Farmstay U.S. Blog

Created for and by travelers and the farmers, these posts will cover a variety of topics related to farm stays in the U.S.

Archive for tag: ranches

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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.

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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!

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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).

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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.

Visits & Tastings

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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.

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B & B Farm Stay

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.

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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).

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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.

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Photo Credit: Rustride Ranch & Winery

The alpacalypse is coming! Here, this llama will explain...

alpacalypse

Oh.

Sorry.

Okay, all jokes about the end of the world aside, farms are great places to learn a skill or two that might see you through some tough times -- or at the very least, impress your friends at parties. (Seriously. Homemade cheese? I would be so impressed while I hid it all in my purse to take home.) (I like cheese, is what I'm saying.)

Day 5 - Bread, Butter, Jam, and Cheese Making; Canning and Preserving; Soap Making; Teaching Farms; Teaching Ranches; Cooking School

Homemade Butter

Homemade butter

Fresh, whole ingredients, usually straight from the source. A knowledgeable farmer or rancher to teach. These are some invaluable gifts!

The Farm Stay U.S. search page can help you find all kinds of new skills to learn. Just click on "Show More Search Options" and select an activity to see what our members have to offer.

This month we feature an interview with a very dynamic duo, ranch stay members Ron and Chris Wilson of Lazy T Ranch in the Flint Hills of Kansas.

FSUS: Ron and Chris, you both have quite the bios! You are both 5th
generation ranchers, plus Ron has been (in his words):

A 4-H member, FFA officer, farm radio broadcaster, college lecturer,
Congressional staffer, association executive, rural development
director, corporate vice-president, small business co-founder, rodeo
ticket-taker, Sunday School teacher, diaper changer, bottle washer,
tractor driver, posthole digger, thistle chopper, haybale stacker,
fence fixer, calf holder, manure scooper, and tail twister.

And Chris has served as the President of the American Agri-Women and as Kansas
Deputy Secretary of Agriculture! family


How and why did you two decide to host a Ranch Stay amidst all of this?

Ron & Chris: Five years ago we moved back to the ranch and built a new home.  Mom moved up with us two years ago, leaving her house empty so it was available to remodel and serve as a guest house.

FSUS: What's the setting of your ranch like? What's the landscape like,
and the climate?

Ron & Chris: You've heard of flat, treeless Kansas?  This is the exact opposite.  We are nestled in a region called the Flint Hills, with tall hills, deep draws, plenty of native stone, and lots of trees and brush.  We have four distinct seasons, each of which has its appeal.

FSUS: What do guests typically do during their stay at your ranch?

Ron & Chris: Guests can enjoy their privacy if they like, because we are in a secluded spot although close to Manhattan, but usually our guests choose to visit our historic stone barn, feed horses and goats, and enjoy the landscape.  Sometimes a family will gather eggs from our chickens and have them for breakfast.

ranch-houseFSUS: Since both of your families' roots in ranching go way back, and you are involved with many facets of ranching and ag policy, I expect you have some insight into ranching history and trends. How has ranching changed or stayed the same in this country over time?

Ron & Chris: This is generally cow-calf country, with herds of brood cows populating the rangeland.  Cattle feeding is not predominant here, although there are some feedyards.  Cattle feeding has become concentrated, particularly in western Kansas where several large packers have located.  Beef is our state's largest single ag industry, still dominated by decentralized groups of producers (as opposed to pork and poultry, which have become more unified or vertically integrated).  In addition to ranchers, there are lots of farmer-stockmen raising grain and cattle.

FSUS: Ron was dubbed the "Poet Lariat" of Kansas in 2003 by then-governor Bill Graves. Ron, why did you start writing Cowboy Poetry? Do your ranch stay guests get to see you perform? ridinginparadecloseup

Ron: I grew up here on the ranch and have always been a cowboy at heart.  Years ago I was at a conference in Colorado where they had a cowboy poet as entertainment.  I had never heard or seen such a goofy thing, but it was definitely entertaining.  Years later I tried my hand at writing and performing it myself, and have had a great time since.  Overnight guests don't get cowboy poetry as such, but they do if they schedule one of our beef barbecue suppers.

FSUS: Could you tell us about the special events you have at your ranch throughout the year? Like the fall festival and National Day of the Cowboy?

Ron & Chris: Most of our activities are done by appointment, such as when tour groups or organizations book an evening for supper and entertainment.  However, during weekends in October, we hold our Fall Festival which is open admission for pony rides, pumpkin patch, hayrack ride, kid activities, etc.  In 2012, for the first time, we hosted a National Day of the Cowboy celebration and had about 50 people come out for speakers, picnic supper, and western entertainment.  It was a lot of fun and would hope to do it again.

FSUS: What are the accommodations like at your ranch?

Ron & Chris: The guest house is a remodeled and expanded family farm home, with three bedrooms and a large common living room.  It has satellite television, but it also has card games and marks on the wall to mark the kids height on their birthdays through the years.  The front porch is native stone and the house is nestled into our corner of the river valley, surrounded by the Flint Hills.

FSUS: What meals do you offer, and what's on the menu?

Ron & Chris: We offer lunch and supper but supper is our most common offering: beef barbecue with all the trimmings.  See http://lazytranchadventures.com/lazy-t-ranch-beef-bbq.htm

FSUS: Anything else you'd like to highlight?

barn-w-horsesRon & Chris: A friend of ours has a saying:  Horses are magic.  We have had visitors who apparently have never seen a horse up close and personal, and they seem to find them fascinating.  People love to pet and feed them.  The goats will eat feed right out of kids' hands, which tickles their palms and causes them to have a blast.  Kids have described their birthday parties here as their best ever.

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For more information on Lazy T Ranch, visit their Farm Stay U.S. listing or their website: http://www.lazytranchadventures.com/

Karen Searle, Owner/Manager of Montana Bunkhouses Working Ranch Vacations, has the impressive distinction of creating one of the first agritourism cooperatives in the United States. Today Montana Bunkhouses includes 20 authentic ranch vacations spread across Montana's remarkable landscape. Karen plays matchmaker between ranches and guests, and aims to give great personal thought and attention to pointing guests to their ideal ranch vacation.

Farm Stay U.S. recently had the pleasure of asking Karen about her organization, ranching in Montana, all of the great press Montana Bunkhouses has received, and more. We're excited to share her answers here. Photo credits for all the photos in this blog go to Montana Bunkhouses.

1. Montana Bunkhouses is a group of 20 working guest ranches that have teamed up to  offer guests a great selection of authentic cowboy experiences. How and why did the group form?

Families who want to pass their ranches down to the next generation are under increasing economic pressure to sell out. To give ranchers another option, I formed an agritourism cooperative, modeled after the European Farm Holiday program. The supplementary income each host ranch receives will hopefully help future generations to sustain their ranching way of life. We are able to offer a variety of authentic cowboy experiences, because that is exactly what we are, authentic. Ranching is a labor of love; we do not ranch because it is easy, we ranch because it is who we are. Montana Bunkhouses provides a gateway for others to share and understand our disappearing way of life.

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2. What kinds of experience do your guest ranches offer? You act as a matchmaker between guests and ranches: how do you know which ranch is the best for for a particular guest?

I am a native Montanan with ranching roots and I guess you could say I'm a travel coordinator and matchmaker. I know these ranchers personally, they are my friends and neighbors, and I understand what makes each of them unique. I devote myself to getting to know guests as well, not just as potential customers, but also as friends. Developing personal connections with our guests means I am able to match them to a ranch not just based on their interests, but also based on their personalities. My goal is to match guests with a ranch that will give them the authentic ranching experience, with emphasis on the areas they find most interesting, and introduce them to people who will become "family" during their visit.

3. There's a cluster of your ranches concentrated east of Bozeman and west of Billings. What's special about that area?

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The idea for Montana Bunkhouse Working Ranch Vacations started where I live in southwestern Montana, and the participating ranches now stretch border to border -- each in dramatic landscapes -- across the entire state. It is a great benefit for our guests that the area with the highest concentration of ranches is within the distance of a day's excursion to Yellowstone National Park.

4. What sets Montana ranch vacations apart from ranch vacations elsewhere in the U.S.?

"Saddle Up" and experience a part of the Old West that still exists.  We love sharing the ranching way of life and what comes with it.  With over twenty Montana Cattle Ranches hosting guests, we offer a wide range of choices. Working ranch vacations offer more than just head to tail horseback riding. Guests participate in seasonal ranch activities while learning about conservation practices and sustainable ranching in the Rocky Mountains. It is traditional for ranch families to get together during brandings or roundups or cattle drives and they welcome guests to join them. Guests enjoy the camaraderie and appreciate the skill involved in the roping and wrangling. Springtime in the Rockies brings the perfect combination of nature and nurture. During calving and lambing guests can make a difference -- watching expecting mothers, reading the weather, and lending a hand in preserving new life. Something vital fills each and every day.

5. What's your background? How did you end up with such an unusual and fascinating job?

Ranching is in my blood. I grew up on a cattle and sheep ranch in southwestern Montana, and am sympathetic to the challenges of the family farm. I am the galvanizing force behind the agritourism cooperative. I was credited by a former director of Cooperation Works, a national center for cooperative business development, for having put together the first agritourism cooperative of cattle ranches in the United States. The co-op was formed after I was selected as a representative to the 2002 World Congress on Rural Women and Rural Issues in Spain. I see agritourism as a way to help preserve family ranches and to narrow the divide between ranch and city dwellers on land use and wildlife issues. Those objectives have put Montana Bunkhouses on the forefront of a trend in the travel industry labeled "geotourism," travel that sustains or enhances the character of a place, helping to preserve its heritage, habitats and scenic beauty.

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6. Is there a 'typical guest' that you work with? What kind of folks crave a Montana working ranch vacation, and what are they looking to do during their stay?

Why do guests come?  Montana is a place where myth has long been in partnership with reality. The kinds of folks who find me on the internet are searching for "working ranch vacations." They are not interested in simply traveling to another destination, they are seeking a life changing experience. Whether they are looking to connect with their roots, or reconnect with their family members, or establish a connection with our ranching way of life, it is all here. We offer the opportunity for them to share the ranching way of life with people who are tied by birth or choice to a part of America that to some feels like the country's soul!

With our working ranch vacations, everything on-ranch is included: comfortable lodging, hearty family style meals and seasonal ranch activities. Rates vary from $1500 to $1900 per week depending on the ranch and the hands-on experience they offer.

7. Your group has gotten a lot of good press! Do you have a favorite article (or two) that you want to share with our readers?

Yes, we have gotten a lot of good press as you can see if you go to our Montana Bunkhouses News Page. The USDA/Rural Developments folks told our story in their national Rural Cooperatives magazine. We've been featured in newspapers in places a far-flung as New York, Chicago, and Sidney, Australia. Respected travel magazines including Condé Nast Traveler and Sunset Magazine have celebrated our unique vacations, as well as journalists in China, Taiwan, Japan, Italy and the United Kingdom. But the one that I'm the most proud of - my favorite, hands down - is being selected for the National Geographic Geotourism MapGuide of the Greater Yellowstone area. Anyone who visits Montana will want to have this map in their back pocket. You can order a free copy of the map from our website, www.montanaworkingranches.com. We are the only Montana ranch vacations to have met National Geographic's criteria for authenticity of experience, culture and heritage. We're proud of that.

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8. What has changed for the ranches since your group formed? What changes do you foresee in the future?

Change is measured in generations in Montana. Our agritourism cooperative is just starting its second decade, so we can only speculate what the longer term impact will be for the ranchers down the line.  Already, the diversified income from agritourism has provided everything from money to remodel a kitchen right on down to the money necessary to make the next ranch loan payment. In some cases it means the difference on whether the ranch family's son or daughter can return home so they can carry the ranching traditions on to the next generation. But the benefit is not just measured in dollars and cents. We enjoy sharing our way of life. It jogs us off-center so we don't simply take for granted what we've been born to do because we see our ranching world through our guest's eyes and it brings us joy.

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To contact Karen, send an email to karen@montanabunkhouses.com, call 406-223-6101, or visit Montana Bunkhouses Farm Stay U.S. page. Karen likes to warn potential guests with a wink: "Caution!  Working Ranch Vacations may be habit forming."

Thanks to Montana Bunkhouse Ranches for the use of the photos in this blog.

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