Roughly 20 years ago the French government instituted the ferme auberge (farm inn) program, in which farms were incentivized to host city-dwellers to come out for meals and/or overnight stays, and in some cases, to pitch in with the chores.
The program caught on not just with the French, but also more than a few international travelers, some of whom spirited the idea with them to the Rocky Mountains.
And man, doesn't a stay on a mountain-valley Colorado farm sound seductive about now, as the sweat season descends on the hustle-bustle of our swamp megapolis? Hearing the baa-ing lambs and mountain bluebird's birdsong from the tall pines, lolling about in bee-loud vineyards and dining on just-ripe berries and farm-fresh eggs for breakfast?
It's not just our mouth -- our very soul waters at the prospect.
Here are four of Colorado's top farm-stays. (Note: all of these farm-inns are on the western slope of the Rockies. Book flights to either Grand Junction or Montrose.)
Fresh and Wyld Farmhouse, (pictured above) is also in Paonia. At this farm's inn, guests dine on meals drawn from the farm's own gardens, berry patches, and heirloom apple orchard, supplemented with cheese, meat and eggs from their goats and chickens. (Respectively, of course.) Fresh and Wyld also offers classes on organic cooking, butchery, farming and art workshops.
Wine-lovers can opt for the Leroux Creek Inn and Vineyards, where the food comes straight from the farm to the table and the wine comes straigh from the vineyard to the bottle. The soul-restoring views of mountains, vineyards and mesas at the secluded 54-acre retreat reportedly call to mind Provence and caused one guest to rhapsodize thusly: "“There are places between heaven and earth, you cannot believe it, you have to see them, such a place is the Leroux Creek Inn."
At Mesa Winds Farm, the most rustic option, guests stay in remodeled fruit-pickers' cabins and are encouraged to pitch in with farm chores, making it as much like an Israeli kibbutz as a French ferme auberge. The 36-acre farm bursts with organic peaches, cherries, grapes, apples, raspberries, asparagus and honey, all of which winds up on the inn's tables. (Visitors can also camp in the orchards.)
The Living Farm, in the heart of Paonia, offers farm-style rooms and organic farmers' breakfasts (fresh vegetables and eggs and/or meat) included in the price of the room. The Living Farm Cafe features gourmet American fare produced by all the farmers in the valley with a menu that evolves along with the harvest. Both the farm and the cafe are operated by the Gillespie family, whose forebears came to this valley in 1938.