By Amiee White Beazley
We arrived at Cedar Ridge Ranch, a 67-acre ranch and organic farm high in the Elk Mountains Range near Carbondale, Colorado, for different reasons – one to finish writing a novel, another for peace and solitude, and a newly married couple on their first trip to Colorado. We all came for the sweeping views of Mt. Sopris, for the luxury farm accommodations – a yurt, three safari-style tents, a farmhouse and a well-appointed cabin at 6,700 feet – and connection with nature and the people around us.
Gathered in a converted horse stable, the evening's hostess is Merrill Johnson, along with her mother, Pam, and father, Randy, who arrived with a platter of local cheeses and an ice-filled bucket of Colorado beer, wine, and cider --- many from small producers just over nearby McClure Pass.
Merrill has long been involved in sustainable agriculture. When she was 13, she moved to Cedar Ridge Ranch and realized she could use her farm for more than just food production. It also could inspire others to live more sustainable, creative and integrative lives.
"We are lucky enough to live in a beautiful place," she says. "This land lends it to being visited. I envision the ranch as an educational experience. Whether you are just interested in the accommodations or something more, you will learn, just from being here, about the local food scene, the effects of composting, and the farm-to-table, four-season greenhouse."
After a bonfire beneath the stars, we returned to our accommodations for the night. Warmed by an electric Franklin Stove, I dove beneath the down covers of the four-poster bed and read until my eyelids were heavy. The next day, we planned to hike and spend time with the property's alpacas.
"I want guests to wake up and see the chickens and gather a basket of colorful eggs, tend to the garden, yoga, be in nature, paint – all of these things you do on the property," says Merrill. "I want guests to learn about small farms and become stewards of the land. You can connect with these things and bring these easily integrated practices back to your hometown. We want this to be an inspired experience to change your life."