For those of us who worship at the altar of fresh food (and pray our kids will do the same), a visit to the farmers market has replaced Sunday school as a sacred weekly obligation. And while backyard veggie gardens are all the rage these days, true farming, and the manure, mess and manual labor that comes along with it, is as foreign to most of us city folk as letting our kids ride bikes without helmets/walk to and from school alone/sit in the back of a pickup truck/insert your own long lost free range childhood experience here… If you feel the urge to reconnect yourself and your young ‘uns to their agrarian roots, a farm stay at Rinconada Dairy (a little jaunt up the 101, just past San Luis Obispo) will ease you into the farm life at a remarkably comfortable pace.
It’s Not Easy, Being Cheesy
Rinconada Dairy owners Christine and Jim Maguire raise goats, sheep, pigs and chickens, and Christine turns the goat and sheep milk into the kinds of high-end cheeses that foodies and oenophiles discuss with breathless enthusiasm. Farm stay guests are treated to a hearty breakfast every morning in the type of farmhouse kitchen you’d expect to see in a Nora Ephron movie; think rich apple cake, freshly scrambled eggs straight from the coop, just-picked berries with goat’s milk yogurt, and thick slabs of bacon generously provided by one of their very own porkers.
Get Dirty, Harry (and Harriet, too)
Kids will find all sorts of good old fashioned outdoor fun on the 92-acre ranch, whether they’re scaling stacks of baled hay in the barn, scrambling up hillsides in search of ancient native American grinding holes, or riding around in a John Deere Gator mini tractor with Jim and a couple of farm dogs during the morning and evening milking/feeding rounds. That morning round occurs at 6:00 am, by the way. But don’t worry; Christine will have a thermos of coffee waiting for you in the kitchen (bring your mug along to the milking shed for a squirt of fresh goat’s milk and you’ve got yourself a “cabraccino”). And you’re on vacation, which means N-A-P T-I-M-E in the afternoon!
Help Out or Chill Out
Of course, helping out with the farm chores is optional. You might just find that the best part of staying on a farm is enjoying the fruits of the farmers’ labor – much like you do at home, but in a decidedly more idyllic setting. Either way, you still get to brag to your friends that you took your kids to stay on a real live working farm…and let them draw their own conclusions about how you spent your time.
Hoedown Low Down: Know Before You Go
- All ages are welcome at Rinconada, but the farm stay is really best suited to kids ages four and up.
- Pack long pants and sneakers for exploring the ranch, and sweatshirts for those cold early morning milkings.
- Guests can either stay in a private apartment in the barn, or in a one-bedroom suite inside the house. Pricing is $175 per night for the suite and $225 for the apartment with a two-night minimum.
- Breakfast is included in the price of the farm stay (and Christine and Jim are often happy to invite guests to share in their evening cocktail hour as well).
- For dinner, be sure to visit The Range, located a few miles up the road in the tiny town of Santa Margarita. The food is incredible (and includes Rinconada’s cheeses), and the vibe is upscale but casual enough for kids.
- It’s open year round, and we love it any time of the year (but really, bring super warm clothes if you visit in the middle of winter).
4680 W. Pozo Road
Santa Margarita, CA 93453
Phone: (805) 438-5667
Where do you go to teach kids that cheese doesn’t come in plastic wrapped squares? Let us know in the comment section…
Photo credits: Erin Harris