By Amiee White Beazely
We had all arrived at Cedar Ridge Ranch, a 67-acre ranch and organic farm high in the Elk Mountain Range near Carbondale, Colorado, for different reasons—one of us, to finish writing a novel; another for peace and solitude; a young, newly married couple from Saudi Arabia on their first trip to Colorado. The draw: Sweeping views of Mt. Sopris, simple but elegant farm accommodations—a yurt full of family heirlooms, a safari-style tent with a four-poster bed and a well-appointed cabin at 6,700 feet—and, ultimately, for connection with nature and the people around us.
For cocktail hour, we gathered in a converted horse stable, now home to a dozen or so artists’ studios for local artists—weavers, painters and potters. The evening’s hostess, Merrill Johnson (along with her mother, Pam, and father, Randy), arrived with a platter of local cheeses and an ice-filled bucket of beer, wine and cider—many from small producers just over nearby McClure Pass.
At age 28, Merrill has long been involved in sustainable agriculture. Fifteen years ago, she moved to Cedar Ridge Ranch from Chicago when her parents bought their mountain property, and dedicated her studies and lifestyle to the practice. Merrill realized her farm could be used for far more than just food production; it could also inspire others to live a more sustainable, more creative and integrative life.
“This land lends itself to being visited,” Merrill says. “I envision the ranch as an educational experience. You will learn about the necessity and importance of local food production and the environment just from being here.”
After a bonfire beneath the stars, each of us returned to our accommodations. Warmed by an electric Franklin stove, I dove beneath the down covers and read until my eyelids were heavy. The next day there were plans for breakfast of pork from the farm’s own ethically raised Large Blacks, a hike from the property through the surrounding mountains that frame Cedar Ridge and some time with the horses that board on the property.
“I want guests to wake up and see the chickens and gather a basket of colorful eggs, tend to the garden, practice yoga in the field, be in nature, paint, learn about small farms and become stewards of the land,” says Merrill.
“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.”