Out in the Fields: Farm to Table Experiences in North America

The demand for fresh, organic, and homegrown food continues to grow. As more people give up processed foods in favor of healthy eating, many working farms have opened their gates to give communities and travelers an opportunity to go straight to the source.

Whether you want to escape to the country for an evening meal or you’re looking to get your hands dirty for a day or two, here’s where to find some of the best farm experiences in North America.

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Meal in the Field

Imagine sitting down for dinner at a candlelit table set for a multi-course meal, not in a fancy restaurant, but, literally, in between rows of growing vegetables. When the entrees are prepared with ingredients picked from the field that day and eggs plucked from the hen house that morning, it’s safe to say you’ve found the ultimate in culinary freshness.

Full Belly Farm — California
This northern California farm holds dinners monthly throughout the spring, summer, and autumn months. You’ll taste a variety of fruits, veggies, and meats they grow organically. They also offer camping, if you’d like to stay over after the meal. Their Harvest Hoedown event is another popular way to participate in the farm’s bounty and celebrate the season.

Dinners at the Farm — Connecticut
A cooperative effort of several farms throughout the state of Connecticut, Dinners at the Farm hosts a dinner experience, which takes place at different Connecticut farms during the summer. The meal is prepared on the bed of an old fire truck that’s been converted into a mobile kitchen. Each dinner also doubles as a fundraiser, benefiting local initiatives to promote healthy eating.

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Plate & Pitchfork — Oregon
This on-location dinner series begins with a tour of the farm and a discussion with the farmer about his specific growing practices. Then, you’ll move to the 5-course meal created from items grown onsite and paired with local wines.

Garden Works Farm — New York
Garden Works takes the farm dinner a step further by adding entertainment. Their garden-side farm dinners incorporate concerts and theatrical performances from local acts, for a twist on the standard evening meal.

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Weekend on the Farm

If you want to spend more than just an evening on the farm, consider planning your getaway around a farm trail. Farm trails are often centered on a specific region and give you an opportunity to hop from farm to farm at your leisure, learning about specific animals and types of crops.

Sonoma County Farm Trails — California
The Sonoma County Farm Trail is a collaboration of individual farms — dozens of them — north of San Francisco. Do you want to tour an alpaca farm or a vineyard? Or maybe you want to visit all the farms, regardless of type, within a certain radius. You can map out your route and explore the countryside, for several days if you like, stopping at as many homesteads as time will allow.

Circle Farm Tour — British Columbia
The Fraser Valley, just east of Vancouver, is home to an extensive network of farms divided into five smaller communities. If you’re looking for a berry patch, a soap maker, a beekeeper, and also want to pop in at the trout hatchery, you’ll find all those things and more. In addition to providing you with handy illustrated maps of each community, the Circle Farm Tour also offers suggestions for where to stay and other things to do in each area.

Finger Lakes Cheese Trail — New York
This farm trail in upstate New York is specific to dairy farms and artisan cheese production. A few nearby vineyards are also associated with the Finger Lakes Cheese Trail, which gives you the chance to take home a haul of local wine and fresh cheese in addition to touring the farms.

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Work the Land

Maybe you’d rather find a place where you can roll up your sleeves and sink your hands in the soil for several days or even weeks. If you want to experience farm life via immersion, many farms allow you to join them as they work the land and take care of the chores.

Farm Stays — Nationwide
Working farms with onsite accommodations can be found in every state. Perhaps, you want to experience milking cows, picking cherries, or shearing sheep; the farms connected with Farm Stay U.S. give you a hands-on glimpse into the everyday operations of farm living.

If chores aren’t your thing, farm stays are happy to have you, whether you work on the farm or not. It’s okay by them if you just need a bit of country serenity, but don’t be surprised if a crowing rooster greets you in the morning.

The Farm Stay website allows you to search by criteria such as region, type of farm, and amenities each farm offers. Depending on what type of agricultural experience you’re looking for, you’ll most likely find a farm or ranch to suit your preferences.

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Keep in Mind:

Farming practices and farm experiences vary by region and season. Farms tend to be more active, and therefore offer more dinner and hands-on experiences, during the summer months; however, warmer regions have a longer window of activity.

Whether you’re just curious about farming or you’re ready to start growing your own food, you’ll find that farmers enjoy educating others on the importance of healthy eating and are passionate about sharing their agricultural lifestyle.

Photo credits: Dinners at the Farm, Dinners at the Farm, Circle Farm Tour, Leaping Lamb Farm, and Leaping Lamb Farm.

Out in the Fields: Farm to Table Experiences in North America