Visit These True Western Farms and Ranches
Hands-on adventure and farm-to-table feasts
A visit to these farms and ranches is always in season. Just pack your appetite for hands-on adventure—and straight-from-the-fields food.
Photo: courtesy of Willow-Witt Ranch
Nestled in the verdant embrace of Oregon’s Southern Cascades, this 440-acre off-the-grid ranch is a model of sustainability, with award-winning wetland- and forest-restoration programs and a thriving business in farm-raised goats, pork, chicken and eggs.
Work: Join the daily rounds of animal-care chores and you might even learn to milk a goat.
Play: Two words: goat backpacking. Hit the hiking trail with a trained pack goat to carry the load and a doe for fresh milk along the way. Guided birding hikes and farm tours are also offered.
Stay: Tent campsites are $40/night; furnished walled tents from $125/night. The Farmhouse Studio has a sleeping loft and a woodstove, from $200/night, while the larger Meadow House is available for day retreats or overnight stays, from $250/night.
Photo: courtesy Los Poblanos
LOS POBLANOS HISTORIC INN & ORGANIC FARM
Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, NM
An oasis of serenity sheltered by towering cottonwoods, perfumed by fields of lavender and refreshed by Spanish tile fountains, the inn was designed in the 1930s by noted New Mexico architect John Gaw Meem and embellished by outstanding artists and craftspeople. With a working organic farm producing heirloom, native and endangered fruits and vegetables, plus lavender and honey, this is a sweet taste of the Rio Grande River Valley.
Work: Dig in and help with planting, weeding or harvesting in the organic farm fields.
Play: Fill your days with culinary courses using fresh ingredients, perfume-making workshops, art classes, lavender tasting menus and lessons in lavender distillation, farm tours and “meet the farmer” events.
Stay: Charming accommodations in the historic inn or repurposed vintage dairy buildings have a New Mexico flair. The on-site restaurant spotlights local and artisanal ingredients in its seasonal menu. Rates start at $200.
Photo: courtesy of Canyon of the Ancients
CANYON OF THE ANCIENTS
With some 5,000 documented ancient archaeological sites in the neighborhood—including the jaw-dropping Mesa Verde National Park—this guest ranch makes an ideal base for adventure, plus it raises grass-fed beef and lamb, organic vegetables and free-range eggs.
Work: Pitch in with the daily farm chores including irrigation, weeding and caring for animals.
Play: Roam the ruins—aside from Mesa Verde, there’s Canyon of the Ancients National Monument and Hovenweep National Monument. Learn more by visiting the nearby Anasazi Heritage Center.
Stay: The spectacular Mokee House mimics ancient Pueblo structures, complete with a lookout tower and keyhole door, but also offers amenities like an outdoor oven, greenhouse, sauna and office. The 1880s-era Elden Stone House, Pioneer House and Cowboy Log Cabin are also available. Rates vary.
Photo: Anna Elledge
The San Luis Valley setting of the 103,000-acre Zapata Ranch could inspire even the most jaded traveler to dust off superlatives like “majestic” and “breathtaking.” It’s owned by the Nature Conservancy, but the bison and cattle livestock operation and guest ranch are managed by Ranchlands, a company dedicated to preserving ecosystems and local ranching heritage.
Work: Saddle up to work the cattle under the guidance of wranglers, or try your hand at ranch chores.
Play: Explore on horseback—into Great Sand Dunes National Park, among the bison, or on an overnight pack trip into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Wildlife viewing, bird-watching, fly-fishing, nature hikes and photography workshops are also available.
Stay: The Bunkhouse, Stewart House and restored 19th-century lodge offer rustic Southwestern-style rooms. Homemade meals are hearty and often feature ranch-raised bison. All-inclusive rates (three-night minimum) start at $1,380/adult.
Photo: Michelle Roberts
COUNTRY FLAT FARM
Big Sur, CA
High in the Santa Lucia Mountains overlooking the Pacific coast, this peaceful and gorgeous family farm specializes in beekeeping—producing California black sage honey—as well as growing Meyer lemons and organic vegetables. Solar power and a spring-fed stream provide off-the-grid comforts.
Work: Guests are welcome to help with chores, and an ongoing series of workshops offers training in a variety of agricultural skills including beekeeping, tree pruning and vegetable propagation.
Play: Hike among the ancient redwoods of the Palo Colorado Canyon or in the nearby Ventana Wilderness. Beautiful Monterey Peninsula, home to the famed Monterey Bay Aquarium, is just 12 miles away.
Stay: Two adorable one-bedroom cottages crafted completely from recycled materials are tucked between old oak trees and offer spectacular sunset views. Rates from $185/night; $3,000/month.
Chuck the chuck wagon and can the canned food. These days, innovative Western chefs are serving mountain-fresh cuisine at simply sophisticated al fresco tables.
An organic farm and education center that partners with notable Front Range chefs to craft summer and autumn farm-to-table “evenings under the stars” featuring fresh local meat and produce, and often benefitting charitable organizations and causes.
THE FARM AT SOUTH MOUNTAIN
Graced by a grove of pecan trees and an on-site certified organic vegetable and flower garden, the Farm offers breakfast at the Morning Glory Café, picnic and patio lunch at the Farm Kitchen, and “refined rustic” dinners at Quiessence, featuring “ingredients from the neighborhood.”
Photo: courtesy of Outstanding in the Field
OUTSTANDING IN THE FIELD
The self-styled “roving culinary adventure” hosts events at farms all over the country (plus Canada and Asia), inviting up to 200 guests to sit down together for a family-style meal and reconnect with the sources of their food.
MEADOW LARK FARM DINNERS
various Colorado locations
“A celebration of Colorado farmers and food artisans,” with a mobile kitchen, meals hosted by local farmers, tables placed in the fields, and freshly prepared menus inspired by regional ingredients and that day’s harvest.
various Montana locations
Taking advantage of the beauty and bounty of southwestern Montana, chef Melissa Harrison uses seasonal, sustainable and locally sourced ingredients to create feasts served on picturesque farms and ranches across Big Sky Country.