A few centuries ago, people took it for granted that the food they ate had come recently from a nearby field or pasture. Today, we’re rediscovering the joy of knowing your food’s origins — and travel is the perfect way to do it. There are really just a few ingredients needed for a great farm-to-table vacation: rich culinary traditions, farms you can tour, and great chefs who put it all together. Here are five ideas!
The Upcountry region of Maui, the second-largest of the Hawaiian Islands, is famous for its fertile volcanic soil. One favorite farm-to-table destination is O’o Farm, eight acres of Hawaiian coffee and fruit trees, greenhouses and gardens on the slopes of Haleakala. You can tour the farm, harvest your own food and then savor a gourmet lunch prepared by Chef Daniel Eskelsen. In the evening, head into Lahaina and dine at beachfront bistro Pacific’O, or take in a Polynesian show at The Feast at Lele. Both restaurants get their produce from O’o Farm.1
You could build your entire Maui vacation around farm-to-table experiences. Milk goats and taste cheeses at the Surfing Goat Dairy. Taste exotic dragonfruit and zip down a zipline at the Maui Dragonfruit Farm. You get a free pineapple when you tour the Hali’imaile farm — and if that’s not enough for you, have a taste of pineapple vodka at the on-site distillery.
California’s capital city has also declared itself the “Farm-to-Fork Capital” of the United States, and for good reason. Sacramento is surrounded by 1.5 million acres of farms and ranches, and there are more than 40 regional farmers markets.2
At Double M Farms/McDowell Hunting Preserve, you can pick your own pears and see game birds like pheasants, chukar, and quail. Del Rio Botanical’s farm tours offer visitors the chance to taste goat cheese and make their own. Or, if you prefer tasting to making, sign up for the five-course dinner featuring farm vegetables, private-label wines, and local rabbit, quail, or goat. The ultimate locavore pilgrimage is Sacramento’s Farm-to-Fork Festival in late September when thousands enjoy cooking demonstrations and food tastings.
Long renowned for its natural beauty and quaint villages, the Cotswolds has recently become a destination for farm vacations and culinary tours. Local specialties include Old Spot pork, trout, lamb and double and single Gloucester cheese. (Just for fun, time your visit to coincide with the annual Cheese-Rolling at Cooper’s Hill in Gloucestershire, in which a few dozen daredevils run and tumble down a steep hill as they try to catch a rolling wheel of cheese.)
One of the most popular destinations is Daylesford, an organic farm that’s like heaven for farm-to-table enthusiasts. Stay in a farmstay cottage, take a class in butchery or bread-baking at the cookery school, learn to arrange flowers from the traditional British cutting garden, and dine at The Wild Rabbit, a Michelin-starred pub. In Oxfordshire, the Kingham Plough celebrates Cotswolds cuisine with dishes like pressed wild rabbit terrine with pickled fairy-ring mushrooms.3
The cuisine of Provence, in southeastern France, feels more Mediterranean than classically French. As Belle Provence explains, it can be considered “cuisine du soleil” — like Italian and Greek food, “it relies heavily on the use of olive oil, herbs, and the bounty of the Mediterranean sea.”4 Local specialties include bouillabasse, a complex seafood soup, and ratatouille, a vegetable dish made with tomato, eggplant, and zucchini.
One of the best ways to experience the glory of Provencal food is by taking a farm tour. Les Pastras lets visitors hunt for the elusive truffle — underground fungi coveted by chefs — with the help of guides and trained truffle-sniffing dogs. Or, in September, you can try your hand (well, foot) at stomping grapes in huge oak barrels, then enjoy some cheese, charcuterie, and wine. While Provence is famous for its fields of lavender, it also has many saffron fields, where the rare (and expensive) spice is harvested from tiny crocus flowers. Consider a farm stay at L’Aube Safran, a luxury bed-and-breakfast that also serves dinners with organic local produce and farm-grown saffron.
An hour from Cape Town is the Winelands, South Africa’s stunning wine country. One must-visit destination for a farm vacation is Spier Wine Farm, a sprawling place with its own hotel, vineyards, cattle pastures, craft market, nature trails and eagle rehabilitation center. Dine at Spier’s farm-to-table restaurant, Eight, or order a picnic basket with home-baked bread, cheese, and pie. At Jordan Wine Estate’s restaurant, Chef George Jardine serves local vegetables and springbok pot roast. Guests are invited into the walk-in cheese room to assemble their own board of artisanal Cape farm cheeses with preserves and breads. Travel+Leisure calls historic estate Babylonstoren “the ultimate farm-to-table fantasy,” where guests can pick anything they like from the eight acres of organic gardens and prepare their own meals.5 Visitors also can take workshops in subjects like herbs, pruning, beekeeping and indigenous plants.