stop shopping. (The farm, while a long drive for some, throws a drive-worthy fall festival.)
Things are of a little different high up in the Rockies—think not so much traditional farms, but more giant ranches. The fifth-generation family-owned Saddle Back Ranch outside of Steamboat Springs draws families from all over for its cattle drives, horseback rides, and, in non-pandemic times, farm dinners. You can spend the night, or a weekend, at the Mountain Goat Lodge in Salida, where the stars of the show aren't just there to be admired; they're the hardest working members of the team. Take a goat's cheesemaking class, try your hand at goat yoga, or even enroll in a serious class on how to raise your own goats.
The sizable patch of coastal turf near picturesque Stonington comprising Stone Acres Farm has been putting in work since the Revolutionary Period; today, the rolling, scenic expanse is a destination for people who like to hang around farms (show of hands!), offering farm dinners, educational programs, and beautiful gardens. There are flower and produce CSAs, as well as a daily, seasonal farm stand.
Things are somewhat more exclusive at Winvian Farm, up in the Litchfield Hills. These days, much of the property is given over to one of the country's most luxurious all-inclusive resorts, where guests dine on produce from the resort's own organic gardens and orchard; there's an on-site apiary, as well. (Normally, you can make a booking in the very fine restaurant—right now, it's for overnight visitors only.) When you think of Yale, you think of a lot of things, but probably not a bunch of Ivy Leaguers on their hands and knees at the university's own Yale Farm—look for their produce stand at New Haven's Wooster Square market.
Shaded country lanes and grand estates (both inhabited and decommissioned) northwest of Wilmington set the tone for some of the most seductive suburbia on the Eastern Seaboard. Here, the old Coverdale Farm, on 377 acres of beautiful land stewarded by the Delaware Nature Society, offers an excellent example of dynamic land preservation. Besides being a beautiful place to decompress and commune with nature (and say hi to animals), there's also a CSA, turkeys at Thanksgiving, and fresh eggs most every day. Nearby, Woodside Farm has been at it since the 1700s. These days, they're known for their Jersey cows, and for their Jersey milk ice cream—worth a trip from far, far away.
The day after Christmas might be a time of recovery (and searching for receipts) for most, but for Tampa Bay citrus lovers, it's the beginning of Honeybell picking season at Dooley Groves, a slice of classic Florida where the elusive, sweet-tart fruit is available to be picked, or just picked up from the stand if you're not into the heavy lifting yourself. (The farm's fresh-squeezed orange juice is pretty great, as well.)
Miami-Dade's fertile Redland region sustains a dizzying selection of tropical fruit, but for over half a century, one of the most popular activities has been the pick-your-own strawberry setup (tomatoes, too) at Knaus Berry Farm, one of the only places in the country where you'll find guava and shoo-fly pies coming out of the same kitchen. Up in Jacksonville, Congaree and Penn has become well-known for their rice middlins and grits, but the area's most charming small farm is also a destination for thoughtful agritourism, offering pick-your-own muscadine grapes, blackberries, and a beautiful space for picnics, goat meet-and-greets, and farm dinners.
For more than fifty years, the West Georgia Farmers Cooperative has been a vital support network for Black farmers in the region; these days, it is stronger and more diversified than ever, listing among its members activists, chefs, and educators. Saturdays, from June through November, a one-hour drive from Atlanta brings you out to the co-op's farmers' markets (there are two locations) in LaGrange, where you will find a wide variety of produce and other local products, including some very fine baked goods.
On your way out or back, it's only a short detour to the planned community of Serenbe, one of those Truman Show-style communities that the South has become increasingly fond of, over the years. The certified organic Serenbe Farms is all real, however, and they also run a Saturday farmers' market. Get to the peaches, you're thinking, and this is Georgia, after all—while they are everywhere, absolutely everywhere, or at least it feels that way, it's Dickey Farms near Macon that puts on one of the very best shows. Order a dish of homemade peach ice cream (which pairs quite well with the freshly boiled peanuts) and lose an hour or two in one of the porch rockers.
Not to be terribly dramatic, but coffee has changed so much in the last decade or two—not that you'd know, prowling the typical coffee farm in Hawaii's Kona region, where growers really aren't all that fussed about what everyone else is up to, or even interested in welcoming visitors. Enter the extroverted Heavenly Hawaiian Coffee Farm, which has the only proper on-farm coffee bar we've seen so far, which you can roll up on after a night of sound sleep at the farm's own vacation rental, which features a giant pool with ocean views. (For the rest of us, there are daily tours of the 38-acre spread.) Interested in hanging around? They offer a volunteer work/stay program.
Maui's Upcountry is a patchwork quilt of unique farms and ranches, offering everything from lavender (at Ali'i Kula) to goat's milk cheese (Surfing Goat Dairy) to grass-fed beef (Maui Cattle Company); there's even a pumpkin patch, every fall, at Kula Country Farms. Also up here, the unique, work-for-your-lunch tour at O'o Farm, at 3,500 feet above those sun-drenched beaches, is the highlight of many a Maui vacation for good reason; for locals, they do a great CSA, as well. The Waianae area of Leeward Oahu offers one of that crowded island's most most meaningful experiences—a chance to visit two passionately community-minded operations, MA'O Organic Farms and Kahumana Farms. The latter runs a great little restaurant.
Over a century ago, a Presbyterian minister from Pennsylvania decided to start over again out West, settling on a fruit orchard in Idaho's Snake River Canyon for his livelihood. One hundred years later, John Gourley's great-great granddaughters are at the helm of Kelley's Canyon Orchard, where visitors can pick their own apples, cherries, plums and much more. They can spend the night as well, in a a charming vintage cottage.
Idaho is perhaps best-known for potatoes, but one of its other major crops is wood. At Cedar Mountain Farm in Athol, interested guests can learn all about sustainable forestry, or even spend the night. Long before people were doing these sorts of things for the 'gram, environmentalist MaryJane Butters was out there extolling the virtues of the farm lifestyle. She's still at MaryJanes Farm up in Moscow, where a booking for one of the on-property, early-to-the-party glamping sites remains a hot ticket with a generation of fans—Butters wrote an entire book about glamping, nearly ten years ago now.
Being home to some of the country's most Goliath-like commercial farming operations doesn't mean there aren't plenty of Davids doing their best to fight back. It's all about holistic practices, for example, at Bray Grove Farm near Morris, where Belgian draft mules do the work of tractors, where natural botanicals and ferments are used instead of chemicals or man-made fertilizers. The result? An abundance of fine produce, roughly 150 varieties, many of them rare or heirloom. Fun bonus: CSA members are invited to memorable annual art exhibitions on the farm.
Way out on the tail end of Chicago's northwest suburbs, just before you bump into Wisconsin, Kinnikinnick Farm in Caledonia is another larger-than-life operation, producing (on organic pasture) some of the best meat and eggs you can get your hands on without leaving the city. Not to discourage you from a trip to the farm—they've got a unique glamping set-up, and a 24-hour farm shop where you can find everything you need to keep your camp kitchen well-supplied. Way down in Belleville, old-fashioned fun at Eckert's Country Store and Farms draws the masses from across the river in St. Louis; come for pick-your-own peaches, peach pies, apples, apple pie, and family-style chicken dinners that will put you under the table.
Amish farmer Levi Fisher is a popular guy around Indianapolis, not that most of his fans will ever meet him. The Fisher family spread, located about an hour west of town, supplies the sought-after Irvington CSA, one of Indy's best, containing a bounty of produce supplemented each week by everything from eggs to meat to fresh-cut flowers. Going to the source is encouraged at Living Roots Farm & Sustainable Living Center down in lovely French Lick; one of the hardest-working little (chemical-free) operations around, the farm's sizable crew eagerly spreads the gospel of sustainable farming, while also orchestrating one of the state's most serious CSA's. Seasonal potlucks on the farm are a highlight.
No special occasion needed for a trip to the Farm at Prophetstown, occupying 100 acres of protected state park land near Lafayette; the busy non-profit outfit is so much more than your average educational set-up, training future farmers and teaching classes on homesteading, canning, even quilting. Bring a cooler and fill it up with their Berkshire pork and Hereford beef. Casual and delicious farm dinners sell out regularly.
Roughly a century has passed since the heyday of the Amana Colonies, settled by German immigrants who traveled across the Atlantic in the mid-1800s in search of religious freedom. Up until the Great Depression, the settlers, known as Pietists, lived communally in the string of charming villages that visitors still enjoy today, spread out among some 26,000 acres of picturesque farm and pasture land. The end of the communal lifestyle was far from the end of Amana—the farmlands are still working hard, and the area is a National Historic Landmark that welcomes scores of travelers every year.
No less important to Iowa's agricultural heritage were the generations of Henry Wallaces (there were a few of them!) that had an outsized impact on agriculture and agricultural policy in the United States and the world; the Wallace Centers of Iowa work to preserve the family farm and legacy—pizza nights at the farm's prairie restoration area are a proper summer destination. And while you're never short on cheese in these parts, the Milton Creamery makes some pilgrimage-worthy cheddar.
Pacific white shrimp—saltwater shrimp, seriously—in Kansas? Aquaculture enthusiast Bob Daniels has heard it all, certainly, but he's also having the last laugh—his Sunflower Shrimp has been going since 2016, and the operation has expanded. Drop by the farm in Oxford and pick up a pound (make sure to call ahead).
When the Peterson Farm Brothers aren't busy posting song parodies and helpful tips to their extremely popular YouTube channels, plural, or giving TED talks about farming, they're at home in Lindsborg on the actual Peterson brothers' farms, one for each brother, where visitors are welcome not only for tours, but for overnight stays, as well. Come August and September, when a particularly scenic sunflower field welcomes scores of photo-snapping visitors. (You can book a wedding there, too.) Looking for a farm stay near Kansas City? Plan a sleepover with the handsome longhorns at Circle S Ranch, stretching out across a few hundred scenic acres near Lawrence.
The country's top producer of horses has over the years been something of a pilgrimage site for equine enthusiasts; the casual visitor could spend weeks visiting the dozens of horse farms in the Lexington area that are at least partially open to the public. Much of said public will prefer to make a beeline directly to the century-old Claiborne Farm, former home (and current burial site) of the late, great Secretariat—visits can be booked through Horse Country Tours.
Quality-minded grillers in Louisville are spoiled by the 100% grass-fed (and finished) beef from Foxhollow Farm, an appealing, 1,300-acre spread just outside of town, always worth a visit. Foxhollow partners with other area greats like Woodland Farm (ever tasted Kentucky-raised bison?) and Rootbound Farm (excellent lamb) on a no-commitment introductory sampler box, which you can purchase online and have delivered directly to your door. You'll be back.
Get a New Orleans chef talking about local produce, and there are two places that will most likely be mentioned, early on in the conversation. The first will be Covey Rise Farms, up in Tangipahoa Parish, the childhood home of Britney Spears, it's important that you know this. The popular sportsman's lodge also happens to be a very proper farm, supplying rafts of high-quality produce to some of the city's best-known restaurant kitchens. (They also run a popular CSA.)
The other farm will probably be Paradigm Gardens, which began as a tiny experimental site in New Orleans' low-income Central City neighborhood, and has expanded rather significantly. Besides growing hyper-local produce, largely for restaurants, it's also a charming green oasis where visitors will very likely run into the farm's Cameroonian dwarf goats. Way up in Bastrop, the third-generation Black owned Armstrong Farms commands a full 1,000 acres; the produce at their on-premises farm stand is well worth a detour.
Assuming one of our favorite summer places was for some reason no longer in possession of some of the finest coastline in the East, Maine would still be an absolute must for many reasons, beginning with the dizzying selection of terrific small farms, doing a wide variety of very good work. Right near Freeport, the massive Wolfe's Neck Center is not only one of the country's finest demonstration farms, but it's also a clearinghouse for information on how to farm sustainably. Better still, visiting is lots of fun—their oceanfront campground has been a top ticket for more than fifty years.
The belted cattle at Aldermere Farm are a star attraction in Rockport; here again, the farm, maintained by the Maine Coast Heritage Trust, isn't just a farm, but also a place of serious learning, and lots of good times. (While in town, pay a visit to the restorative, hard-working herb gardens at Avena Botanicals.)
One of Portland's most memorable restaurants is over the bridge in pretty Cape Elizabeth. The Well at Jordan's Farm draws on more than 100 acres for menu inspiration; nearly everything comes either directly from the property, or from other neighboring farms. Curious about homesteading? Honestly, these days it seems like the move. The enthusiastic folks at the largely self-sufficient Deer Isle Hostel offer a range of workshops during the summer months for interested visitors.
Time seems to slow down, way down, at the early-1800s Claggett Farm in Upper Marlboro, barely a half hour from Capitol Hill. Now an educational outfit managed by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the farm manages to accomplish a great deal from its relatively modest footprint—nearly half of their produce goes to low-income families nearby, but there's a thriving CSA as well.
Butler's Orchard in Germantown is pretty much just around the corner for millions of people, and it often feels as if a sizable number of them are there, for pick-your-own strawberries, for the annual pumpkin festival, or just for the farm market, offering a curated selection of local product, along with their own produce.
Most of the visitors to the 200-acre Friendly Farm near Hereford are there to eat, and to eat big. For over half a century, hungry Baltimoreans have made the pilgrimage for hearty, homestyle dinners of roast beef, fried chicken, and, of course, the house jumbo lump crab cakes, supplemented with all kinds of side dishes. Their deep-fried sugar rolls slathered in butter ought to be dessert, but there will be ice cream, as well.
You don't have to go all the way to the West Coast for that best-life, waterfront oyster picnic situation—in fact, since all good-hearted people know that coastal New England summers are just about as good as summer gets, it's West Coasters that should be super jealous of the high-season situation at Island Creek Oysters in Duxbury, home to some of the finest bivalves for the buck on this side of the Continental Divide.
Speaking of as as good as it gets, can we talk for a minute about Cape Cod, where most people rush to the nearest pond or oceanfront upon arrival. Don't run with the herd—instead take some time out for the charming Cape Cod Lavender Farm, buried in the coastal woods of Harwich; it's always surprising to see how much room you have to yourself out in the fields. Lie back, stare at the sky, and imagine you no longer have to live on this planet. And while the growing season might not last forever in this part of the world, farm life is very much a four-season thing—in the fall, head to the free-range-ish Bear Swamp Orchard in Ashfield for unique apples and delicious brandy; come winter, pancake breakfasts at Ioka Valley Farm in far-west Hancock are the ultimate start to a snowy day on the slopes at nearby Jiminy Peak.
One of many reasons to to like Michigan is that you're never terribly far from a very good farm, or an orchard, or somebody making cheese, or honey, or what have you—there's a lot of room to do things here. Built for millions, and now home to, well, not nearly as many people as that, Detroit is no exception to this rule. A minor farming revolution has been taking place here, out among the Motor City's wide open spaces. By now, there's so much going on, one hardly knows where to begin. Saturday mornings at Detroit's historic (and thriving) Eastern Market are a good idea—here you'll find Grown in Detroit, a cooperative effort that brings produce from smaller city farms and gardens to a wider audience.
The largest operation in city limits right now is D-Town Farm, a project of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, a vibrant organization that also operates a local food co-operative. On a handful of acres, they not only grow, but teach a generation of local young people about sustainability and food sovereignty.
Part of the charm is going directly to the farms themselves. A Saturday morning visit to the small cooperative market held at Oakland Avenue Urban Farm in Detroit's North End is good, quiet fun. Close by, the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative tends to roughly three acres, and also runs their own farm stand.
Liz Dwyer grew up on the family farm in Clearwater, ran away with a boy to California as soon as she was old enough, but always found herself close to the land. As happens in life, Dwyer (and the boy, Curtis Weinrich) eventually made their way back home—Dancing The Land Farm is one of many small operations bringing so much life to Minnesota's markets and kitchen tables during the state's relatively abbreviated summers. A talent for heirloom vegetables makes their CSA a memorable one, but there are gorgeous flowers, fibers, and pasture-raised meats, too. The farm is barely an hour from the Cities, but don't rush—visitors can make reservations to camp (or glamp!) on property.
Back in the 1980', Hmong farmers helped drive a serious revitalization of the Twin Cities farmers' market scene, remaining a key part of the experience, to this day. The cooperative Hmong American Farmers Association operates another very successful CSA program in the region, keeping you supplied, if you like, all the way from early June through Thanksgiving.
Top chefs and better butchers across the Deep South have a trick up their sleeves, and that's the fifth-generation Home Place Pastures in Como, in the same family for more than 150 years, and now better than ever for pasture-raised beef, pork and lamb. Get your hands on their steaks and chops (they do a monthly box program), but don't forget the pecan-smoked thick-cut bacon, too. You can also drop by and see for yourself—the farm store is open all week.
Como, which is on the Mississippi Blues Trail at the northeastern edge of the Delta, is something of an agri-tourism destination. The nearby Moon Hollow Farm is an enthusiastic participant in the slow flower movement, which promotes buying more locally-grown flowers from smaller farms. You can spend the night in the property's charming, century-old bungalow.
For so many aspiring gardeners and farmers across the country, the no-tamper, open-pollinated, no-funny-genetic-stuff seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds in Mansfield are serious goals, but this legendary source isn't just an inspiration for growers small and not-so-small, Bakery Creek is also a destination, a literal village of inspiration in the Ozarks, offering educational opportunities, a donation-based vegan restaurant, show gardens, an herbal apothecary, and live entertainment. (Check before you go, things have been much quieter this year, for obvious reasons.)
Speaking of this part of the world, most people end up in Branson for a good time, but the students at the strictly religious College of the Ozarks are there to work, and to work really hard, which they do in lieu of paying tuition. Nearly every kind of agricultural activity you can imagine goes down on the college's busy production farm—taste the delicious outcomes at the campus restaurant, or just drop by for some spectacular ice cream from the dairy.
Situated on 26,000 astonishing acres in the Bitterroot Range, Triple Creek Ranch is classic Montana, a place where the cattle far outnumber the human population, but with one crucial twist—this rugged bit of mountainside paradise also happens to be one of the top resorts on the continent, a grown folks-only retreat for serious adventure, much of it on horseback, but also serious pampering; guests are kept well-fed from the property's gardens and orchards.
The growing season can be short and unpredictable in Montana, and roughly fifty small farming operations in the Missoula area have found there's strength in numbers—the farmer-run Western Montana Growers Cooperative collaborates on one farm share program, with weekly deliveries throughout the region.
In the land of mass-produced corn and soy, people like Evrett Lunquist and Ruth Chantry might almost be described as revolutionaries. For roughly a quarter century, they've been farming biodynamically at the certified organic Common Good Farm, which feeds a grateful following in the Lincoln area. Their affordable farm memberships are different from your typical CSA—it's like buying a pre-paid debit card, which you can then top up as you go.
Remember Arbor Day, aka the tree planter's holiday? Nebraska City's Arbor Day Farm, operated by the foundation of the same name, is one of the state's most popular family destinations, 260 acres of painstakingly preserved woodlands, working fields and orchards ready to be admired, with a great deal of fun stuff happening, from treetop walks to estate wine tastings. There's a lodge (and spa) for overnight stays.
People come to Las Vegas for a lot of different reasons: gambling away their fortune, having out-of-control bachelor parties, hiding from the law (we've seen too many movies lately, it's been that kind of year) ... but pick-your-own peaches? Not so much. Honestly, though, if visitors knew about the historic Gilcrease Orchard, maybe they would; farmed for nearly a century by one of the determined families that worked tirelessly to make the valley somewhat habitable, things might be slightly smaller scale than they used to be, and there are a lot more neighbors, but the farm is still here, and very much so—the pumpkins, the raw honey, the black garlic, new potatoes, and some pretty fine tomatoes.
Just around the corner, the also-to-be-admired Las Vegas Farm, around for more than fifty years now, is well-known for their eggs and raw honey, as well as their big heart for rescue animals. For a small donation, you can come hang out with them on Saturdays and Sundays.
Drop your fork, right now, New Hampshireites—is that local beef you're eating? For years now, Carole Soule and Bruce Dawson have worked to turn Miles Smith Farm near Concord into a preferred source for grass-fed meats, and it appears to have worked—they've outgrown their 36 acres, are now leasing hundreds more around the state, and have partnered with other farmers to meet demand. Farm stays are welcomed—guests can stock up at the all-local, solar-powered farm store, and enjoy visits from the farm's celebrity pigs, Tazzy and Penny.
The 100% grass-fed cows at Benedikt Dairy near Manchester have enough fans that the farm has successfully offered a CSA, just for their milk. The casually curious can show up to the farm stand (open daily) and try the goods before making a full commitment—snap up some butter as well, if you can.
Do you like apples? You'll like New Hampshire—Poverty Lane Orchards is the home farm for Farnum Hill Ciders, at least until recently one of the largest growers of cider apples in the country. (There are some very good eating ones, as well, along with pick-your-own raspberries, in season.) Hungry? Breakfast on the farm is just about peak New England, surely—at the Heritage Farm Pancake House near Laconia, guests can pet the animals while they wait. (Just remember to wash hands.)
For many, an appreciation of the fertile soils that so beautifully put the garden in Garden State begins in another state entirely; without that stellar Jersey produce, the greenmarkets of New York City would be a whole lot less noteworthy. A Union Square habitué might exist happily on the shed-a-tear beautiful, grass-fed raw milk cheeses from Bobolink Dairy near the Delaware River, never knowing just how much more fun it can be to head out to Jonathan and Nina White's 200 restful acres, not far from the Delaware River, to do their shopping directly at the source.
In the market for some seriously fine veg? Get first dibs on fifty kinds of tomatoes at Schaefer Farms in Flemington, or their excellent sweet corn, the star of many an area summer cookout. Of course, not everything travels well across the Hudson—way down in Cape May, the Jersey Shore Alpacas are some of the most fun you'll have down the Shore without being on the actual beach. For those looking for quiet country roads to explore, Sussex County, at the far northwest corner of the state feels very far from the world's troubles, here, the Vernon Valley Farmers Cooperative sells a wide variety of local produce, from grass-fed beef from cheese to maple syrup (and, of course, plenty of veg). While you're up this end, stop at Green Valley Farms, situated in a picturesque spot not far from the Appalachian Trail—their homemade ice cream keeps the parking lot full on warm summer afternoons and early evenings, even in the time of Covid.
An impossibly narrow driveway lined with mature cottonwoods sets the stage for a singular stay at Los Poblanos, an architecturally significant historic inn on an organic farm just north of Albuquerque's Old Town, a lavender-scented respite that plays host to one of the valley's finest restaurants, Campo, which emphasizes (to say the least) the farm's own bounty, as well as other terrific local products. While it's certainly the sexiest, this isn't the only worthy farm you'll find almost-in-Albuquerque; just south of town in Bosque Farms, the free grazing, grass-fed cows at De Smet Dairy & Creamery are responsible or some of the valley's favorite raw milk and yogurt.
While you're here, stop in at Hays Honey and Apple Farm, because the only thing better than fresh sopapillas are fresh sopapillas drizzled in Mr. Hays' smoky-delicious mesquite honey. The corn stands from Schwebach Farm are a fixture around northern New Mexico during harvest time; year-round, they offer a great farm stay, where you can fill your kitchen with fresh produce. (You can even pick it yourself, if you like.)
Sometimes, a farm is so much more than just a farm. To the naked eye, if you can even find the turn-off to get back there and see it for yourself, Renssalaer County's Soul Fire Farm is a bucolic patchwork of old farm fields tucked cleverly into the woods, but founder Leah Penniman and her family did not come here just to grow vegetables. Penniman, a passionate activist and the author of Farming While Black, is on a mission not only to eradicate food apartheid in the Capital District via the farm's no-cost Solidarity Shares, but also to train up a new generation of Black farmers, in order to encourage food sovereignty. Get involved or donate here.
Closer to the big city, a years-long trend of hopeful new homesteaders trying the Hudson Valley and Catskill Mountains on for size has only snowballed over time, with one terrific small farm after another popping up on the radar. Success story Conor Crickmore would like to see many more, in time—his Neversink Farm near Claryville, deep into the mountains, is a teaching tool as much as it is a great place for produce, and the occasional farm dinner. Slightly closer to civilization, in the fertile Rondout Valley, the little, very organic Hollengold Farm is bookended by two charming day destinations—Arrowood, a farm-based brewery, and Westwind Orchards, which makes some terrific cider. While you're up this way, make time for a ride up Route 209, and over the Rhinecliff Bridge, for one of the state's most meticulously-curated farmstands—Montgomery Place, near Red Hook.
Farmed by students at one of America's most intriguing small institutions of higher learning, the 300-acre Warren Wilson College Farm in Swannanoa has been a presence in a beautiful upland valley near Asheville since the 1800s, producing sustainable, pasture-raised (and award-winning) meats, mostly beef and pork, for the surrounding community, and for those who know enough to sign up in advance for their seasonal sales. There's a CSA and farm market, where you can get your hands on some of their heirloom apples, medicinal herbs, and honey.
While the footprint has been shrinking dramatically for generations, North Carolina remains home to some of America's most determined Black farmers. Two notable operations can be found just north of Durham, in rural Person County—Abanitu Organics, which recently oversaw the construction of community gardens at affordable housing sites around the region, and the century-old Pine Knot Farms, where Stanley Hughes transitioned the family farm from commercial tobacco to certified organic, growing some of the best greens available near the Triangle.
Back in the late 1800s, before we had Big Ag to kick around, there were the bonanza farms of the Upper Midwest. These large-scale operations, which sprang up along the struggling Northern Pacific Railroad, became the country's largest supplier of wheat, or something like it, before slowly fading away in the early part of the 20th century. Bagg Farm in Mooreton is one of the last remaining physical pieces of this important part of regional history; a sizable collection of restored original buildings can be found on the property, which at one time stretched out to a whopping 9,000 acres. Summer weekends are the time to visit; meals served out of the farm kitchen are supported by on-site vegetable gardens. (There's pie, as well.)
Happening Fargo has a terrific weekly farmers' market, and a great local CSA from Hildebrant Farm, if you can get on the list, but serious home cooks love to sneak out to the truck stop parking lot on the edge of town where Ladybug Acres operates a daily (in season) farm stand—look for the little red barn.
Remember the county fair growing up, and how you wished it would never end, except you were lucky if it lasted more than a week? While a trip to Young's Jersey Dairy in Yellow Springs isn't quite the same, it's about as close as a farm gets to being the non-stop county fair of your dreams, with multiple pavilions, animals to pet, games, fun things to eat, and a ton of ice cream. On busy afternoons, it can feel like the whole county is here.
The stuff-your-face-on-the-farm theme continues in Holmes County, Ohio's premier Amish country, at Hershberger's Farm and Bakery, with its recently expanded petting zoo, kiddie rides, and a vast selection of fried pies, produce, pickled things, and fresh kettle corn on offer.
At the Rid-All Green Partnership, a small group of Black farmers are working to end food apartheid in Cleveland, and their considered efforts are certainly something worth celebrating—this summer, the group assumed operations of the popular Farmer Jones farm market in Maple Heights.
On Friday and Saturday nights from April through December, one of the most sought-after tables in the state is the one on the back porch (screened-in, if you please) of the rustic cabin at Living Kitchen Farm & Dairy, way out of both Tulsa and Oklahoma City, but only about an hour from either. Chef and owner Lisa Becklund is your gracious host—the Seattle native moved to Oklahoma years ago, after realizing that you can run a very successful restaurant and still not know all that much about food, or where it comes from. Becklund found herself in this unlikely place while on sabbatical, and decided to stay, operating the only restaurant in the tiny town of Depew, OK-and probably far beyond—that takes reservations via Tock.
The Quapaw Nation's Quapaw Cattle Company is well-known for their quality beef and bison; the ranch is just one of the tribal businesses represented at the Quapaw Farmers Market, every other Friday for much of the year.
Has the need to remain socially distanced from supermarkets, wherever possible, got you thinking about ending the relationship entirely? The folks at Rainshadow Organics in Sisters are way ahead of you—their goal is total independence from corporate food, and they're eager to help you do the same. Their Full Diet CSA, available for pickup at the farm or in nearby Bend, puts you on the road to a better life, aiming to keep you fully supplied, well fed, and out of the grocery store.
Don't go looking for hay rides and cider donuts at the Almaty Farm in Molalla, at least not for a few more years. Since 2012, this hard-working farm and research facility has been the home of the Temperate Orchard Conservancy, which works to identify, revive, and protect what are often called "lost apples," heirloom apples, or even heritage apples, of which there are a stunning variety, right here in the United States. Interested in learning more? Volunteer, or donate to the cause.
The rolling hills of the Willamette Valley are best known these days for their vineyards, but grapes are not the only game in town—visitors can sleep in a restored grain silo on the 80-acre Abbey Road Farm in Carlton.
A short drive from two major cities, and not much further from some even bigger ones that you may have heard of, Lancaster County is one of the most unique places in the country. It's mostly rural but exceptionally industrious, boasting (more so in normal times) a vibrant, mixed economy that just happens to be home to one of the largest groups of people in America who have very little use for the trappings of late-stage capitalism.
The weekly boxes from the non-profit network of organic growers comprising the Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative played a large part in keeping pandemic-era kitchens stocked everywhere from New York to Washington, D.C., but Lancaster is as much about the land as what grows on it, small farm after small farm, cheek by jowl, comprising one of the most unique agrarian landscapes in the country, many of them, like Rocky Acre Farm in Mount Joy, or the authentically-Amish Old Windmill Farm in Ronks, welcoming visitors, year after year—just make sure you don't forget to pull into Lapp Valley Farm in New Holland for a scoop of the butter brickle ice cream. (There's a 2020-friendly drive-thru, where you can pick up eggs and butter and milk, as well.)
One hour of driving and a world away in Philadelphia, getting down on the farm doesn't require a trip beyond city limits—the tomatoes from Heritage Farm are a summer favorite, as is the produce from Sankofa Community Farm, which you'll find within the 45-acre Bartram's Garden, a lovely National Historical Landmark on the banks of the Schuylkill. While you're on this side of the river, stop at Mill Creek Farm, which opens its farm stand on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
There is much to love about coastal Little Compton; in a way, it's better than those other New England summer places you've heard of, simply because you and so many other people have not heard of it, but also because it is completely idyllic. This is the end of the line, nowhere else to go, which keeps things quiet, and there's this lovely sense that everybody who comes here, often year after year, knows just how lucky they are.
Every summer, this one mostly being no exception, the farmers are waiting—Walker's Farm is a most popular stop for a reason. Outdoor tables piled high with sweet corn are just one of many attractions to this charming stand each summer. Long before organic was trending, way back in the early 1980s, the Peckham-Paul family was doing things right at the town's Wishing Stone Farm. They offer customizable CSA programs year-round, but also sell to the public a couple of days a week. (Try the free-range eggs.) Don't leave so quickly, after Labor Day—apple picking is a total tradition at Old Stone Orchard, right up the road, as it is elsewhere in the state—at the historic Barden Family Orchard in North Scituate, they can do serious (delicious heirloom varietals that are often hard to find) and they can do fun (hay rides, cider donuts). Take your pick.
Housed on barely an acre of land in a low-income section of North Charleston suffering from food apartheid, Fresh Future Farm is a dream-made-real for Germaine Jenkins, who has farmed the land over the better part of a decade now. Jenkins now finds herself embroiled in a fight for the farm's future—she'd love to expand, but first she has to win the right to buy her land and stay. After pivoting away from opening an on-site farm store during the pandemic, instead working to get produce directly to neighbors in need, there are once again signs of life, for the time being. Stay tuned for a reopening of the store, and a return of the farm tours.
On 330 acres just outside of Greenville, the group of passionate people driving the diverse efforts at Greenbrier Farms are growing some of the best produce available in the growing region; their certified organic vegetables are worth a trip to the farm (or a local farmers' market), and their meat boxes are worth keeping an eye out for—they do sell out.
The sweet little stand at Cycle Farm is one of the happiest places to be in Spearfish on Saturday mornings, when farmers Patricia Jenkins and Jeremy Smith put out (ever so artfully) whatever's available. Much of their produce (grown with organic practices) goes to their seasonal CSA customers, who know a good thing when they see it—for now, the next available slots are in 2021. In Brookings, the place to be is Good Roots Farm & Gardens, which recently launched wood-fired pizza nights, and also offers pick-your-own greens; anyone on the hunt for a great CSA in the Sioux Falls area should sign up with Cherry Rock Farms, which supplements their own produce with excellent local eggs, mushrooms, and more.
Lounging comfortably on 10,000 secluded acres on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Blackberry Farm is one of the country's most glamorous working farms, where guests, who pay a princely, all-inclusive sum to spend the night, can immerse themselves in the agrarian side of things for as much or as little of their days as they wish, in between spa treatments, bike rides, and fly fishing lessons.
A selfie in the sunflower fields at Batey Farms southeast of Nashville is a regional summer rite of passage; come earlier in the season for some of the region's most sought-after strawberries (when they're gone, they're gone). The family farm also produces terrific bacon, and other pork products, available (happily) throughout the year. At Sweetwater Valley Farms near Chattanooga, the theme is cheese, lots and lots of cheese; the long-running dairy produces a broad selection of take-homes, as well as a healthy snack offering. Their taco-flavored cheese curds have been a real gift during this most terrible time.
What's more Texas than a trip out to the ranch? Driving out to Perini Ranch to eat a steak the size of your head, and spending the night, and then picking up some Texas beef to take home, that's what. Cattleman Tom Perini has been running one of the state's most popular steakhouses (and one of its better-known ranches) for decades—always worth the drive to (and then a little bit further past) Abilene.
Top chefs around the state are quite passionate about the beef at 44 Ranch these days, up in Cameron; the ranchers there are equally passionate about their customers, encouraging anytime visits to see how things are done. (You can also just order all the meat you can eat online.) Wednesdays through Saturdays, the smartest home cooks in Austin can be seen prowling the stand at Boggy Creek Farm, one of the country's best urban farms, a five minute drive, give or take, from the state capitol.
One of the things you learn when you eat your way through through Dallas—local chefs are some of the most passionate supporters of high quality, small-scale agriculture in the state; look for terrific pork from Chubby Dog Farm (which you can have delivered directly to your Dallas-area home through a local service), and top-notch produce in the farm boxes from Comeback Creek Farms.
A journey to the tiny town of Boulder, home of Jen Castle and Blake Spalding's Hell's Backbone Grill & Farm, is one of those experiences that makes it terribly difficult to go back to the real world, and particularly right now; six acres of farm and kitchen gardens lay the groundwork for seasonable menus, supplemented by grass-fed meats from local ranchers and fruit from nearby orchards.
You wouldn't be the first to think of dropping out to run a farm-centric restaurant in a small town, the kind that would draw people from all over the world—Castle and Spalding had years of experience between them, before packing up and moving here twenty years ago. There are many reasons to love a visit to Capitol Reef National Park, but nearly everybody's favorite is a stop at the restored Gifford Homestead, a historic ranch with an active orchard, and a kitchen that turns out some of Utah's most popular pies. Up near Salt Lake City, the Drake Family Farm was founded by English immigrants in the late 1800s; suburbia may have swallowed the farm whole, but things are still going strong, with hundreds of goats turning out some of the state's finest raw milks and cheeses.
In normal times, the classic accoms at Shelburne Farms are one of the toughest weekend bookings of a New England summer; things are a very quiet this year at the 1,400-acre working farm (and historic estate) on the shores of Lake Champlain, where students of all ages typically come to learn about sustainable farming and forestry, cheesemaking, and sheep shearing. This year, it's mostly all about soaking up the vibes at one of the country's most important agritourism sites, which also happens to be an extraordinary place to roam freely in relative solitude.
For a grand farm stay on a much smaller scale, Liberty Hill Farm & Inn is another national standout that just happens to be in Vermont; guests stay in the restored Greek Revival farmhouse dating back to 1852, and can participate or as much or a little as they like in the operation of one of the state's busiest dairy farms. The state's southeast corner is apple territory, and has been for an exceptionally long time—the Scott Farm in Dummerston has its roots in the Revolutionary Period, grows heritage apples and offers farm stays, including next door in author Rudyard Kipling's former home, Naulakha.
Regenerative agriculture evangelist Joel Salatin has been making waves in the farm community for decades, with his larger-than-life Polyface Farm near Staunton. Salatin, a self-described lunatic (others have called him worse), teaches master classes to aspiring farmers around the world, speaks at Libertarian Party conferences, and, most importantly, helms an admirable operation responsible for some excellent meat and produce. The farm has a firm open-door, full-transparency policy, welcoming visitors all week long, offering in-depth tours for those serious about the process.
Next to Thomas Jefferson's Monticello (still a working farm, fun fact), the 200 year-old Stribling Orchards in Markham is something of a spring chicken; it is, however, also quite famous for apples—pick your own, or just stop by the store, where they sell a well-curated lineup of local produce.
Sunny summer afternoons anywhere in the San Juan Islands have most likely inspired a few moves to the Pacific Northwest. If you know, you know, that it rarely gets much better than this, and if you happen to be out roaming the fields (with a dish of lavender ice cream) at the Pelindaba Lavender Farm near Friday Harbor, good luck trying to psych yourself up for a summer day in most other places—these fleeting moments will haunt you, however far you run.
Similar vibes are in store on Bellingham-adjacent Lummi Island, where being a bed and breakfast is just one of the many things the the kid-friendly, hard-working Nettles Farm does very well. No summer sun, no problemo at the state's oyster farms, none more charming than Hama Hama Oysters, operating since the 1920s at the southern end of the Hood Canal, which not a canal, but actually a fjord, how cool is that. There's a farm store, and a very fine café (with beer, cider, and wine) on premises—basically, the perfect day out, from as far as you need to go to get here.
On the apple hunt? Much of the Washington crop is relatively commercial, but at the Olympia Farmers Market, one of the best year-round markets in the country, the reliable Sullivan's Homestead curates a dizzying selection of some of the finest readily available apples—and other produce—Eastern Washington has to offer.
Mountain State natives Mike Costello and Amy Dawson bring a serious passion for Appalachian foodways—and the region in general—to the work they do at Lost Creek Farm, not far from Clarksburg. Pop-up dinners offer a taste of life in West Virginia, not to mention the historic farm, centered around an 1800s farmhouse built by Dawson's great-great grandfather.
Much closer to the outside world in Capon Bridge, the Capon Crossing Farm has gained a following for grass-fed pastured meats, sold year round; in the summer time, they do bluegrass nights in the barn. No time for a deep dive? Just off of I-81, Kitchen's Farm runs a popular market, selling their own grass-fed beef, alongside a ton of vegetables and fruit in season.
Dutch expat Marieke Penterman is one of Wisconsin's most accomplished cheesemakers—good enough that fans of her very fine Gouda seem to have no trouble finding their way to the busy Penterman Farm, way the heck up in the tiny town of Thorp. Penterman, with husband Rolf and family, rolls out the welcome mat for her fans, whether your interest is seeing how things are done, stopping for a selfie with the massive fiberglass cow, or stuffing your face with fresh curds. (There's great grilled cheese, too.) Ken Weston's love of heirloom apples is so much larger than the handful of acres containing Weston's Antique Apples at the New Berlin Historic Settlement, near Milwaukee; his passion has inspired apple geeks across the country, among them Julia Child. These days, there are roughly 100 varietals represented on the modestly-sized property—the farm stand is worth many visits throughout the harvest season. What's more Wisconsin than beer? Stone Acres Farm northwest of Wausau not only offers an excellent CSA, they're also a brewery. Owner Tony Schultz runs pizza nights during the less cold months—a trio of outdoor ovens and picnic tables with big views make this the ultimate socially-distanced summer date night.
There are luxury dude ranches, and then there is Brush Creek Ranch, 30,000 acres of rugged high desert tamed gently, insistently into submission for the enjoyment of guests, who can ride the trails on horseback, learn how cheese is made at the on-site creamery, or beer, or spirits, and on and on it goes—there's even a resort-within-a-resort, the even more exclusive Magee Homestead, a member of the hard-to-join Relais & Chateaux club.
Just eight miles from the eastern side of Yellowstone National Park, Crossed Sabres Ranch offers a kid-friendly, highly accessible glimpse of home on the range, because nothing says "evening's entertainment" like a live bull riding demonstration. With rugged landscapes and long winters, traditional farming isn't the first thing most people come to Wyoming looking for; one of the coolest things about Jackson, however, is the three-story Vertical Harvest, an indoor hydroponic farm that partners with an organization designed to integrate the differently abled into the workplace. There's an on-site market, as well. In Laramie, Acres Student Farm is a teaching tool of the University of Wyoming; the farm runs a popular CSA, and makes appearances at the local farmers' market.