Season's Greetings, readers! I had so much fun composing the Christmas countdown posts back in 2012 (was it really 2 years ago?) that I decided to do another series this year. Plus, it challenges me to write something every day during a time when things typically slow down around here. Check back during the 12 days of Christmas - that's December 25th through January 5th - for some musings on the connections we make when we visit a farm, and learn about some (maybe surprising) activities and amenities offered by farm, ranch, and vineyard stays around the country!
The decision to make this series of posts was inspired by a recent study published by Cornell University that says "...research shows experiences - like that vacation you've been thinking about - provide the most joy and tend to increase social connectedness."
[Science says buy experiences, not things, if you're looking for the perfect gift]Well, farm stay operators already had a pretty good idea that this was the case. Farm stay guests have the option to go somewhere rural and slow things down... take your time gathering eggs in the morning or selecting produce out of the garden for your evening meal; gaze into the eyes of a horse; sit in the hayloft with a friend.Joy and connection, a perfect theme for the 1st day of Christmas!
Rustridge Winery & Ranch is the getaway from getaways as one of their guests called it. Rustridge is a vineyard, winery, thoroughbred racehorse ranch and a bed and breakfast. Just 20 minutes from Napa Valley’s Silverado Trail, the once large racehorse ranch is now a combination of the owners, Jim and Susan’s, two passions wine and horses. They continue to breed and race thoroughbreds and have over 20 years of experience producing award winning wine.
Cooler nights and higher elevation allow for a later harvest than most grapes in Napa Valley which gives the distinct quality and flavor you’ll have to try and enjoy for yourself!
Rustridge Ranch & Winery is known for their organically grown grapes and award winning wine. They offer a variety of wines through their Rustridge, Racehorse and Library selections including Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Zinfandel. The Rustridge wines are their current barrel selected premium wines that bring out the best elements of the Chiles Valley. Their Racehorse selection includes their everyday wines. The Racehorse Red is a blend of Zinfandel and Carbenet and the white is a Chardonnay with a touch of oak. A collection of both Rustridge and Racehorse wines make up their aged Library wines. More information on their selections, wine purchases and Rustridge Wine Club memberships can be found at their website (Rustridge.com).
In order to exercise the young horses they run them through the vineyard aisles. Fifty acres stretching down the valley make for a great run. For strength, they run the horses up and down the steep hills that ring their valley.
When visiting the ranch, make sure you take advantage of the wine tasting, property tour and the many other activities they have to offer. The tastings are by appointment so make sure you plan ahead of time and reserve a spot (Schedule Your Tastings). If you’d like, you can learn about breeding and training horses or the process of growing grapes and making wine. Another option is to take a hike through the vineyard and the surrounding hills and enjoy beautiful views and bird watching or bring a bottle of wine, set up a picnic and just relax.
If you’re looking for a romantic getaway you’ve found it. The Rustridge Bed & Breakfast offers a sunlit breakfast room with a ranch-style breakfast to start off the day right. Tennis, hiking, barbequing and other fun farm activities are available throughout the day. Take the edge off lounging in the sun by the pool or relaxing in the eucalyptus sauna. Then gather in the country kitchen for an evening of Rustridge wine sampling and hors d’oeuvres.
The B & B offers several options for overnight stays including bedrooms with comfortable queen size featherbeds, private bathrooms, adjoining rooms, beautiful views and direct access to the pool and sauna. For more information and availability look at their options here (Rustridge Bed & Breakfast).
It’s hard to beat a nice warm and cozy fireplace in the bedroom, a private deck looking out over some amazing views and access to a relaxing sauna. Add a bottle of wine and you’ll think you’ve found paradise.
Your getaway from getaways is here at Rustridge Ranch and Winery. For more information on the ranch and booking information here is a link to their Farm Stay profile.
Photo Credit: Rustride Ranch & Winery
Jennifer Murray, of The Inn at East Hill Farm in Troy, NH, recently
told us about East Hill Farm's new Farm School. We were intrigued
by the idea, so we emailed Jennifer some questions about the farm,
inn, and their many agritourism endeavors. Here's the
1. Could you tell us a bit about East Hill
JM: The Inn at East Hill Farm offers a vacation
atmosphere coupled with a unique farm-oriented educational
experience. Year round activities for the whole family include
indoor and outdoor swimming, hiking, cross country skiing and
snowshoeing, cow milking, egg collecting, hay and sleigh rides,
horseback riding and a children's recreation program. Three
home-cooked family style meals are served daily.
2. Your farm has so many different programs ... you host
farm vacations, senior programs, sleigh rides, dances, and more.
How do you do it all? And how does it all fit together?
JM: East Hill Farm does offer many experiences. At
the heart of it all we are a family vacation resort with a working
farm. For many years we have offered families a relaxing vacation
on the farm. Guests are encouraged to interact with the animals and
farmers as much as they like. The cows and goats need to be milked
each day and eggs need to be collected. We have horseback riding
lessons and trail rides as well as wagon rides and sleigh
Over the years we have expanded our offerings in order to remain
viable and to stay open all year long. We have developed ways to
draw visitors through a variety of programs. Whether someone is
coming for an all-inclusive resort vacation, a senior bus tour, a
dance weekend, farm school or a business conference, everyone is
encouraged to experience part of farm life.
3. You just started a new program called the Farm School
Program. Could you tell us about it? What inspired you to start the
JM: East Hill Farm School gives middle school
students, grades 5-8, with a meaningful, hands-on farm experience.
Students will join the East Hill Farm farmers and naturalists for a
3-day program where students will play an integral role in running
On our 150 acres, we raise heritage breed cows, goats, sheep and
pigs along with horses, chickens and other farm animals. Through
our school program, students will help us run the farm, from
milking the cows to fixing fences to helping manage the fields and
surrounding woodlands. By caring for the animals and gaining a
stronger appreciation for environmental stewardship, the farm will
begin to feel like a home away from home. Schools can customize the
program by choosing from a variety of workshops that best align
with their curriculum or students' interests.
4. What has been the response to the Farm School Program
JM: We have had positive feedback from the schools
that have visited us. The students enjoy working on the farm and
learning about farm life. The students have participated in
projects that have improved the farm, such as helping to create new
signs for various barns and helping with seeding the fields.
5. Are there other programs like this at other farms that
you know of?
JM: The Farm School in Athol, MA has a similar
program. They have been providing farm-based education for children
and adults for years. We continue to network with and learn from
other farmers and programs and have recently joined the Farm-Based
Education Association. www.farmbasededucation.org
6. Which of your programs would you recommend most to
other farms looking to diversify?
JM: I think anything farmers can do to expand on
educational opportunities is wonderful. There is a trend toward
reconnecting with our food supply and eating locally-grown produce
and meats. Building connections with local schools and
organizations to provide food products and settings for place based
education are also important. It is wonderful for students to
participate in farm based education right at their local farms!
Pulling this website together has been a huge undertaking that
had to take a back seat to lambing for a time this spring!
I have enlisted the help of young and old, family and friends,
even strangers I met on the plane (who are no longer strangers!) We
have researched and then entered as many working farms and ranches
offering lodging as we can sleuth from the Internet.
It's a start for what I hope will become not only a
directory of farm and ranch stays in America, but also a mentoring
site for farms needing to diversify to stay viable. In corporate
America, they would call this a win-win.
Farm stays are about place. They are also about the
people, the animals, and the plants that are from that place. Farms
and ranches provide connection to the living world. If ever there
were a time to reconnect, it's now. We're live and we are
One caveat: this a 'beta' launch because the devil
is in the details and some of the details are still not
right. Blame it on the lambs!
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