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The Safest Restaurants This Fall May Be Farms and Orchards

Concerns about COVID-19 prompt diners to seek outdoor dining with farm-fresh menus

spinner image Los Pobalnos Orchard and Dining
Courtesy of Los Poblanos

Imagine sitting down to a restaurant-quality dinner in the fresh air, with a view of a green rolling hills, eating food grown and raised right on the property. That's the experience some farms and orchards are bringing to diners, many of whom are looking for safer dining options amid COVID-19.

When the pandemic began in March, the restaurant industry was hit hard. Although many restaurants have since reopened with a variety of precautions to ensure diner safety, farms and orchards are arguably some of the most attractive dining hot-spots this fall. These experiences feature farm-fresh menus and open-air, socially distant dining.

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"Our number one focus is the safety of our guests and employees, and thankfully, with our 25 acres, we are naturally socially distant,” says Kim Vollers, director of hospitality operations at Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

In addition to nearly exclusive outdoor seating on the farm (with indoor available upon request), the Los Poblanos team added outdoor hand washing stations, and placed lavender-scented hand sanitizer on each table made from the on-site lavender farm. “We've welcomed so many guests that tell us that this was their first dining experience since COVID began and how safe they felt,” Vollers says.

From casual pizza nights in wide open fields to a multicourse meal at a coastal farm, here are four farms and orchards to visit this fall. With a little Googling, you're likely to find more offerings in your own area. Many of these venues require reservations so make sure to check before you set out for a meal.

Westwind Orchard – Accord, New York

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New York's Hudson Valley is known for its diverse collection of orchards and farms, but the Westwind Orchard stands out. For owners Laura Ferrara and Fabio Chizzola, all they had to do was add pizza to the weekly rotating menu. They relied on their Italian upbringing and culture to craft wood-fired, Neapolitan-style and Roman-style pizzas topped with homemade mozzarella and seasonal produce like sautéed apples, delicate squash and dandelion greens. Pasta staples like Cacio e Pepe and Carbonara round out the menu, and you can wash everything down with crisp ciders from the on-site cidery. Socially distant tables are sprinkled across a large central lawn with nearby firepits, as well as two covered areas for more outdoor dining space.

Go: Westwind Orchard, 215 Lower Whitfield Road, Accord, New York. Hours are 4:30 to 8 p.m. Thursdays, 2 to 8 p.m. Fridays, noon to 8 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 7 p.m. Sundays.

Quince – San Francisco, California

For those missing the Michelin star experience, Quince, a celebrated fine-dining restaurant in San Francisco, has you covered. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Quince temporarily closed their Jackson Square dining room and relocated the restaurant to Fresh Run Farm, their coastal farm in Bolinas. There, diners can enjoy a Michelin-starred, multicourse lunch in individual greenhouses planted in the fields of this 25-acre working farm. At $375 per person, the meal is definitely a splurge, but guests can make a whole day of the experience with a guided tour of the farm with third-generation farmer Peter Martinelli, pick their own vegetables, interact with the chefs and enjoy lawn games.

Go: Quince at Fresh Run Farm, 615 Horseshoe Hill Road, Bolinas, California. Offering lunch Friday through Sunday.

Luna Valley Farm – Decorah, Iowa

Get familiar with the term “pizza farm” at Luna Valley Farm in Iowa. A popular trend across the Midwest, a pizza farm is exactly what you'd imagine: a farm where most, if not all, ingredients are grown, prepared and then served up on a pizza. While most pizza farms focus on providing farm-fresh vegetarian toppings, Luna Valley Farm goes a step farther to offer Italian sausage, bacon, kielbasa and brats from their farm-raised, heritage breed pigs. Their celebrated pizza nights have a new set of rules due to COVID-19, but the main adjustments are that guests must now preorder pizzas, bring their own blankets/chairs for socially distant dining (there are a few picnic tables available), and wear masks to pick up pizzas and place drink orders.

Go: Luna Valley Farm, 3012 Middle Sattre Road, Decorah, Iowa. Hours are Fridays and Saturdays, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. The menu opens for preorder one week in advance.

spinner image Los Poblanos at Night
Courtesy of Los Poblanos

CAMPO at Los Poblanos – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Located in the heart of the Rio Grande River Valley, Los Poblanos is not new to the concept of farm-to-fork dining. CAMPO restaurant is known for its constantly evolving menu based on the daily harvest from the on-site lavender farm and kitchen gardens. Recent seasonal dishes included lavender lamb served with wood-roasted eggplant, sautéed greens and blistered grapes; and Alaskan halibut served with blistered tomatoes and peppers, earth-baked sweet corn and squash puree. With farm-fresh dining already taking place prepandemic, CAMPO only had to make a few changes to accommodate the new COVID-19 reality. The team doubled the size of patio space and added tables in the chef's gardens to offer a socially distant settings for diners. The restaurant plans to continue the concept this winter thanks to outdoor heaters.

Go: CAMPO at Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm, 4803 Rio Grande Blvd. N.W., Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, New Mexico. Offering breakfast from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. weekdays and from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. weekends; lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. daily; and dinner Wednesday through Sunday from 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

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