As more and more travelers find themselves putting an emphasis on staying at hotels and resorts that have a positive impact on the environment and surrounding communities, interest in farms and agritourism are on the rise. The idea of what constitutes a luxury hotel continues to expand and change as properties in destinations including New York’s Hudson Valley are increasingly in high demand. The Auberge Wildflower Farm, one of American Express Travel’s “Stay With Purpose” properties, has quickly become one of the most celebrated. Located in the quiet enclave of Gardiner, New York, it elevates the traditional farm hospitality experience by encouraging guests to forage the farm’s property for wild vegetables and berries that can be used to prepare their own meals. Other activities include cooking and mixology classes. We sat down with hotel owners Phillip and Kristin Rapoport to talk about life on their farm and what guests can expect on a visit.
The hotel sits on a beautiful farm property. What was your inspiration for the property’s hotel and cabin design?
Phillip and Kristin Rapoport: We came to the Hudson Valley to rock climb and began experimenting with growing our own food. We wanted to share our love of the region with friends from the city and had experienced hotels in Europe and California that were a short drive but felt a world away. We ultimately fell for the unparalleled views of the Shawangunk Mountains and the potential to rewild an old dairy pasture and fallow tree nursery, and restore it to productive agricultural land. We built the resort to offer the type of guest experience we were looking for ourselves—luxurious design rooted in nature with easy access to hiking, outstanding cuisine, and warm hospitality.
We hired California-based architects Electric Bowery to walk the property with us and frame views of the cliffs. The resort’s resulting 65 free-standing cabins, cottages and suites were painstakingly positioned for privacy and to make the most of their tranquil views. Set within stately white pines and native perennials or within fields of wildflowers, they are designed to blend seamlessly with nature, revealing a contemporary cabin aesthetic with wood-wrapped interiors, modern finishes and fresh-cut flowers. Interior specialists Ward + Gray designed custom furniture in warm woods and hand blown Murano glass fixtures, complemented by quilted fabrics inspired by the region’s past and actualized using storied fabric-house prints from Clarence House, Dedar Milano and Pierre Frey in colors reflecting the seasons—sage and goldenrod, burnt umber and aubergine.
The hotel is very vertically integrated, with most of the things being served at the hotel caught or grown on-site. Why was that such an important aspect to bring to life?
Vegetables bred for flavor, picked fresh daily and grown organically taste different than what we typically have access to in the supermarket. We hope that guests will see the effort that goes into selecting and preserving this way of growing food and be inspired to buy locally and support local farms—we know people are interested in purpose-driven travel and eager to stay in properties that align with their values. That’s one of the many reasons we are excited to be among the first properties featured in the new American Express Travel “Stay with Purpose” directory, which curates resorts that have a positive impact on their local communities and the environment. While much of the food we serve in our restaurant, herbs used in our spa and flowers that adorn the property are grown on site, it was equally important to us to nurture relationships with the best farmers and purveyors in the region. Our botanical spa line from Cultivate Apothecary comes from Balmville, NY. We test specialty vegetables selected by our farm advisor Zaid Kurdieh of Norwich Meadows Farms developed in partnership with seed breeders at Cornell.
A lot of the experiences offered on-site involve having guests get involved, like foraging for vegetables and visiting the chicken coop for fresh eggs. What’s the thought behind this?
Eggs that can be brought up every morning from our hen house are a fun and delicious way for guests to engage in conversation about the importance of preserving heritage animal breeds. All of the food waste from our restaurant Clay is part of a critical closed-loop system, providing material for compost and food for our pigs and chickens. Our partnership with Tuthilltown Spirits, the adjacent whisky distillery, is accessible by a footpath that joins the two properties, and allows us to use their spent grain from whiskey distillation as an additional food source for our pigs.
Auberge hotels are known for their storytelling. What is the story being told at Wildflower?
Harnessing the power of nature in its simplest form, Wildflower Farms offers solace, sanctuary and joyful opportunities to reconnect with nature—just a 90-minute drive from New York City. We are thrilled to welcome guests to this awe-inspiring destination, where they will discover some of New York’s finest dining in addition to experiencing the soulful essence of the Hudson Valley through unique outdoor adventures and wellness journeys.
How do you keep the experiences fresh and interesting?
Each season, our menus change based on what produce is available at the farm. We use high tunnels and greenhouses to extend our growing season and pickling and preserving to get the most out of the farm year round. We also developed our guest classes and experiences to take advantage of cycling in the summer, focaccia baking in spring and forest bathing in the winter. Our guided forest meditation can even be enjoyed indoors in the Movement Studio where guests will experience each turn of the trail under the comfort of a warm blanket. Fall is the prime season at Wildflower Farms but the resort is cozy and interesting year round with the indoor salt water pool, educational classes and exceptional cuisine.
What do you hope people will take away from their stay at the Auberge?
We hope people feel more rooted, grounded and connected with nature. We hope they feel like they got in touch with themselves and gave themselves time to relax and restore. We have so many incredible offerings available on property, including rejuvenating spa treatments at Thistle, calming breathwork sessions, grounding encounters with animals and dining experiences at Clay. We encourage guests to take advantage of as many as they can.