These 3 Farm Stays Offer Eco-Conscious Luxury
The phrase “farm-to-table” is used so frequently that a culinary getaway with a farm hardly seems like a novel concept. Still, some hotels continue to push the idea of a sustainable farm stay further and in new directions by becoming true agrarian utopias where nearly everything guests devour is grown or raised on property (or nearby). And guests can truly get immersed in the pastoral setting. The perks that come with a stay at these stepped-up experiences might include meals consisting entirely of handmade pantry items from farm-grown ingredients, clean bath and body products made with property-grown herbs and florals, and hikes through ranchland where prized Charolais cows graze. Here are three of the best — a European-inspired inn in Oregon Wine Country, a Georgian manor–style hotel in the English countryside with a Michelin Green star (earned by restaurants at the forefront of the industry when it comes to their sustainable practices), and a coastal ranch stay just a few hours north of Marin in Mendocino County.
A Sense of Place
Tributary Hotel and ōkta
Chef Matthew Lightner has worked everywhere from Mugaritz in Spain to the two-Michelin-starred Atera in NYC’s Tribeca, but he chose to open his dream project in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, just under an hour’s drive from downtown Portland. Lightner is chef and partner at ōkta, the restaurant that is part of the eight-suite Tributary Hotel (from $950 per night). Ōkta is a unit of measurement used to describe the amount of cloud cover and a fitting name for a restaurant in the heart of the moss-covered valley known for producing pinot noir. The restaurant’s soul, ōkta farm, is a 25-minute drive away on a picturesque hillside surrounded by vineyards. Before the restaurant and hotel design were complete, work had begun on the farm, where there’s a kitchen, lab, wood-fired bread oven and larder. All culinary essentials (oils, tamaris, dried spices) chefs use at the restaurant are created using local ingredients, like a fruity habanada vinegar made with sweet, farm-grown habanada peppers.
“I’ve always had an addiction to nature. I grew up in Nebraska. Books created a fire inside me to explore these things, so when I got the opportunity to be in Oregon and go to the ocean and forage, I had a heightened sense of appreciation for it,” says Lightner, who also worked at Portland’s Castagna. Dinner at ōkta is a feast for the senses. The sleek restaurant has a bustling open kitchen and furniture and fixtures by Portland artisans, such as sculpted sconces made by ceramicist Lilith Rocket that cast a warm glow over the dining room. Dinner is composed of 14 to 15 bites such as a black truffle tart with Butterbloom cheese and caviar with blue kuri squash and coconut milk curry. Depending on the season, Lightner says, 20 to 90 percent of ingredients used for the menu come from the farm. The duck, purple sweet potato and spigarello dish I sampled during my visit is an example of meticulous sourcing. A local farmer raised the free-range duck specifically for the restaurant, and chefs lacquered the ōkta farm-grown purple sweet potato with a molasses-y type syrup made in the lab by inoculating local purple barley with koji.
Guests of the inn, where suites are named for Oregon river tributaries, get to experience luxurious accommodations with fireplaces and large spa-like bathrooms and indulge in what can only be described as a lavish continental breakfast (included in the room rate). More than half a dozen dishes are wheeled to guest rooms on a cart and arranged on a coffee table and can include sourdough bread, pain au chocolate and a salad with sweet peppers and turnips in an herby sauce. It’s a cuisine inspired by the region and in a class of its own. “It’s not for us, ‘this is Japanese,’ ” says Lightner when asked how he would describe the cuisine at ōkta. “This is what we want to cook with the ingredients that inspire us.”
Heckfield Place (from $559 per night), opened in Hampshire, about an hour southwest of London, in 2018 as an ambitious country house hotel meets farm stay, has continued taking regenerative hospitality to new heights. The 400-acre-plus property’s organic farm achieved biodynamic certification in 2021 (it’s considered the U.K.’s first biodynamic hotel). Growers use only natural fertilizers in order to build rather than deplete the soil, and provide ingredients for the house whenever possible, from flowers to vegetables, dairy to honey. Heckfield Place farmers raise livestock like Guernsey cows and British Saddleback pigs and grow a vast array of herbs and heirloom fruits and vegetables, flowers and trees in its seven greenhouses and gardens — the walled garden has trees planted in the 19th century by pioneering horticulturist William Wildsmith. Heckfield Place has so much fabulous produce it sometimes hosts markets that are open to the public.
Award-winning chef Skye Gyngell runs the “root-to-plate” culinary program. Gyngell and executive chef Michael Chapman’s efforts were rewarded with a Green Michelin Star for sustainable dining at the restaurant Marle. Farm-grown-and-raised ingredients shine in dishes like Heckfield lamb with roasted beetroot and sauce vert and beef carpaccio with poached baby farm leeks. At Hearth, located in the estate’s former stables, most dishes are cooked over open flame, and at Moon Bar, cocktails are inspired by lunar phases.
Guest rooms — resembling rooms in the most refined farmhouses — feature natural materials like Georgian timber furniture, handmade ceramic lamps, and raw linen and wool fabrics. Heckfield Place also produces bath and beauty products on the estate from farm-grown ingredients, and the sustainable Bothy Spa will open later this year. The hotel’s wellness program, Farm Fit, challenges guests with circuit training using ropes, hay bales, logs and weighted milk churns. Everything gets reused at Heckfield Place.
The Ranch Reborn
California ranch living and cuisine are alive and well at the Inn at Newport Ranch (from $650 per night), a luxurious nine-room inn and 2,000-acre working cattle ranch along a rugged stretch of Mendocino coastline in Fort Bragg. The ranch’s seven microclimates offer abundant foraging opportunities. New executive chef Patrick Meany, who has worked with Thomas Keller and recently completed a stint at two-Michelin-starred Harbor House Inn in Elk, is rolling out a new sustainable culinary program, which will include foraging tours throughout the year. This spring, guests will be able to search for fiddlehead ferns and California nutmeg, and Meany, who has been known to make kombucha from Douglas fir and wild honey, will cook up a gourmet dinner, including some of your own finds. When the stormy weather sets in in the fall, guests should pack rain boots for a guided mushroom foraging excursion. The Inn at Newport Ranch has a mushroom farm surrounded by redwood forests. Deeply committed to being stewards of the land, management plants at least one redwood tree per guest.
Meany’s elevated ranch-style cuisine includes a different three-course menu each night featuring local ingredients like the ranch’s own Angus and Charolais beef cooked over a live fire fueled with alder, fir or apple wood. The inn also has several bountiful hilltop kitchen gardens filled with plump squash, bright berries, brassicas, alliums and herbs (depending on the season). About half of the accommodations have full kitchens and outdoor grills, including the Newport Suite, which has redwood trunk columns supporting the high ceilings. The ranch-style breakfast — served in a wood-paneled room with views of the blue-green sea — featuring thick-cut bacon and fresh-baked pastries provides sustenance for full days exploring the area, including the ranch’s 20 miles of hiking trails, wineries, beaches and a large section of the Cannabis Trail. Often overlooked Mendocino County has it all.