Take an Idyllic Vacation That Supports an Independent Farmer
With open spaces, fun for every age, and a distinct, delicious sense of place, a farm stay is the perfect antidote to the past year or so of disruption and isolation. And while you could (and should) head for one of the high-end agricultural retreats across the U.S. (the iconic Blackberry Farm in Tennessee, say, or Northern California's plush-yet-laid-back Farmhouse Inn), there's luxury of a different sort to be found at rural working farms. It's good for the soul to immerse yourself among green and growing things as they stretch toward the sun, to wander through fields bursting with color to pick a fat, sun-warmed berry and pop it into your mouth. A weekend at a working farm lets you do all of those things, while you enjoy unique accommodations and give independent farmers financial support.
Five full-service contemporary cabins overlook the 60 undulating acres at Hartland, Vermont's Fat Sheep Farm & Cabins (from $200, fatsheepfarmvermont.com), where you can bottlefeed the lambs or attend workshops on sourdough-bread baking or cheesemaking. Farmers Todd Heyman and Suzy Kaplan have forged a partnership with one of Vermont's best restaurants, Mangalitsa, in nearby Woodstock, where guests eat the food grown in the field alongside their cabin—everything from four kinds of Japanese squash to Floriani Red Flint Corn, an Italian variety that makes a pinkish polenta. They also grow popcorn, which can be popped at the firepit under the stars.
Nestled in a biodynamic commercial orchard in Anderson Valley, California, Philo Apple Farm (from $330, philoapplefarm.com) is a trio of airy cottages set among 40 varieties of apple trees. There are plenty of agrarian activities, such as fruit and herb picking, but the real draw here is the phenomenal food. Philo Apple Farm was established by the original owners of The French Laundry, so their midweek "Stay & Cook" experience (starting up again this fall), a combination of meal prep and produce tutorial, is next-level—think mixed-bean ribolitta with bacon and kale over garlic toast for lunch. Breakfast includes biscuits with housemade jams and fresh-pressed cider.
Perhaps the only thing better than staying on a working chocolate farm is staying on one that overlooks the rolling Pacific on Hawaii's Big Island. Hamakua Chocolate Farm (from $179, hamakuachocolate.com), tucked among 10 acres of cacao plants near Hilo, features two modern guesthouses with outdoor lanais— and complimentary earplugs if the chirping of the coqui tree frogs gets too loud. The farm offers a variety of educational intensives built around growing, harvesting, and processing cacao. You can distill chocolate liquors, partake in a daylong harvest party, or make custom chocolate from tree to bar, which may include fruit or spices grown around the farm.
An hour's drive from Kansas City in Fontana, Kansas, is the dreamy, 14-acre Netherfield Natural Farm (from $145, netherfieldnaturalfarm.com), which has five pretty rooms in a 19th century farmhouse. Among the vegetables grown by owners Scott Shappell and Matt Fineout are asparagus, Swiss chard, spinach, and Cherokee purple tomatoes, which make their way into the frittata at breakfast. Shappell also runs a bread-making workshop in their classic farm kitchen where you can try your hand at olive-and-rosemary boules, sourdough crackers, or cranberry-orange bread with a brown sugar swirl using local Hudson Cream flour, one of the last independent flour mills in the country. Laze around the in-ground saltwater pool, hit the hiking trails, or paddle the still pond; at day's end, watch the flock of chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese gather in an orderly fashion to put themselves to bed in the coop.
MoonRidge Farms (from $350, moonridgefarms.com) has a sun-flooded renovated farmhouse that sleeps six, located on 40 acres of the Upper Willamette Valley in Beavercreek, Oregon. Along with a massive variety of produce, from Walla Walla onions to enormous Nui blueberries, owners Lauren Hartmann and Ted Bancroft grow and sell yacon, a South American shrub with an edible tuber. Guests can help with harvesting flowers from their new lavender farm, gather fresh eggs, or tend the goats and rabbits. As a side gig, Hartmann and Bancroft also breed pugs—if you're lucky, a few puppies might be racing around during your stay.
For privacy lovers, Toddy Pond Farm Cottage (from $250, toddypondfarm.com) in Monroe, Maine, is a dream—it's surrounded by 520 bucolic acres on a working dairy farm. Pick blueberries from the back patio, hike the private trails around tranquil Toddy Pond (which offers a stunning view of nearby Robertson Mountain), or feed the ducklings and chicks in the barn. A farm store offers fresh kefir, yogurt, and ice cream, all made on the premises. Sheep and cows graze near the immaculate cottage, which sleeps seven and dates from the 1800s one wall is filled with messages scribbled by visitors who stayed there long ago.
Just 20 minutes from Denver in Brighton, Colorado, the four-acre Red Daisy Farm (from $285, reddaisyfarm.com), which sells organic flowers and herbs wholesale to florists, has ensconced a sweet three-bedroom home among the blooms. Styled in clean, modern gray-and-white finishes (a nice showcase for the complimentary bouquet awaiting guests), it overlooks a pond and a rushing waterfall, with the Rocky Mountains as a dramatic backdrop. Take a dip in the natural rock–rimmed swimming pool, loll in the hot tub, prowl the on-site antiques barn, or ramble through fragrant acres of peonies, dahlias, snapdragons, and asters.
Among the 21 properties dotted around the family-owned Fort Lewis Lodge & Farm (from $285, fortlewislodge.com) in Millboro, Virginia, is a converted corn silo with three bedrooms. By day, forage for morel and chanterelle mushrooms, or take a dunk in a deep swimming hole with an adjacent wood-fired sauna. By night, take in the constellations from the farm's stargazing platform. A vast garden guides the 19th-century Lewis Mill Restaurant's menu, which may include peach cobbler with fruit straight from the orchard or wild watercress harvested from the banks of a natural mountain spring on the property, which also supplies the drinking water.