At Babylonstoren in Cape Winelands, South Africa, the 8-acre fruit and vegetable garden supplies the on-site restaurant, Babel.

From Cape Town to Sonoma County, rich agricultural experiences await luxury travelers.

Travelers to Sonoma County, California, typically come in search of vines, not soil. But the region’s agricultural heritage and diversity — apple orchards, dairy producers, olive groves, bee farms — quickly reveal themselves as you pass hand-painted signs along oak-studded roads for goat dairies such as Redwood Hill Farm, olive ranches like Dry Creek Olive Co., and fruit farms including Crane Melon Barn. In fact, there’s a 68-page map and guide, launched by nonprofit Sonoma County Farm Trails two years ago, that invites visitors to plan a weekend-long itinerary of farm-hopping and meeting with artisanal producers.

In Sonoma, like other destinations and agriculture-inclined properties around the world, there’s a heightened desire among travelers to connect with the land, stemming directly from greater awareness and interest in how food is sourced and grown. From cooking channels to celebrity chefs, we are now, more than ever, living in a food culture. And luxury travelers are increasingly adding agritourism experiences to their itineraries.

Sonoma County beckons agritourists with its plentiful farms and orchards.
sonoma county tourism
“People want a deeper relationship than just buying our fruit or eating it in restaurants,” says Gayle Okumura Sullivan of Dry Creek Peach and Produce farm, whose peaches are sought after by restaurants such as Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, and Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek
Kitchen at the Hotel Healdsburg. This year, Sullivan will introduce short, half-day sessions on pruning, blossom-viewing and grafting, thinning (a process that removes some fruit so the tree may fully support the rest to ripeness), and harvesting throughout the year.

“These are the stages we go through in preparation for every harvest, and that’s what we hope to educate visitors about,” Sullivan adds. “They might have a peach tree in their backyard; they may just want to understand the process better. It really deepens their appreciation for what goes into growing a single peach.” Nearby, in the Russian River Valley, sits the Farmhouse Inn, a luxury property beloved for its Michelin-starred restaurant and cozy barn-style rooms. Opened by fifth-generation rancher Catherine Bartolomei-Smith, and her brother, Joe, in 2001, the luxury property recently added a greenhouse.

“We really want the Farmhouse to be not only about luxury and pampering, but also about connecting with the community, so that you have an insider’s experience,” Bartolomei-Smith says. “We want to turn you on to how diverse this region is.” And with five concierges for its 18 rooms, Farmhouse certainly arranges its fair share of intimate itineraries, whether you’re into wine or visiting a rose nursery like the Russian River Rose Company.

Across the country, in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains in eastern Tennessee, Blackberry Farm is a 4,200-acre luxury hotel and farmstead that’s simultaneously elevating and preserving the Southern way of cooking and eating.