“The biggest win in our community was realizing there were a ton of producers right here in our own watershed,” says Tom Zuccareno, whose documentary, How We Grow, chronicles the corporate runaways and enterprising families getting creative with small plots of land in this 6,000-person town in Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley. It’s a throwback to the turn of the century, before Aspen popped up down the road, driving land prices up. Back then, cattle and potato farms reigned in Carbondale. “We shifted to become a base camp for adventure, but now we’re reclaiming roots we’ve had for more than 100 years,” says Parker Nieslanik, a third-generation rancher at Nieslanik Beef. In the last decade, as the farm-to-table movement picked up steam, he, along with a wave of sustainably minded growers, banded together to create one of Colorado’s best, little farm scenes.
Where to Stay
Cedar Ridge Ranch – a working farm filled with alpacas, zebus, and heritage Large Black pigs – recently debuted simple-but-comfy yurts and safari tents that look out at Mount Sopris (from $150 per night; cedarridgeranch.com). Rather stay closer to the action? The four-room Dandelion Inn, in the heart of Carbondale’s gallery – filled downtown, serves a farm-fresh hot spread on weekends (from $110 per night, breakfast included; dandelioninnco.com).
What to Do
Drink your grains at Marble Distilling Company – a small-batch producer that filters its spirits through locally procured marble, yielding super sippable, creamy vodkas and whiskies. Tours, available upon request, take imbibers to Nieslanik Beef, where most of the distillery’s all-natural ingredients grow and its spent grains return to feed the ranch’s cows. Symbiotic partnerships like this are common in Carbondale, where the community is embracing off-the-grid living.
A pioneer in the movement, 244-acre Sustainable Settings host workshops related to solar-powered dairy, astronomy-based planting, and energy-neutral building. Pay $50 to join the staff’s daily lunch (all sourced from the farm, of course) to get the lowdown (sustainablesettings.org).
Down the road, Wild Mountain Seeds bills itself as a research ranch. Their curriculum is a little more mainstream (bed prep, transplanting, polyculture), but you can get any staffer to geek out over the outfit’s main work, which involves engineering climate-resilient seeds and systems to lower farm-keeping costs (wildmountainseeds.com).
Where to Eat
Newly opened, The Guest House hosts monthly, four-course suppers that are worth timing your trip around. The chef, Seth Siobhan O’Donovan, learned to work the land from Thomas Keller at The French Laundry and sources 97 percent of the meal from the 1893 Sunfire Ranch, where the restaurant is located ($150 per person with drink pairings; theguesthousecolorado.com).
Casual diners can make their way to SILO‘s six-table café, where the kitchen pulls from no less than 10 nearby growers to serve updated breakfast staples – like the Blue Plate Special with sunny-side-up eggs, homemade bread, house ricotta, and crispy kale – all day (silocarbondale.com).