Shuttered hotels with thriving farms put produce on the community’s plate

CNN  — 

Although hotels and resorts around the world remain closed because of Covid-19, many have continued with a different order of operations.

Accommodations with farms, whose produce is typically used to feed guests fresh, seasonal meals, have continued to tend their gardens. These efforts help feed furloughed staff for free and serve as a hyperlocal farmers’ market for the community. They’re even donating excess produce to those in need.

See how eight properties are stepping up to the plate this season:

Chatham Bars Inn

This century-old Cape Cod property has long been known for its farm program, which generates as much as 50,000 pounds of fresh produce used in its four on-site restaurants, including the white-tablecloth Stars, and its outdoor farm-to-table dinner series each summer.

The 8-acre farm at Chatham Bars Inn, located down the road in Brewster, Massachusetts, has repurposed itself as a market for the community.

But with no guests, its 8-acre farm, located down the road in Brewster, Massachusetts, has repurposed itself as a market for the community.

The virtual Farm Stand has such items as Japanese turnip greens, beefsteak tomatoes and Toscano kale. It also offers fresh-baked goods (challah or chocolate hazelnut pound cake, anyone?) and pantry items such as honey or red-wine vinegar made by the resort.

Recipes for signature Chatham Bars Inn dishes, such as pan-roasted blue cod with farm greens, are part of the purchase.

Chatham Bars Inn, 297 Shore Road, Chatham, MA 02633; +1 800 527 4884

Miraval Austin

Keeping with the spirit of eclectic Austin, this Miraval outpost traditionally offers guests “transformational experiences” such as outdoor hiking adventures, culinary lessons and farm activities — along with the expected spa services and luxury accommodations.

But the resort suspended guest operations in March. Instead of holding classes on sustainable farming and biodynamic farming principles, it is donating its produce to hotel staff through the pop-up Miraval Community Kitchen.

Organic onions, collard greens, beets, carrots, Swiss chard, lettuce, corn, beans and squash are being packed up and given to furloughed employees.

Morgan Urich, who helps oversee the farm, is happy to be providing for people close to the property and notes the importance of tending the farm at this time, ensuring a “steady supply of seasonal produce for the culinary team to use.”

Miraval Austin, 13500 FM2769, Austin, TX, 78641; +1 855 234 1672

Timbers Kauai

Guests and owners flock to this oceanfront, cliffside property — a combination resort and resident’s club — for a quintessential Hawaiian experience.

Think golf at its Jack Nicklaus-designed course (the longest stretch of continuous ocean golf in the state), hikes to private waterfalls, surf lessons, poolside lounging and fresh produce delivered to your room.

The Farm at Hokuala, a part of Timbers, includes a 12-acre fruit orchard and organic vegetable garden.

Goods from Timber Kauai's gardens are being packaged into CSA-like boxes for furloughed staff members.

Cody Meyer, one of the head farmers, estimates that they’re harvesting about 200 pounds of produce twice a week, but instead of putting it toward room service or using it to cook up on-site meals for diners, the garden’s goods are being packaged into boxes for furloughed staff members.

“Farming and harvesting are the foundations of ancient Hawaiian culture and society, and the Farm at Hokolua exemplifies that focus,” Meyer says. “It’s so gratifying to be able to feed our friends and take one chore off their plate at this difficult time.”

Timbers Kauai, 3770 Ala’oli Way, Hokuala, HI, 96766; +1 855 420 9225

Old Edwards Inn and Spa

Spring crops such as lettuce, carrots, beets, kale and turnips grown at the 2-acre GlenCove Farms, part of this secluded resort in the mountain town of Highlands, North Carolina, would normally be headed straight for Chef Chris Huerta’s kitchen, Madison’s.

The on-property signature restaurant where seasonal produce takes center stage – and is complemented by sustainably sourced local trout, grass-fed beef and other local proteins – isn’t open right now. But the goods aren’t going to waste.

Red and green lettuces, carrots, beets and other spring produce is being donated to the resorts' hundreds of employees as well as families in the communities.

So far, Matt Clayton, the head farmer, and his team have harvested, washed, packaged and delivered more than 400 heads of lettuce to some 90 families through the local emergency council and food bank.

“Being able to donate back has been great for staying motivated and sane during this time,” Clayton says. “Gardening is cheaper than therapy.”

Old Edwards Inn and Spa, 445 Main St., Highlands, NC, 28741; +1 866 526 8008

Castle Hot Springs

A playground for celebrities and dignitaries from the Rockefeller and Vanderbilt families to Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, the shuttered Castle Hot Springs all-inclusive resort reopened to great fanfare last year.

It’s known for its hot springs, the waters of which inform its thriving agricultural program that produces more than 500 varieties of fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers that are typically used for meals and drinks in its Harvest restaurant and Bar 1896.

The resort north of Phoenix is harvesting about 300 to 400 pounds of fresh produce a week. They go into three different CSA-style boxes available for pick-up in Scottsdale.

Although the resort isn’t planning to reopen until September, its 1-acre farm and greenhouse operation are busier than ever. Resident agronomist Ian Beger and his team, nicknamed the “Flavor Farmers,” launched the resort’s farm produce program to help feed Arizonans during the pandemic.

“Covid-19 has flipped the farming and hospitality industry upside down,” says Beger, “but one thing that it has not changed is the ability for crops to grow and thrive.”

To wit: The resort north of Phoenix is harvesting about 300 to 400 pounds of fresh produce a week, which go into three different CSA-style boxes available for pick-up in Scottsdale.

The Just Greens box ($25 a week) includes lettuce and microgreens. Farmer’s Pick ($75 a week) is beefed up with root vegetables, herbs, tomatoes, fruit, specialty vegetables and edible flowers. The Executive package ($250 a week) includes all of the above plus coffee beans, preserves, garden seeds, recipes and a bouquet of fresh flowers.

All proceeds are being donated to St. Vincent De Paul, a local nonprofit.

Castle Hot Springs, 5050 E. Castle Hot Springs Road, Castle Hot Springs, AZ, 85342; +1 877 600 1137

Chewton Glen

Springtime at this luxury country house in England’s South Coast is typically all about gastronomy.

In normal times, guests can take lessons at the newly added cooking school, The Kitchen, learning to cook with fungi, make pasta from scratch and craft a multiple-course dinner party. They can even pick their own produce for the classes in the school’s dedicated garden.

But because of the pandemic, the Relais & Chateaux resort is closed until June, pending government legislation. Meanwhile, its 7-acre organic farm, 70 beehives that produce honey for the hotel and large apple orchard growing heritage varieties on the brink of extinction are still in full production mode.

Wanting to share its abundant harvest of vegetables such as leeks, chard, fennel and rhubarb this spring, Chewton Glen partnered with a local nonprofit, The Empty Bowls Project. It serves low-income families by working with local cafes to make soup and local potters to craft bowls to serve it in.

True to form, there’s been an undeniably British approach to delivering the goods: In one Instagram post, a stuffed Paddington Bear accompanied bags of leeks headed for the soup pots.

Chewton Glen, New Milton, Hampshire, BH25 6QS; +44 01425 275 341

Winvian Farm

Located on an estate in Litchfield Hills, Connecticut, that which dates back to 1775, the kitchen at this collection of 18 luxury resort cottages has been closed since its annual spring cleaning began late February.

Though it didn’t reopen in mid-March as planned, one full-time gardener has been tending the property’s multiacre farm and four greenhouses harvesting a medley of kale, root vegetables, carrots, baby turnips, celery, spinach, arugula, onions and herbs.

Starting this week, every Thursday through Saturday, locals will be able to order and pick up meals starring Winvian Farm's produce for $45 per person.

It’s all been in preparation for the three-course to-go dinners that Chef Chris Eddy launched this week: Thursday through Saturday, locals will be able to order and pickup meals made with farm-fresh produce for $45 per person.

Wine aficionados won’t want to overlook the half-off deal for up to $400 off from the impressive wine cellar.

On the menu the first week: celery and potato soup, roasted chicken with Provencal vegetables, and strawberry galette with whipped cream; or greenhouse arugula salad, Polynesian-style roasted pork, and creamy rice pudding with pineapple and lime.

Extra produce has also been donated to furloughed staff members of Winvian Farm, and if the spring harvest continues as expected, proprietor Maggie Smith says it will extend donations to the community.

Winvian Farm, 155 Alain White Road, Morris, CT, 06763; +1 860 567 9600

Southall

This forthcoming luxury farm and inn located on expansive grassy acreage outside Franklin, Tennessee, has been under construction the past few years.

Because of the pandemic, its completion has been pushed out to 2021, but guests have already gotten a taste of its farm-to-table cuisine through The Rambling, a seasonal outdoor dinner series that first launched in summer 2018.

Reconstruction on the luxury farm and inn has been delayed, but in the meantime, Southall's culinary team is preparing family meals for the community.

Now, Southall’s culinary team has been preparing weekly family meals for two to four people (for local curbside pick-up) that include homemade dishes, sides, breads and desserts, as well as boxes filled with fresh produce harvested that week (think turnips, radishes, broccoli, lettuce, fennel, beets and carrots).

It’s been enough to keep people coming back, often every week, until The Rambling resumes this fall.

“The support we have received from our community has truly been humbling,” says Chef Tyler Brown. “We have had many folks reach out to let us know that we have provided a bright spot in an otherwise dark time.”

Through its virtual farm stand, locals can also order items from Southall’s partners, such as Bear Creek Farms steak or Mr. Aaron’s Goods fresh pasta.

Southall, 1994 Carters Creek Pike, Franklin, TN, 37064; +1 615 696 9496

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