On
Newsstands
Now
Current Issue
Merrill Johnson, 28, has added tourism elements—including overnight stays in a canvas tent (at right)—to her family’s ranch near Carbondale. Photography by Beth Grimes

Betting (On) the Farm

Help Colorado’s farmers, ranchers, and vintners stay on their lands—and see firsthand where your food comes from—by jumping boot-first into the burgeoning agritourism trend.

|

Evidence of the region’s agricultural bounty isn’t difficult to find in Denver: farm-to-table fare; your neighbor offering steaks from her cow share (yes, that’s a real thing); farmers’ markets in seemingly every neighborhood; and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) pickups at your kid’s school. These are all great ways to enjoy and help sustain the state’s $40 billion ag industry. But with nearly half of Colorado’s 66 million acres dedicated to farms and ranches, you’re missing out if you simply let the delicious abundance come to you—and increasingly, farmers, ranchers, and vintners are realizing there’s an opportunity to diversify their businesses and earn extra income by welcoming visitors who are interested in seeing exactly where their food is being produced.

Agape
Enjoy the retreat (and the goats) of Agape Farm & Retreat. Photo by Beth Grimes.

The uptick in “agritourism” (loosely defined as any activity that brings people out to farms and ranches) hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Colorado Tourism Office (CTO), which released a plan in 2013 for encouraging agritourism in the state. In addition to continuing to promote dude ranches—a quintessential, long-standing example of agritourism in the West—the CTO aims to help smaller outfits add offerings such as dinners, tours, U-pick produce, and even overnight farm stays. As part of this initiative, the CTO launched the Cultural, Heritage/Agriculture Mentor Program in 2014. Ag operators who aspire to expand business operations are paired with experts, who receive compensation from the CTO and provide guidance on topics like hospitality, public relations, and grant-writing. Additionally, the Colorado Agritourism Association (CAA) sprung up in 2014; the industry group assists its 100-some dues-paying members with marketing, lobbying, liability issues, and more.

Advertisement

“People in agritourism are so creative and passionate about what they do,” says CAA executive director Greg Williams. “They’re always coming up with something new.” Indeed, from browsing a fine art gallery in a Western Slope winery (“Tour De North Fork Valley) to glamping in the middle of a bison pasture (At Home On The Range) to practicing yoga with baby goats (Learn The Ropes), opportunities to interact with and support Colorado’s food and drink producers now go way beyond the farm stand.

Although ag operations across the state are coming to rely on tourist dollars to make working the land—and preserving the bucolic vistas of fertile valleys and grazing cattle that have become so central to Colorado’s identity—economically viable, local farmers are quick to remind visitors that agritourism isn’t just about the money. “The future of our food is at stake,” says Lynn Gillespie, proprietor of the Living Farm in Paonia. “People need to know where their food comes from, how fragile the system is, how safe the food is. If I can get them on the farm, that’s the first step toward understanding.”


Q&A: The Groundbreaker

Gillespie
Lynn Gillespie. Illustration by Arthur Mount.

Four generations of Gillespies have worked what’s now called the Living Farm—a postcard-worthy 210-acre plot in the heart of the Western Slope’s North Fork Valley—since 1938. Over the years, the family has taken the business from a simple farming operation to a mini agri-empire that includes a CSA, online gardening courses, and a cafe and bed-and-breakfast in Paonia’s quaint downtown. Visitors to the farm can request a guided tour (starting at $25 for up to five people) in advance or enjoy a $6-per-head self-guided outing, during which they get to see (and pet!) lambs, calves, and ducks and learn about growing organic veggies. Current matriarch Lynn Gillespie shares how agritourism became a part of her operation. Open to drop-in visitors Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, 1 to 6 p.m., through October 15—Davina van Buren 

Living-Farm-Goats
Learn through experiences at Living Farm. Courtesy of Jim Brett.

5280: How do your diverse offerings fit together?
Lynn Gillespie: Our cafe and inn serve all our meats, greens, and seasonal vegetables. Plus, there’s a market at the cafe—and on the farm—where people can pick up jams, soap, and other locally made products.

What prompted you to get into agritourism?
LG: It started with “lamb loving” around 2009. We’d invite the public to help socialize the lambs [which makes them easier for humans to manage]. If you put a baby lamb in someone’s arms, he lights up like a kid at Christmastime. Part of my goal is to give people those moments.

Advertisement

How do tourist offerings affect your bottom line?
LG:
It is by no means a huge profit center, but having people understand where their food comes from and voting with their forks to keep small family farms going enriches us all. Farming isn’t about money; it is about our passion for growing healthy food and maintaining our planet for the next generation.

You were ahead of the agritourism trend—is the rest of the valley catching up?
LG:
I think people are watching and figuring out how this could fit into their farms. Farmers are stretched to the limit already; they don’t have the resources to work 16-hour days and also make things pretty for visitors. But we are starting to see people flow from Denver, and other farms are putting on events, opening farm stores, and offering tastings. The more farmers see others promoting agritourism, the more it will grow.


Chow Down

Get a taste of agritourism by enjoying a meal just steps from where its ingredients were produced.

Meadow-Lark-Farm
Meadow Lark Farm Dinners. Courtesy of Veronica Volny

Meadow Lark Farm Dinners
For: Couples 
Nearly decade-old Meadow Lark hosts fetes at more than 10 venues, including Longmont’s Pachamama Farm & Wellness and biodynamic Aspen Moon Farm in Hygiene. Often complete with fresh flowers, twinkly lights, and elegantly garnished cocktails, the undeniably romantic aesthetic helps explain why the summer events are one of the toughest reservation gets in town—er, the countryside. Most dinners $125 per person

A-Grazing-Life
Courtesy of A Grazing Life

A Grazing Life
For: First-Timers 
In its inaugural season, A Grazing Life is putting on weekend dinner parties at 1,500-acre Corner Post Meats in Black Forest. The educational experience kicks off with a boozy reception; then you can hop into a wagon for a tour of the working ranch’s pastures, where pigs, sheep, chickens, and turkeys graze. After savoring a meal starring the featured chef’s choice of meat from the ranch—and dancing to the tunes of, say, a local bluegrass band by the bonfire—a shuttle can take you back to nearby Colorado Springs. $150 per person

Advertisement
May-Farms
Courtesy of May Farms

May Farms
For: Families 
Follow I-70 an hour east of Denver to Byers’ May Farms, which serves thrice-weekly, wallet-friendly meals in its modern, 10,000-square-foot event center. Kids will love visiting the sheep, chickens, and goats before digging into mains like hamburgers or smoked beef brisket and sides such as mac and cheese. Dry Dock beers (among other adults-only beverages) complement live music on Thursdays and yard and board games on Fridays. Visit on Sunday for all-you-can-eat brunch featuring whatever’s in season. Prices vary

Lone-Hawk-Farm
Courtesy of Lone Hawk Farm.

Lone Hawk Farm
For: Do-Gooders
This solar-powered organic farm in Longmont hosts fundraisers for local nonprofits (like Wildlands Restoration Volunteers, which has a dinner on August 31). With entrées such as porchetta-style chicken and paired wine, doing good has never tasted so great. Bonus: Lone Hawk’s beautiful barn ensures events can go on, rain, wind, or shine; tables filled with flowers and mason jars are simply moved inside during inclement weather. Prices vary


Getaway: The Provincial Life

Leave the noise and stress of the city behind on a weekend escape to Paonia’s idyllic Agape Farm & Retreat.

As 27-year-old Nick Hanson walks among rows of Pinot Gris vines nestled into the lush North Fork Valley, he pulls golden curls back from his face and muses about why the grapes on the north end are more successful. He thinks it’s because they’re on higher ground where less water pools around the vines, which can be damaged if they’re already saturated during late spring freezes—but he’s not sure. After all, it’s only been five years since he traded in his job working for a senator in Washington, D.C., for the dream of opening a bed-and-breakfast with his mom, Nancy Rodriguez, in Paonia (population: 1,451).

They may be learning by trial and error, but at Agape Farm & Retreat, Rodriguez and Hanson are getting many things right. The farmhouse-chic decor makes guests feel at home in the shared living room and kitchen, where Hanson serves organic breakfasts (like a perfectly spicy “shakshuka,” a North African dish of poached eggs in tomato sauce). The placid garden of raised beds and fruit trees, which visitors are welcome to help tend, calls to those who need to remind their thumbs how to be green. The resident hens, trio of alpacas, and fainting goats elicit smiles as they strut around. And the three-acre forest of Austrian pines offers a clearing where you can sip your morning coffee in an Adirondack chair and listen to the roosters and cattle awakening in the distance.

Advertisement
Nick-Hanson-Plates
Nick Hanson serves up some farm fresh dining. Photo by Beth Grimes

It’s an atmosphere ideal for contemplation and reflection, and that’s by design: Rodriguez’s mission is to provide a haven for guests to reconnect with nature or themselves. Whether you’re having a policy discussion with Hanson about the oil and gas threats facing the valley or chatting with Rodriguez about cooperation between local farmers, it’s difficult not to be equally as inspired by the hosts as you are by the landscape. When your head hits the pillow—whether it’s in one of Agape’s four hotel-style rooms, top-floor suite, or on-site yurt—after a day of touring nearby farms and wineries, don’t be surprised to find yourself wondering if you, too, should say goodbye to the city for good.

IF YOU GO: 
Drive Time From Denver: 4.25 hours
Lodging Details: From $145 per night
While You’re In The Area: Buy breads fresh from the wood-fired oven at Monica Wiitanen’s farmhouse. She helped pioneer Colorado’s 2012 Cottage Foods Act, which allows growers and makers to sell certain foods out of their homes. Friday 3 to 7 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; 970-527-4051; 40575 O Road, Paonia


Tour De North Fork Valley

Explore Paonia’s farms and vineyards on tow’s (electrified) wheels.

You’ll appreciate a little assistance when tackling the North Fork Valley’s rolling hills. Rent your electric bike ($75 a day; reserve in advance) from Cirque Cyclery, which helped us design two loops that will deliver you to some of the area’s best agritourism destinations.

map
Map by Sean Parsons.

Loop 1: 9 miles

Orchard Valley Farms & Market and Black Bridge Winery
Arrive at 10 a.m., when the tasting room opens, to try aged balsamic vinegars and infused olive oils (and maybe Black Bridge’s peach wine, too). Then enjoy a riverside lunch of the market’s prepared foods.

Advertisement

Desert Weyr
Spy rare Black Welsh Mountain sheep grazing amid 100-year-old apple trees as you pedal by this family ranch and market.

Terror Creek Winery
You’ll be grateful for the power boost as you climb up to this tasting room’s perch atop Garvin Mesa. Reward yourself with samples of Terror Creek’s French Alsace-style wines.

Stone Cottage Cellars
Swirl, sniff, and sip the Pinot Gris to find out why English countryside–esque Stone Cottage is a locals’ favorite.

Azura Cellars & Gallery
Take a (short) break from wine tasting to peruse Azura’s fine art gallery—or, if it’s Sunday, to race model sailboats on the pond.

Loop 2: 14 miles

Lizzy’s Market
Lizzy’s shelves are chock-full of goods grown or produced in the valley; fill up a backpack with snacks, such as bison jerky and just-picked stone fruit, to get you through the day.

Advertisement

Zephyros Farm and Garden
Call ahead (970-270-2045) if you’d like to stop to have a pondside picnic and smell the sweet peas, peonies, and 100-some varieties of dahlias that blanket this 35-acre farm.

Avalanche Farm and Dairy
You’ll have to call in advance (970-275-2324) if you want to meet the farmer and goats behind Basalt-based Avalanche Cheese Co.’s revered chèvre, but you’re welcome to take a detour down L-75 Road to get a closer look at the milk-makers and their Great Pyrenees mix guard dogs, Moose and Grizzly.

The Living Farm
For $6 a person (kids three and under are free), you can pick up self-tour guides inside this 79-year-old farm’s shop (see “The Groundbreaker” on page 129) and wander amid antique farming equipment, strawberry towers, heritage turkeys, and greenhouses.


Liquid Gold

Many of the North Fork Valley’s tastiest products aren’t edible—they’re quaffable. For a one-stop sampler, visit Delicious Orchards’ Hotchkiss tasting room to try both local wines and Big B’s hard ciders. Free concerts are sometimes held on an outdoor stage, and be sure to stroll through the fruit trees and take a turn on the rope swings.


Getaway: Home On The Range

You can rope, ride, and even make camp (in style) with the modern-day cowboys at southern Colorado’s Zapata Ranch.

Advertisement

When you wake up during a Ranch Camp week (launched this summer by Ranchlands, the group that manages Mosca’s Zapata Ranch and Chico Basin Ranch in Colorado Springs), it may take you a while to talk yourself into swinging your legs out from under cozy linens and Filson blankets. When you finally do, rugs atop the floor will cushion your bare feet as you retrieve your clothes from a trunk. Pull up a chair to put on your boots, and you’ll be ready to lift the canvas flap of your tent—yes, really—and step straight into Zapata’s 50,000-acre bison pasture. (Zapata, owned by the Nature Conservancy, will be a new location for the 2018 season; the first sessions were held at Chico Basin.)

Zapata-cowgirl
Go out and help with the wranglers.

After delighting in a chef-prepared breakfast and picking up your sack lunch, you face a choose-your-own-adventure-style day, much like the customized experiences Ranchlands has been offering to guests staying in the working dude ranch’s 15-room lodge since 2009. They’ll line up rafting, climbing, or fishing trips for additional costs, but the real draw is already included: exploring Zapata on horseback. Some 2,000 bison, 800 elk, and a 300-head herd of bovines provide plenty of opportunities to go out with wranglers and help with everyday tasks such as moving cattle. Ranch staffers are available to lead you on rides around the high desert grasslands—or into adjacent Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve—and can work with you on roping skills. You can also schedule a tour with the resident naturalist to learn more about land management and the ranch’s conservation efforts.

When you return to camp for a hot shower, a dinner of grass-fed bison pot roast cooked over the coals in a Dutch oven, and perhaps a glass of wine (meals are included; booze is BYOB or can be ordered through Zapata), you’ll likely be so exhausted you’ll be tempted to go straight back to your tent’s inviting bed. But make sure to stay awake long enough to indulge in a quintessential cowboy tradition: stargazing by the fire.

IF YOU GO:
Drive Time From Denver: 4 hours
Lodging Details: $3,200 per adult for seven nights of Ranch Camp
While You’re In The Area: Call ahead to arrange a free tour of Laz Ewe 2 Bar Goat Dairy, where you can meet the goats and cows before seeing how their milk is transformed into tasty cheese varieties, like green chile chèvre and beer cheddar, which is brined in suds from Del Norte’s Three Barrel Brewing.


Start ‘Em Young

Unless you grew up in the country, chances are your first exposure to a farm was through one of these family-friendly outings. Here’s where to carry on those traditions in Colorado with your own kids.

Advertisement
chatfield-farms
Denver Botanic Garden’s Chatfield Farms. Courtesy of Scott Dressel Martin/Denver Botanic Gardens.

If You’re Looking For: A Heritage Site
Try: Exploring Littleton’s Denver Botanic Gardens Chatfield Farms, where you can find military veterans working vegetable plots; two-year-old lavender fields; and the historic Hildebrand Ranch, where late-1800s homesteaders built still-standing structures that include a sprawling home and icehouse. $5 per vehicle

peach
Courtesy of IStock.

If You’re Looking For: A U-Pick Orchard
Try: Plucking Palisade’s famous peaches directly from their sources at Mt. Lincoln Peach Co. (Mondays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.). The 16-year-old farm began supplying wagons and boxes for pick-it-yourself experiences two years ago. $1 per pound of fruit; through mid-September

If You’re Looking For: A Pumpkin Patch
Try: Visiting Isabelle Farm during its Fall Farm Harvest Festival, the highlights of which are a three-acre corn maze, weekend hay rides, U-pick gourds, and mugs of tangy apple cider that somehow taste even better when sipped on the sprawling, organic farm in Lafayette. Free admission; September 23 to October 31

Feeding-Goat
Courtesy of IStock.

If You’re Looking For: A Petting Zoo
Try: Hitting Fall Fest at Wishing Star Farm near Colorado Springs for $4 pony rides, corn bins (think: a ball pit, but with corn), a straw pyramid, and plenty of barnyard animals for the little ones to play with. $10 per person (kids two and younger free); September 22 to October 31

If You’re Looking For: A Christmas Tree Farm
Try: Making a trip to Montrose’s Covered Bridge Ranch, where the picturesque, snow-dusted namesake wooden bridge, acres of cut-your-own trees, and barn with DIY wreath-decorating supplies make up for the five-hour drive from Denver. Hay rides free with tree purchase; November 24 to December 20

Advertisement

Cultivating The Next Generation

If your child has a penchant for tractors and overalls, nurture that interest by sending her to Cure Organic Farm’s Kids’ Farm Camp next summer. The four-day camps ($285) culminate with a lunch the kids prepare using the foods they’ve been tending. You can also simply show up at the Boulder farm—little ones in tow—on Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon, from mid-April through mid-October, to pitch in on volunteer projects.


Getaway: Branching Out

Near Carbondale, Cedar Ridge Ranch combines the best of agriculture’s past with a sustainable economic vision for the future.

Beyond the stocked pond and rolling meadows that unfold from where you stand on the deck of a canvas safari-style tent—your chic accommodations at Cedar Ridge Ranch—alpenglow illuminates vertiginous Mt. Sopris. The setting is almost enough to distract you from the tantalizing aroma of the pork beer brats ($12 for four and delivered by your hosts at check-in) you’re cooking on the nearby charcoal grill.

Cedar-Ridge-Ranch
Enjoy chic accommodations at Cedar Ridge Ranch.

On a farm tour the following day with 28-year-old Merrill Johnson, who has taken over much of the day-to-day operations of 67-acre Cedar Ridge from her parents, Pam and Randy Johnson, you learn about the source of your dinner: a group of heritage large black pigs with floppy ears who come running to Merrill for belly rubs. You also meet the 600-pound boar whose best friend is a free-ranging rooster that sleeps in the pig’s pen most nights. Rare horned zebu cattle, sold for breeding stock, are part of the tour, too, as is listening to Merrill’s story about spending eight weeks bottle-feeding one sickly calf back to health. Then you’re led through a giant hoop house, where vegetables are thriving on Merrill’s Magical Compost, which the Johnsons sell to area farmers.

As you take in all the activity, it’s difficult to imagine that just five years ago—before Merrill came back to the family ranch after studying sustainability at Colorado Mountain College—the property was simply an equestrian boarding and training operation. Recognizing the need to diversify Cedar Ridge’s business model, Merrill started making her nutrient-rich compost from waste generated by the horses. Soon, she branched out into livestock and eventually tourism: In addition to the tent, there’s also a large yurt. Plus, in 2015 the Johnsons converted half of the horse barn into a charming event space lined with artists’ studios; all are now occupied by creatives such as painters, leatherworkers, photographers, and filmmakers. Merrill hopes her efforts will help the ranch find an sustainable economic path forward. You hope so, too—so you can come back next year.

Advertisement

IF YOU GO:
Drive Time From Denver: 3 hours
Lodging Details: From $165 per night, plus $25 per person for farm tours
While You’re In The Area: For a suggested donation of $5 per person, you can tour (call ahead) Sustainable Settings, a 19-year-old nonprofit, biodynamic farm that supports a CSA, a herd share for raw milk, and a butchery program with grass-fed lambs, pigs, and cows.


Sleep Over

Farm stays offer the chance to experience what ’round-the-clock ag life is like and some of the most interesting places to rest your head in Colorado.

Platte-River-Fort
Greeley’s Platte River Fort. Courtesy of Platte River Fort.

Salida’s Mountain Goat Lodge
Where you wake up: 
A ’50s-style retro camper with a full bed, a kitchenette, and mountain views
What you can do: Meet the namesake herd of friendly dairy goats and tour the property’s geodesic greenhouse
Cost: $220-plus for two nights

Hotchkiss’ Delicious Orchards
Where you wake up:
 The tent or camper you brought from home, set up in the middle of a sprawling apple orchard (from which you’ll have access to one traditional bathroom and two port-a-potties)
What you can do: Stay satiated without leaving the property thanks to U-pick offerings, Big B’s hard cider tasting room, and a cafe with house-made baked goods and tamales 
Cost: $10/night minimum ($7.50 per additional adult; $3 per additional child)

Craig’s Villard Ranch
Where you wake up:
One of two mobile wagons (like mini RVs, each with a bed or two, a table, and a stove) the ranch’s sheepherders sometimes sleep in, placed wherever you’d like on the 12,000-acre working sheep ranch or at nearby campgrounds such as Freeman Reservoir 
What you can do: Join the crew for tasks such as lambing, counting sheep, or mending fences 
Cost: $150-plus per night

Advertisement

Paonia’s Stone Cottage Cellars 
Where you wake up:
A two-bedroom stone cottage made of fieldstone cleared from the nine-acre vineyard over the course of a century
What you can do: Have a genuine “agriturismo” encounter (the word for agritourism in Italy, where the practice first gained popularity) by harvesting grapes and assisting with other day-to-day activities 
Cost: $160/night 

Greeley’s Platte River Fort 
Where you wake up:
 A replica of La Junta’s Bent’s Old Fort with 10 bedrooms, 12 bathrooms, and a chef’s kitchen (nightly s’mores included)
What you can do: Host a dance or movie screening in the on-site barn, visit the resident herd of longhorn cattle, pet classic farm animals, learn how to rope a steer, and tube the property’s 1.5 miles of the South Platte River
Cost: $2,700/night for up to 12 guests, $3,187/night for 13 to 21 guests, or $4,200/night for 22 to 37 guests


Learn the Ropes

If an immersive farm stay feels like too much, consider the plethora of local companies offering ag-related classes. Fitness freaks can try three-month-old Rocky Mountain Goat Yoga’s sessions at a private ranch in Berthoud, during which baby goats prance around (and, occasionally, on) you. Foodie? In late 2015, Kate Johnson—a dairy goat farmer and owner of the Art of Cheese—began holding frequent cheese-making courses at Haystack Mountain’s Longmont creamery. And crafters should check out the Lyons Farmette’s workshops; one past event featured yarn-dying, Tunisian crochet, and a cocktail party with the fiber-providing alpacas.


The Farm Lover’s Almanac

Plan your calendar around these harvest-season festivals and events.

West Elks Wine Trail | August 4–6
Pick up a map at any of Paonia’s and Hotchkiss’ nine wineries; it will be your guide to a weekend of local food and vino pairings, art exhibits, vineyard tours, winemaker dinners, and more in the pastoral North Fork Valley.

Advertisement

Olathe Sweet Corn Festival | August 5
This one-day-only event routinely books musical acts—past performers include Styx and LeAnn Rimes; this year, it’s country favorite Rodney Atkins—that are almost as big of a draw as this Western Slope town’s signature ears of corn.

Boulder County Farm Tours | August 13
Farms across Boulder County—from Stonebridge Farm Winery Vineyard in Longmont to Boulder’s Light Root Community Farm, a raw milk dairy that uses draft horses to make hay and till soil—will open their barn doors to visitors ($10 for adults; free for kids) for one glorious Sunday afternoon.

Arkansas Valley Fair | August 16–20
Claiming the title of Colorado’s oldest continuously running fair, this carnival—with county fair staples like funnel-cake stands, a Ferris wheel, and 4-H projects—encompasses Watermelon Day, which has been observed since 1878 in recognition of Rocky Ford’s superior cantaloupes and melons.

Palisade Peach Festival | August 17–20
In honor of perhaps Colorado’s most celebrated agricultural product, the tiny hamlet of Palisade puts on a weekend full of activities that includes a biggest-and-prettiest-peach contest—last year’s winner weighed in at one pound, 15 ounces—chef demos, and a parade.

Palizzi Farm Annual Corn & Chile Festival | September 1–4
Go for the Sunday finale of this annual celebration in Brighton to enjoy live music, a corn-eating contest, and fireworks. Also: Stock up on freshly roasted chiles and peaches ‘n’ cream sweet corn.

Advertisement

Meeker Classic Sheepdog Championship Trials | September 6–10
Border collies and their handlers from around the nation descend on Meeker to test their skills on Campbell Hansmire Sheep’s notoriously clever and independent ewes, which migrate from Utah to spend the summer on mountain pastures above Vail and Edwards. Spectators will also toe-tap to live music, peruse art from across the country, and sample lamb cook-off dishes before voting for the people’s choice award.

Pedal the Plains | September 15–17
In its sixth year, this 177-mile, three-day bike ride and traveling festival will highlight the Eastern Plains agricultural communities of Keenesburg, Brush, and Kersey with fieldside routes and postride bites from local producers. Cyclists can also opt for a one-day century-plus route or a 5.6-mile family fun ride.

Mountain Harvest Festival | September 21–24
Stomping grapes, walking around Paonia farms, and dancing to live music from local musicians just might be enough exercise to offset the food and wine you’ll consume during this big yearly event with a small-town feel.

Pueblo Chile & Frijoles Festival | September 22–24
More than 100,000 people, along with the aromas of roasting native mirasol peppers, fill the streets of Pueblo during this September jubilee.


Picture This

From alpacas to zebus, a wide variety of species call Colorado agritourism destinations home. Here, some of the state’s most photogenic beasts and where to find them.

Advertisement

Teddy-bear-faced Southdown babydoll sheep are just the beginning of the creature cuteness kids and their guardians experience during pre-booked Fun-raiser Play Dates at the Random Ranch in Sedalia. Also on the docket: donkey selfies; a picnic hike with rescued goats; decorating a real horse with nontoxic, chalk-based tempera paint; and petting the resident micro cow, three-foot-tall Moo’se. Plus, proceeds from the $50-per-child-over-six fee (there are also $20 Mommy & Me sessions for kids five and under) go to groups that help animals and their owners displaced by disasters such as wild fires.

A relative of the alpaca, paco-vicuñas are more intelligent than their cousins—plus, their superfine, uniform, lightweight fiber products can go for five times as much per ounce. Meet these wide-eyed, curious creatures (who like to gently approach and sniff visitors but avoid direct contact) during a tour of Jefferson Farms Natural Fibers’ Denver location or a farm stay at the Salida ranch, which offers a recently redone, rustic-chic apartment for rent.

At Mancos’ Mesa View Yak Ranch, many of the shaggy, horned beasts are tame enough for visitors to pet during prearranged tours. The versatile yaks are raised for their fiber and meat or as packing animals, breeding stock, or pasture pets.

Zebu cattle—a rare breed used for pasture management at Cedar Ridge Ranch in Carbondale (see “Branching Out”)—can be identified by their long, pointy horns and signature humps. During farm tours, the males will often approach the fence looking to have their heads rubbed.

You can get up close and personal with alpacas by heading up to Loveland for Stargazer Ranch Alpacas’ quarterly open-barn weekends—or simply check in on the juvenile “crias” through Stargazer’s live webcam (you can sign up to receive birth alerts via email).

Advertisement

Visit Mountain Flower Goat Dairy in Boulder to check two critters off your list: 32 goats and one guard llama named Hawthorn Hazel, who helps protect the herd against predators, call this urban oasis home. Through October, the private farm is open to the public on first Saturdays, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., for tours and mingling with the animals; you may also get to feed the goats or walk one on a leash.

Correction, 8/15/17: An earlier version of this story misidentified the brand of blankets and flooring material in Zapata Ranch’s Ranch Camp tents. We regret the errors.

Recommended for You

Newsletter Signup

Keep me up to date on the latest trends and happenings around Denver. 5280 has a newsletter for everyone. Sign Up