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Field of Dreams

by Nora Zelevansky

The commitment to sustainable farming at luxury farm destinations informs not only the refined culinary and leisure guest experience, but also the identity of the place itself.

Aways away, just outside of Nashville, Tennessee, the new Southall Farm & Inn is finding its own way to integrate the area’s farming history into its identity. Opened in December 2022, this brand-new luxe 325-acre property currently produces three acres of organically grown vegetables and flowers and rotates its poultry—two types of chickens and a “happy flock of turkeys” across five acres of pasture. In short, it’s a working farm.

Here, wellness is also core, and so an emphasis on healthy, bountiful, beautiful ingredients makes sense. And, in keeping, that priority informs the aesthetic. The 62 barn-style rooms and suites and 16 cottages, as well as the communal spaces, blend black, gray and natural woods with lofted rafters, offset by neat green fields, often bearing rows of crops.

When guests aren’t partaking in sound healing and yoga sessions, soaking in the outdoor mineral pool or relaxing in the plush suspended daybeds on their decks, they might be wandering a medicinal herb garden or observing the vast team of farmers themselves. “The quintessential element of visiting Southall Farm is that as a guest, you will leave a little bit closer to the food that you eat,” says Peyton Cypress, the property’s farm manager (who is also aptly named). “Here at the farm, you have the opportunity to meet our team of passionate food producers, take tours of our beautiful grounds and even dig deeper with educational classes. The finale of the experience is getting to relax and enjoy an immaculately prepared meal with produce that was grown on farm and picked at the peak of ripeness.”

Southall Farm & Inn property. Photo courtesy of Southall.

Indeed, the property boasts multiple complex growing facilities, outside of which seasonal dinners are hosted beneath twinkle lights, as well as sprawling orchards and gardens. The style of farming blends old with new, ushering in a return to the land via organic farming, but with cutting- edge practices. One 5,000-square-foot greenhouse not only produces native shrubs and flowers, but also houses a French orangerie with rare citrus. A 10,000-square- foot hydroponic greenhouse produces hundreds of pounds of leafy greens each week—and hybrid striped bass! There’s even a nearby apiary.

Sojourner breakfast at Southall Farm & Inn. Photo courtesy of Southall.

Most recently, a new spa garden has been created based on a “plant wish list” from the wellness team, including herbs that can be used for tinctures, salves, scrubs, diffusions and more, with a theme of connecting to the earth. The farm will even be creating natural loofahs. But it’s definitely the culinary program that is most influenced by the farming ethos. “The relationship between the farm and the restaurant is the most intertwined on the property,” says Cypress. “The two entities meet annually, quarterly, weekly and even daily to line up the production schedule of the farm with the menu of the restaurant and vice versa! We are proud to say that the summer menu here at the restaurant had our produce in every single dish and the only outsourced produce we were getting was a russet potato for our French fries!”

“ The relationship between the farm and the restaurant is the most intertwined on the property.”

– Peyton Cypress, property farm manager Southall Farm & Inn

Farmhouse Inn

At the aptly named Farmhouse Inn in Sonoma, California, guests are welcomed by an explosion of wildflowers. This celebration of controlled chaos lines the gravel paths beside low stone walls—purple violets, white clovers, daisy fleabane!

Just past the Michelin-starred Farmhouse Restaurant and more casual Farmstand eatery, where they incorporate eggs, herbs, vegetables and edible flowers grown and clipped on property, there are active chicken coops. Only steps away is the Wellness Barn, a spa adorned with imagery of horses, deceptively rustic neutrals and fragrant herbal essences. Outside, a chalkboard sign features the recipe for DIY lotions and potions like “wild cherry blossom bath salts.” Below, a tin watering can doubles as a vase for sprigs of privet and black sage.

At this barefoot luxury hotel, the farm is king. And that ethos is catching on as upscale properties around the country follow suit, building an elevated experience around tilling the land. The commitment to sustainable farming at these destinations informs not only the refined culinary and leisure guest experience, but also the identity of the place itself.

At this new crop of agri-chic spots, even the soil is sublime.

This focus developed naturally at Farmhouse Inn, a pioneer in this niche: Sister and brother owners Joe and Catherine Bartolomei not only grew up in the area, but their family has lived in the lush Russian River Valley for five generations. It’s a place that’s rich with farming history, known for bucolic landscapes, the good life and, of course, wine. 

“Joe and I were raised in a farming family. It’s just who we are and what we do.

We know all of the local farmers, vintners and artisans and we want our guests to experience what we think makes this area so unique and extraordinary.”

–Catherine Bartolomei, co-owner, the Farmhouse Inn

Farmhouse Inn spa

“Our family ranch, located three miles from Farmhouse and my home was first purchased in 1907 by our great- grandfather,” says Catherine. “I currently produce wine grapes, apples and honey. Joe has his own farm, also a few miles from Farmhouse, and produces our eggs, our Thanksgiving Turkeys, and most of our vegetables and fruit.” (Catherine’s grapes are used for a Bartolomei Vineyard Designate made by Stonemason Cellars.)

Both owners’ private farms and the chef- directed gardens on the almost 10-acre hotel property are tended organically, and, though they’re currently too small for certification, Joe is moving in the direction of biodynamic farming, the original organic agricultural movement spurred by Rudolf Steiner and characterized by a rotation of crops and integration of farm animals to create self- sustaining ecosystems.

The property’s connection to the land doesn’t stop there. In the 1950s, this was a horse ranch. Unrelated to farming, but in keeping with a kind of forward-thinking, for a stint, it was also the first LGBTQ+ resort in the Russian River Valley. Now, in its current incarnation at the Farmhouse Inn, the original eight rooms here, unveiled in 2001, nine additional guest rooms and eight cottages have an elevated barn-style aesthetic. The bleached out modernist look, at once minimal and warm, is only complemented by thoughtful details like handmade local soaps sliced by hand. Dedicated to consciously sourced ingredients, the spa also integrates herbs and flowers grown on property into seasonal treatments and is currently developing a lavender facial and massage using its own crop.

Though an expansion of this intimate property may be imminent, the relationship to the land will remain strong. “Joe and I were raised in a farming family,” says Catherine. “It’s just who we are and what we do. We know all of the local farmers, vintners and artisans (okay, not all, but a lot) and we want our guests to experience what we think makes this area so unique and extraordinary. It allows us to showcase the bountiful produce that Sonoma County has to offer while supporting local farmers and the community.”

Photo courtesy of Auberge Resorts Collection

Less than two hours outside of New York City sits another ultra upscale agricultural refuge: Wildflower Farms. A new addition to the Auberge Resorts Collection since September 2022, this immaculate respite from the outside world was conceived specifically to help guests commune with nature, taking advantage of the Hudson Valley’s largess (too often only enjoyed by urban dwellers during rushed apple picking sessions in the fall).

The 60 cabins and cottages and five Ridge Suites incorporate natural woods, lofted ceilings and cozy materials, with a midcentury twist, and some include thoughtful details like expansive windows to allow in natural light, patios, hot tubs and even wood-burning stoves. Here, guests are encouraged to enjoy the environment inside and out, finding solace in the scenery, but also “discovery and renewal” in its bounty.

The 10-acre farm, built on a fallow tree nursery, is a critical element in this. And it’s not just any standard plot. “The farm is a gorgeous and varied landscape,” describes Jax Hughes, founding farmer and farm manager.

The farm is the soul of this project in the sense that people are coming here to reconnect with the wildness of the nonhuman world and reconnect with where food comes from.” 

- Jax Hughes, founding farmer and farm manager

Wildflower Farms' Fitness & Movement Studio. Photo courtesy of Auberge Resorts Collection.

 “It’s a mosaic of different plantings and spaces. Bio-intensively managed market garden beds of vegetable crops, herbs, cut flowers, fruiting shrubs, a diversified orchard, shade-grown shiitake logs, pigs running around under old oak trees, laying hens, a few donkeys and Icelandic sheep in our fenced pasture.”

Here, using a regenerative agricultural style, they grow food in “heavy clay” soil, which accounts for the restaurant’s name, Clay, as well as herbs and botanicals for cocktails and spa, and cut flowers for events. The clay presents challenges with drainage, which requires incorporating an enormous amount of compost, but also offers the bonus of minerals, which can make the crops particularly nutrient-dense and aromatic. “There is an old trope in the permaculture world, ‘the problem is the opportunity!’” says Hughes.

The farm manager emphasizes their choice of unique varietals based on taste, as well, which, this year, will include classic offerings including snap peas, chicories (radicchio, escarole, endive), cipollini onions, shallots, hot and sweet peppers, eggplant, okra, beans, berries and fruits like Asian pears (to name a few), as well as “funkier” crops like yacón (Peruvian ground apple, which grows like a potato, but tastes sweet like a watermelon) and cardoon (a cousin of the artichoke with an edible stalk and purple thistle-like flowers). Lavender, tulsi and chamomile will soon be added to the list for use in the opulent spa.

In addition to eating from the harvest, guests can engage with the land in other ways too. “The farm is the soul of this project in the sense that people are coming here to reconnect with the wildness of the nonhuman world and reconnect with where food comes from,” says Hughes. “Education is definitely the resort’s most significant sustainability pillar. Before opening last fall, the team spent years learning, sharing, selecting breeds and crafting experiences to delight guests and support the preservation of heritage breeds and small, local farms. Today, guests come face-to-face with immersion into the farm and culinary life that is imperfect, evolving and confronts pressing social issues.”

Wildflower guests can pick eggs early in the morning while feeding the animals or take a farm tour in the afternoon. They can forage for wild ramps, experience fruit tree grafting, take mushroom workshops, pick produce on the farm or take a cooking class with the chef. Even nightly turndowns often incorporate botanicals grown on property!

The farm is pervasive in the experience. Though animals from donkeys to pigs roam at this thoughtful property, like the others of its kind, the land is so much more than a petting zoo or hayride destination. “The farm is an immersive space,” says Hughes, “where people can revel in beauty and learn.”

Wildflower Farms. Photo courtesy of Auberge Resorts Collection.

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