Colorado is a bountiful agricultural destination where families connect with the land, learn about their food, and get their hands dirty on the farm. Colorado ranks fourth in the nation for Agritourism, with 864 farms and ranches opening their doors to offer visitors overnight stays, educational classes, dining, and hands-on ranch work programs. The farmer has become the educator, the hostess, the provider, the historian, the tour guide, and even the brewer or winemaker.
Here are some family-friendly agritourism offerings all set to bring travelers up-close and personal with the farmers while creating memorable experiences of Colorado:
Many farms open their doors to educational and whole-learning workshops. Sustainable Settings
offers biodynamic agricultural programs as well as composting, beekeeping, soap-making, cultured vegetable fermentation, and kids sustainability workshops. Three Leaf Farm
offer herbal medicine-making workshops including salves and tinctures, along with crafts and arts. Mountain Goat Lodge
offers cheese-making—a hands-on guide to varieties such as feta, chevre, fresh mozzarella or paneer as well as goat husbandry. Lyons Farmette
offers spring gardening, flower-growing, vermicomposting through to more artisan subjects like calligraphy and knitting or cocktails with bitters. Cure Organic Farm
offers a range of fiber art classes including farm-fresh botanical dyeing.
SHOP THE FARMER’S MARKET:
Colorado is home to 156 farmer’s markets, and readers of USA Today
and 10Best recently named the Boulder Farmers Market
the “Best Farmers’ Market in the U.S.” Grab some fresh goodies and take a seat next to the babbling Boulder Creek or on the shady lawn and enjoy. All products at the Larimer County Farmers’ Market
in Fort Collins market are grown, produced or made by the local vendors themselves. Pick up authentic Polish dumplings from Baba and Pop’s Handmade Pierogi or all-natural mustache wax from Colorado Beard Co. The sprawling Vail Farmers’ Market
has more than 135 tents and a pleasing county-fair flair. Vendors include Alpenrose, offering delicious Belgian-style pastries and desserts. Southeastern Colorado’s high elevations, along with hot summer days and cool evenings, facilitate a flawless environment for meaty, zesty Pueblo chilies to thrive. Pick up a batch or two to roast at the El Pueblo Farmers Market, along with other super-fresh goods.
Taking farm-to-table to the next level, these culinary masters have also become stewards of the land. Chef Alex Seidel
of Fruition, Mercantile Dining & Provision in Denver operates Fruition Farms
in Larkspur, a sheep farm which provides rich milk for three distinct kinds of cheeses that are used in Seidel’s restaurants and available at specialty retail shops. A partnership between Chef Bradford Heap
and Full Circle Farms’ owner Dave Asbury led to the Soul Patch
in Longmont, a 15-acre experimental plot for growing lettuce, vegetables, and specialty crops, which feature on the menus at Colterra in Niwot; SALT the Bistro and Wild Standard in Boulder.
of Bramble & Hare and Black Cat in Boulder is raising pigs, sheep, and chickens on the 130-acre Black Cat Farm
outside of Boulder, and a huge variety of produce is used both in the restaurants’ kitchens and sold at the Boulder Farmers’ Market. Black Cat Farm is the first certified biodynamic farm-to-table operation in the nation. At The Home Ranch
in Clark, chef Clyde Nelson
had dreamed of having a farm at this dude ranch, and the results of his vision, now overseen by Jonathon Gillespie, include on-site organic gardens, a greenhouse and, ranch-raised livestock. Mike Gillespie
grew up on The Living Farm
outside of Paonia, which has been in his family for generations and allows him to pair his culinary training with the freshest ingredients possible.
STAY AT THE FARM:
Colorado farms and ranches are opening their doors to travelers looking for genuine experiences that can include a range of non-required activities from cheese-making to picking dinner’s veggies, butchery classes to group picnics and shoeing horses to just a (delicious!) bed-and-breakfast stay. Zapata Ranch, A Nature Conservancy Preserve
sits on 103,000 acres in southern Colorado’s San Luis Valley, combining gourmet cuisine, nature hikes, yoga sessions and guided fly-fishing excursions with the slightly less glamorous — but most enlightening— activities of moving grass-fed cattle, monitoring bison-herd health, mending fences, irrigating farmland and learning about land conservation. Visit during special themed weeks focused on photography, horsemanship, painting, and butchering.
Badger Creek Ranch
is a working cattle and guest ranch, offering guests a glimpse into an “old fashioned” lifestyle that is becoming recognized as a new way of creating sustainability, moving cattle through pasture rotations timed to create impact on the land that mimics the patterns and impact the herds of bison would have had in the past. Mesa Winds Farm & Winery
invites guests to wake up to the sight of dewy peaches, apples, grapes, and cherries glistening in the sun at the Mesa Wind Farm & Winery in Hotchkiss. There’s a chance to pitch in around the farm by prepping peaches for pressing into wine, helping with the grape harvest, weeding and raking, or pruning in the orchards, or picking and sorting tree fruit. Colorado Cattle Company
is located at Carr Ranch, a 10,000-acre working ranch in New Raymer, where visitors learn the rancher’s life, helping with any cattle work or learning new horseman and roping skills at “cowboy school”.
MEET YOUR FARMER:
Sometimes there’s a chance to meet the face behind the produce. Many Colorado farmers are innovative leaders in their fields, often with a fascinating background story. Garden Sweet Farm,
located in North Fort Collins, is a small sustainable farm that is a staple in the local food scene overseen by Amy Kafka
, the “Strawberry Queen” who is known for her delectable berries, and Ryan Wilson
who is passionate about maintaining a healthy farm ecosystem.
Together they are known for their high quality, pesticide-free, fresh produce. Mark Guttridge
operates Ollin Farms
which is a family-run sustainable farm. Their goal is to produce top quality farm products with minimum impact on the surrounding environment. Their bio-nutrient farming model is founded on getting the right nutrients, in the right proportions into an active, living soil. Former biochemist, now lavender farmer,
Dr. Cindy Jones
formulated Colorado Aromatics
Skin Care Line for the outdoor lifestyle. As a biochemist and herbalist, she had a good handle on the physiology of skin and what it needed as well as what herbs could contribute to the needs of the skin. Fred Dorenkamp
is a former pro-rodeo rider, and together with his wife, Norma, they welcome guests at Arena Dust Tours,
in search of a rural getaway to stay in their home in Lamar. Aside from bird watching, wildlife viewing, and chuck-wagon dinners, guests are offered a once in a lifetime opportunity to see prairie chickens. Having established strong relationships with private landowners who host the chickens, the Dorenkamps offer Lesser Prairie Chicken Tours every April.
TAKE A TOUR, PICK A PUMPKIN:
There are many ways to visit the many farms that are eager to teach people about agriculture during the fall season. Learn the differences between conventional and organic farming on a stroll through Aloha Organic Fruit
peach orchards, see how water is brought to the trees from the Colorado River and shop the farm store. Make a day of it driving through the southwest region and hit up all the U-pick farms in Mesa Verde Country
. Stock up on apples, herbs, pumpkins, corn, and squash or consider stopping by a quirky alpaca farm. Meet the farm’s chickens, ducks and two cute pigs named Bacon Bits and Pancetta at Berry Patch Farms
The harvest season beings plenty of opportunities for farm fun. Pumpkin picking, hayrides, mazes and other activities make for the perfect fall day. More than just a maze, Fritzler’s Corn Maize
in Greeley, delights with a mini-rollercoaster ride, pillow jump, duck races, pumpkin canons, go-carts and a haunted maze at night. Colon Orchards
in Cañon City
has not one but two corn mazes, along with hayrides and pumpkin picking in the heart of the Arkansas River Valley.
SMALL TOWN FOOD FESTIVALS:
Many Colorado communities have summer festivals dedicated to the crops that have been increasing the profile of the state’s farm-to-table restaurants. Paonia Cherry Days
piles the festivities high with a 5k run, “Cherry Days’ Got Talent” contest coal-shoveling and wood-splitting contents, July Fourth parade and much more. The corn from Olathe is often described as melt-in-your-mouth tender and the Olathe Sweet Corn Festival
celebrates just that. A slathering of butter would only compromise what Colorado’s sun and soil have already perfected. Find out what makes people speak so rapturously about it at the festival’s sweet-corn-eating contest.
The Telluride Mushroom Festival
is scheduled for a time when mushroom growth is at its peak, hundreds of mycophiles descend on Telluride to soak up technical mushroom science, embark on mushroom-hunting excursions, taste the fruits of the hunt at a cook-off and more. Greeley’s annual Potato Day
celebration goes beyond feasting on the versatile spud with living history activities like blacksmithing and adobe brick making, swing dancers, live music and appearances by the Potato King and Queen. The Pueblo Chile and Frijoles Festival
is a great chance to taste of pride of Pueblo: a special, intensely flavorful variety of green chile. Served smoking on a stick, chopped and tucked into a quesadilla or sprinkled in salsa, it’s the star of this show.
Farmers are teaming-up with local chefs to serve seasonal menus in the farm itself, which also provides a truly memorial and atmospheric setting. Meadow Lark Farm
rotate locations throughout Boulder County all summer-long using each host farm to serve up ingredients at the evening’s dinner table. A Grazing Life
brings local farmers together with live entertainment for a unique field-dining experience in Black Forest. There are Sunday
brunches, and family tour picnic days as well as sell-out dinner series from spring to fall. James Ranch
in Durango opens the barn doors every Thursday during the summer to host Band and Burger night, using ingredients sourced from the ranch. Picnic blankets are recommended, guests can sit back and enjoy local music while taking in view of the 400-acre ranch.
Go to Colorado.com for more information.