Rolling up to Joseph Decuis Farm in time to catch the sun setting behind the windmill is like arriving at a scene straight out of René Magritte’s Empire of Light. The 200 acres are part of a family-owned empire in Roanoke that also includes an elegant fine-dining restaurant, a shop that sells locally made foodstuffs, and two charming inns. You’ve come not just for the homegrown ingredients on the menu at the lauded Joseph Decuis Restaurant but for the rare chance to really know where your food comes from—as in, an up-close look at the journey the prized wagyu beef makes from the pasture to your plate.
The Farmstead Inn’s three-bedroom brick farmhouse and a carriage house with two suites sit next to a small barn and across the road from the main farm, framed by picturesque white fences. Overnight guests can enjoy a homemade breakfast—maybe quiche, scones, and pork sausage made with farm ingredients—in the antique country kitchen of the restored 1884 farmhouse.
If you’re the type who likes to get your hands dirty, you can start the day in the barn, scooping grain and tossing hay for the pigs, goats, and chickens and collecting eggs—call it the farm chore lite experience. For a fee ($100), you can learn how to harness the farm’s Percheron draft horses then work the reins during a carriage ride around the property.
By 5 p.m., be ready for a farm tour via hay wagon (dinner reservation at Joseph Decuis required). You’ll see a variety of livestock (ask your guide to do a pig call to see the fierce-looking Mangalitsas race to the fence), and you’ll learn about the strict Japanese husbandry techniques that make wagyu beef so coveted. Few places raise cattle to the standards that the Decuis owners, the Eshelman family, do. The cattle have bloodlines from Japanese breeder Shogo Takeda, and the Eshelmans follow his prescription for low-stress cattle raising, including humane weaning for calves, a special vegetarian diet, and spacious pens that funnel in classical music (or Yankees games, depending on the season). In the finishing barn, where pasture-raised cattle are fattened on grain in their final days, you can visit the animals, separated into pens designating their time till the inevitable.
This grain-finishing yields lusciously marbled meat, as you’ll discover that night at the restaurant six miles down the road in town, where you’ll taste the passion and care behind the cultivation. Or, time your visit to a feast served alfresco in the farm’s lush gardens, like the Farm to Fork Wine Dinner on June 29 ($160)—a culinary experience of at least five courses that truly begins and ends outdoors.
Stay:Nab a two-bedroom suite at the Farmstead Inn’s carriage house ($500) for the ranch-like atmosphere—cow-print chairs, sliding barn doors hung with saddles, and views of the tree-lined acreage. If waking up to roosters doesn’t appeal to you, try the historical Inn at Joseph Decuis ($200) in downtown Roanoke.
While You’re There:On your way home, stop in Fort Wayne for another take on farm-to-fork at the new-in-2016 Tolon, an intimate eatery that sources everything locally, right down to the Starlight Rock and Rye whiskey.
3 months ago
3 months ago