Hartley Farms

In the small town of San Miguel, Ca, you will find Hartley Farms on the Pleasant Valley Wine Trail. A wine trail that is made up of 12 family wineries. Hartley Farms is an organic farm of stone fruit trees, wedding and event venue with several places to stay on the farm. This little oasis is unlike anything else on the Central Coast. A magical place that exudes personality. If you are looking for the “Family expereince” you have to go and have some fun there. Everyone is welcomed with open arms. You are family when you are there, even if you are the crazy aunt in your own family. The hospitality of Barbara, Dan, and the kids is unparrelled. They are fun, and you will have fun while you are there and question why you haven’t been there yet.

Photo by #destinycavalleto
Photo by #Charise
The bar photo by #markaki805photography

What is something you wish people knew about your destination?
Our venue is pretty unique – we offer peace & quiet on a 37-acre organic farm in the middle of the Pleasant Valley Wine Country. Between camp sites, and farm stays, most people find their cozy space. We keep attendance to a minimum so there is plenty of elbow room!

How many weddings are you allowed to do a year?
We limit wedding events to only 10 per year. Weddings are a super special, once-in-a-lifetime experience, and we like to give each couple an entire weekend to relish it.

Photo by #KenzieKatePhotography

How many spots do you have left for 2021 and 2022?
2021 is all booked up, but we do have 0 available slots for wedding events in 2022. You can book for 2023, now!

How many people are allowed at your venue?
We can host up to 250 guests for a wedding.

Memories of weddings past #markaki805photography

How is your destination unique?
You will not find another venue that was designed just for a wedding & reception in mind. Most venues – weddings are an afterthought. We bought this property with the intent to build a beautiful, well-planned wedding venue. Between hand-paved walkways, waterfalls, an amphitheater under a 250-year old live Oak, and numerous nooks for romantic photos, you can’t find a more unique situation. In fact – it was a big reason we could not get a bank to finance it!

#NewRevolutionPhotography

How long and what went into building this venue?
Well, we bought the property in 2005, but there was nothing here – no water, power, house, nothing. We had a lot to learn! A land with no water was not a great start, but to me it was a blank canvas. We drilled a well in 2007, and started planting. In 2008, we brought in power, but the banks still weren’t convinced it was a good investment. We added our orchard trees in 2011. The banks said “why aren’t you doing grapes – I don’t get it”, so still no funds. Dan & I pulled all our retirement accounts, and savings to put a small house on the property, 900 square feet – we HAD to get our land loan rolled over to a home loan! Finally, a small local banker, Cindy Smith with Bank of the Sierra, said “this looks great! we’d love to give you the loan!”. She saved the farm! AND we were able to build our main house. So, it’s been 16 years, but it’s far from being complete. We will continue to improve and grow indefinitely.

#LisaMalloryPhotography

What are some things for people to do at your venue? If you were a visitor at your venue, what would you want to do?
That depends on what you want to experience. Many people think of Paso Robles as Wine Country, and it is. But we have so many other non-wine related farms and activities. For wine, I send guests to the Pleasant Valley Wine Trail – a co-op of 12 wineries in our region. All small, mom & pop’s type places where the winemaker is usually pouring behind the counter, and so much love goes in to making the wines, you can’t go wrong with any of them. The restaurants are hands-down, THE BEST around. We have the highest number of restaurants per capita to residents. So they HAVE to be good to stay in business! For non-wine stuff, check out local farms at FarmsteadED.com. Also, the Ravine Water Park is a fantastic attraction Memorial Day through Labor Day – water slides for the kids, cocktails & munchies for the adults. And if you rent a cabana, you can order it all to your lounge chair. Vina Robles Amphitheater, Sensario Light Display, Estrella War Bird Museum, San Miguel Mission are all other great places to visit.

Jam line up #HartleyFarms #merkaki805photography

How did Covid impact your business? How did it affect you personally? What did you learn from it? Who and what helped you get through it? What do you want people to change because of this pandemic?
Oh Lordy. It was bad. We will be recovering financially for years because there was no grant or even low-interest loan available for wedding venues with no employees. I learned a lot about people – and not all of it good, sad to say. But it brought me closer to family. If there’s anything I would want people to change, it would be to take a breath, and be a little nicer – maybe a lot nicer. Everyone is struggling.

What can people do at home to help make the world a better place? Recycle, can your own food, and compost. All things people can do in the country as well as a big city.

Enjoying life on the farm. #merkaki805photography

Book your wedding, special event, or vacation https://www.harleyfarms.com

Special thanks to https://www.kenziekatephoto.com/ https://www.lisamalloryphoto.com http://www.newrevolutionphotography.com/ https://www.truephotography.com/event/charise-patrick?view=gallery#4 and Destiny Cavalleto and #merkaki805photography https://www.facebook.com/meraki805photography/

LXV

I happened to meet Neeta at a wedding of a mutual friend. I was taken aback by her beauty and wit. I had to try her wines. I already read some information about her vineyard being planted. Her vineyard is in the Willow Creek AVA and will be using the “James Berry Vineyard” farming method. She is also using regenerative farming methods—all the more reason to get to the tasting room and encounter the LXV experience. The name of her vineyard is Armaa.n (which means “Dream”.

LXV Tasting

My friend and I made our reservations and proceeded to our reserved table. Our friendly wine connoisseur checked in with us after each tasting to see our thoughts as we enjoyed each wine. I must say…I had my little wine book out taking notes about two of the wine, but I had such a phenomenal experience I put down my notebook. This was enjoying the moment as it was. We were laughing and talking with people at other tables. I just wanted to enjoy the flow of the evening.

Spices paired with wines

The spices with the wines are divine. No one else in United States pairs wines with spices. I needed to talk to Neeta herself to find out more about her winery. The first question I asked of her was about what she would want people to know about her winery. She said that the deconstruction of each wine and pairing of the cheese and spices is a team effort. Everyone plays with spices in the spice lab looking for balance between the wines and the spices.

Sexy wines deserve a sexy place

Neeta wanted it to be clear that she was not the first Indian winery owner but one of the first. Hospitality, storytelling highlight who we are. As soon as one walks in the door, they are our guests, and we show how much we care through our hospitality. The wine, the spices, the company of the other guests at LXV is a testament to the fact. It was an outstanding experience!

The answer to what obstacles she had to overcome was great…she said, “go with your gut.” There were many naysayers when she told people of her vision, but she believed in the dream! She knew it was something that people were going to love.

LXV

Neeta loves education, and for a while before Covid, club members had wine tastings. Once Covid began closing places, the tastings moved to Zoom. They also allow private vineyard tours to members. I asked her how Covid affected her business. She said that it made her think deeper about what is essential, what is valuable, and it made her pivot. It showed her that the foundation of the business was and is strong. She did not have to give up any of her team because the community believed in what she was doing. Covid showed her how solid the relationships are between the employees and the members, how everyone went out of the way to help and made the connections with everyone that much stronger! I also asked her about BLM and how it has changed her business. She says that she was happy to see that it has brought more attention to minorities in business. She wishes the conversations about race were more respectful, and the quality of the discussions was better. I believe we all could do better by being better listeners. One of Neeta’s favorite aspects about owning a winery is the conversations she has with people all over the world about wine and terror. Wine is a language that brings people together no matter what their native tongue is. To learn more about Neeta, her vineyard and winery please visit the website at http://www.lxvwine.com/

Studios on the Park, Paso Robles, CA

Exhibition of art made by local artists

Sarah Ambrose and I corresponded before visiting Studios on the Park. My questions and her answers are as follows…

– What category do you fall under in Sustaniably sip, savor, play, and stay?

– We fall under the Play category. Prior to COVID-19, we would’ve fallen under sip just because we serve wines every weekend. However, we are no longer doing that right now so play it is!

The grand piano

What kinds of activities do you offer?

– We usually host all sorts of activities. We have the Kids Art Smart program that invites students to come in to art classes every morning and learn about art as well as create their own. We also do First Saturday “Art After Dark Paso” evenings where we have a reception for the new exhibition and have music and wine. We also have adult and kids classes that happen throughout the day and week. We also have exhibition discussions, lectures, movie tie-ins, etc. that are tied to our atrium exhibition. However, we are currently not doing any of these due to COVID.

How are you all practicing sustainability?

– Practicing Sustainability: We try as much as we can to not have any waste. We recycle any materials we can and we reuse wine glasses so that we don’t have any cup waste (I hate saying this but this will change due to COVID).

Studio of Thornton and Landon

Is there something the city or county can do to help businesses?

– Honestly I am not sure what the counties can do more other than to just help drive people to come to SLO County and Paso Robles. This town is so unique and many take every precaution they can to maintain sustainability of our town.

Is sustainabilty a big factor for your business?

– As far as getting people in the door, we are focused more on tourism and how we can get people from all over to come in. Again, sustainability changes wouldn’t really bring people in our doors just because we already do what we can (no paper receipts, wine glasses, recycle paper materials used, and so on.) I would say that many of our wineries and restaurants though do a great job showing off their sustainability, which in turn gets people to come to Paso. Tablas Creek Winery is one that specifically comes to mind as they have an absolutely wonderful sustainability program. They are a winery partner of ours and we love when people come by Studios and hear about the way they treat their land and grapes. Halter Ranch being another one of those.

Special bags and books, oh my!

What are some things locals can do?

– I do think that everyone and anyone who has a business in Paso need to support each other and lift each other up in order to maintain our area and keep driving in new people, whether it be sustainability issues or what have you.

If you want to see all the new activities happening at Studios on the Park, https://studiosonthepark.org

Kitchenette of Templeton

Recently, I sat down over coffee with Jenn Volpi of Kitchette and ask her some questions about the resturant, and how everthing is going. I started off by asking her what she would want people to know about Kitchenette that not everyone would know. She told me that they buy their food from sustainable vendors, like Dragonsprings Farm, local grass fed meats, and the farmer’s market. She also said the employees are all like family, and it is a family-oriented place with a fun atmosphere.

Bob Ross sets the relaxed vibe at Kitchenette, thanks to #sacredarmortattooart for the drawing.

The kitchenette has not only an exceptional breakfast, brunch, and lunch menu but also coffee and locally crafted Kombucha and cider. Jenn said one of the hardest things about Covid was how hard the business was hit and laying off staff. She spoke of how incredibly hard it was to locate and obtain items usually easy to find. Jenn said eggs were some of the hardest consumable to locate. She says Covid made her appreciate every aspect of her business that much more. Thankfully, the community rallied around Kitchenette, and we made meals ready to go.

Hip, small town vibe.

Jenn says that diversity has always been important. We have workers of various races and backgrounds. Even though this is a small town, we have a great cross-section of people employed here, and we all get along very well, which makes us like family. Having a family-like atmosphere is essential to me, and it makes life more enjoyable for us and everyone that enters our restaurant. We want people to come in hungry, and when they leave, they are happy! The Kitchenette helps support local farmers, and we are a part of the fabric that makes up this beautiful little community. We welcome everyone to come in for a meal and an opportunity to mingle with the locals if you want to see the latest daily specials https://kitchenettetempleton.com. Check them out and follow them on Instagram.

Specials for the day of the interview.

Dharma Yoga Loft

Dharma Yoga Loft is located in Paso Robles, California. This place has become a strong community of fellow yogis that believe in the power of breathwork. Breathing is one of the systems we can control, and we can help regulate our breathing to meditate, and focus on right here, right now.

Buddha

Not only is there a Yoga studio, but a beautiful outdoor oasis, that includes vacation stays. Jenna (the owner), also offers workshops, teacher instruction, surfing classes, sound therapy through sound baths, and so much more. Next year she wants to offer another 200hr Yoga teacher training, so make sure to look for that on the website https://www.pasoyoga.com

Outdoor alter for the day

I had the opportunity to spend some time with Jenna and ask her some questions about her space and her philosophy. I wondered how often she offered retreats, and she told me about five times a year, mainly in the United States. She explained that she would love to do one soon in Bali. She has one more retreat scheduled for this year. If you are interested in retreats, make sure to check out the website. I asked if there were any new and exciting classes, and she told me that she was looking forward to teaching another 200hr teacher training workshop in 2022. I then asked how Covid affected her business. She said it slowed down at first, and then she took to teaching online, and the community rallied around her and the other teachers to participate in classes. In the beginning, sales were slow, but thanks to a strong yogi community in our town, they are striving!

Picnic dinner on the grounds.

Jenna told me that Covid helped her see the importance of slowing down and how vital it is to practice self-care. It taught her about the appreciation of small things, like being outdoors, and how little moments in life need to be treasured. Those moments with family are so significant to our children and ourselves. She readjusted not only her personal life but also her business model. Jenna says that while most of her teachers are female, some males teach at the studio too, and she believes diversity is essential in business and our personal lives. Her instructors come from various backgrounds, religions, and colors. Yoga doesn’t care about your faith, and Yoga is about “uniting.” Uniting is something we could all use more of today. Instead of focusing on all the ways we are different, we need to appreciate how we are different. We are all human beings wanting a better life. Why not accept each other the way we are, and lift each other up!

Yoga cat

Jenna told me that her yoga studio is heart driven. It’s all about community, and this platform allows everyone to SHINE! We are a no drama studio, we share our love for each other and ourselves.

Sustainability is very important. Sustainability is not just about the environment, but also about so many other aspects of life that are impacted. No one can give from an empty vessel, you have to fill yourself up before you can give. When you change the inside of you, the outside will follow. It’s a journey of self discovery that never ends. We are given this body, and the only way for it to carry us through this life is to take care of it. Read and learn for your mind. Asana, good clean food for your body, water and tea to quench your thirst. Practice setting intentions for your day, say your prayers, meditate. Allow your spirit to shine. Jenna believes the best advice she can give people is to approach life holistically. Be good to yourself, family, and community. Give from a cup that is overflowing in goodness. Plant a garden, and reap what you sow.

Yes Cocktail Co of Paso Robles

A few weeks ago I attended a Mocktail-Cocktail making workshop at Farm Supply in San Luis Obispo. Lauren, the co-owner of Yes Cocktail Co was our speaker/teacher of the workshop. Lynette from Slo Co Farm trail participated in the event too. We paid for the event through Slo Co Farm trail, and the price was worth the experience. Each of us was given several plants, a big pot, soil, tags, lunch from Slo Provisions, and samples of Yes Cocktails mixture to take home. Can you believe it?

Lauren perfecting her set up for the day.

Lauren began cooking several differnt drink preperations, as she talked to all of us about cocktails and mocktails. Her packaging is elegant and straightforward. The ingredients in her cocktail mixture is all natural and made from scratch by her and her husband. They partner withe at least 20 differnt local farms to obtain their herbs and flowers. Lauren says that she was fortunate that making cocktails at home was popular before Covid hit.

Worshop handbook

A couple on their first date were at my table. She was very impressed that her date recommended doing the workshop. She was saying how much fun it was to do something out of the ordinary, so if you are going on a date look up slo co farm trail to see what workshops are available. If you are on your 101 date, you need to check it out too.

Workshop buddies

I asked Lauren how she got started, and she told me that her grandparents owned a liquor store, experimented with making lemonade drinks at her lemonade stand, and even had a happy hour. I also asked her how Covid changed her life and business. She said the time at home gave her some latitude and time to further experiment with making new recipes and sourcing ingredients. She also utilized the time to reestablish stronger connections with her family, friends, and neighbors. This time has made me appreciate how much everyone in our lives is valued and loved.

Lavender, Rosemary, Pineapple plant, lemongrass, cilantro, and mint are pictured here in our big terra cotta pot with tags made from corks.

Lauren says that after the mixers are open for a few weeks, an excellent way to keep the mixer fresh is to make the mixture into ice cubes. Add the ice cubes to your teas and other beverages.

Lauren crafting all of our drinks.

San Luis Obispo Farmers’ Market

The SLO Farmers’ Market started in 1978. It had humble beginnings with about ten vendors that would gather on Saturdays at Young’s Giant Food parking lot on Broad Street.

Today, the SLO Farmers’ Market is held on Thursdays, which is a great way to start the weekend in SLO. Higuera Street is now the home to the Farmers Market. It is blocked off from traffic from 6 PM to 9 PM. The information booth is right in the center of the Farmers’ Market. To the west, you will find vendors that are preparing food. There is a vast array of foods. The line for the Barbecue was long, so I am guessing it must be outstanding! I was wearing a white shirt that day and didn’t want to take the chance of getting sauce all over it. You know, because those things happen, and I didn’t have a Tide pen with me. Who am I kidding? I would have needed to wash my shirt. Just as a reminder, if you are a little messy and like barbecue, don’t wear a white shirt.

Live music was playing just outside Victoria’s Secret in downtown SLO.

There was so much fresh food that was being cooked for families that were coming downtown. There are funnel cakes, teas, and kettle corn. I had to have some of Mama’s Meatballs, and I didn’t get anything on my shirt. The taste of those meatballs is a harmony of flavors. The texture is pleasing, and the taste of the spices dancing on my tongue is blissful. I couldn’t say no to G Bros Kettlecorn either. Walking around observing the people and throwing a couple of pieces of sweet/salty popcorn in my mouth was utterly satisfying.

Slo Farmer’s Market

I met Whitney Chaney downtown, and she is the program director for downtown SLO. I asked her several questions, and she gave me the scoop on all things “Farmers’ Market.” She told me there are 30 to 40 vendors that offer beverages at the Farmers’ Market. Everything from water, soda, iced tea, boba, Thai tea, lemonade, and non-alcoholic cocktails. The food lineup is American, Italian, Mexican, Thai, Global Fusion, fresh produce, and desserts. As we walked in the middle of the street, it almost felt like an old-fashioned street fair. There were not just locals but people from all over the world at our BIG little farmers’ market. She says there are about 7,000 people currently that come each week. Whitney tells me that people are encouraged to bring their bags, and if you are close enough, try an alternative means of transportation. The Farmers’ Market has a free bike valet. All the vendors are discouraged to sell single-use plastic or serve food in single-use containers. Vendors are encouraged to utilized biodigradable (such as bamboo) or other alternative packaging or sell reusable bags. Plus, there are recycling bins throughout the market to collect cans and bottles.

Beautiful day at SLO Farmers’ Market 21

Whitney told me that all downtown businesses are given automatic approval to join our market. Anyone that meets her can see her passion for the downtown events and how the farmers’market impacts the lives of the local farmers. She says that the farmers work hard at educating customers and visitors about how to take sustainability to heart and implement it in their daily lives. She also tells me that there are new vendors and entertainment weekly. She loves creating spaces that people can gather and connect to their community. Her advice to patrons visiting for the first time is to walk the entire market first, choose a few food items, listen to some music, and pick up produce to take home. All your purchases are going to farmers and small businesses within this community.

You are here, in the Plaza.

I asked her about Covid and how it affects the market as well as her personality. Whitney told me how hard it was on the families that depend on selling their produce at the Farmers’ Market. They were not allowed to operate at all because of the restrictions. The downtime allowed Whitney to focus on communication and outreach. “If anything, it heightened the value I put on the event and how important it is to our community and those who visit.” She said that they have been operating at total capacity since June 17, 2021. She says she is happy that so many vendors could come back and share what they sell to the community. More are planning to return as things improve with the Covid situation.

Saturn on the ground, with a 3D feel.

There are a few things that Whitney would like to change, which are more funding and access to programs like EBT and Market Match. She believes the essence of SLO is the community connection and how it enriches the lives of those that come out to visit the Farmers’ Market. We all are connected, and the community is tied to food. We want to get to know the people growing our food and take that home to enjoy. That kind of connection makes a community stronger.

So many young families together.

If you want to learn more about SLO Farmers’ Market go to downtownslo.com there you will find the entertainment for the week, and what vendors will be there with a map!

Thomas Hill Organics

Suppose you want to eat like a local in Paso Robles, the place to be in THO. You will find people having business meetings in the afternoon while they enjoy their lunch with friends and co-workers, as well as winery owners gathering with their friends and family. It’s the place we all continue to visit because the food and atmosphere are so lovely!

When I first moved to the area, it was the first place the locals wanted to share with me. So, I am sharing it with all of you. Debbie Thomas is the owner of Thomas Hill Organics, and she is seemingly ALWAYS there! The menu is seasonal, so it is constantly changing to reflect the flavors of the area. Debbie obtains the freshest fruits and veggies for the plate and the finest cuts of meat. What is even better is the fruits, vegetables, and meats are from local farms! This truly is a farm-to-table experience. Chances are Debbie can even tell you the farm each item came from and who the farmer is. You will probably see the farmer there in the restaurant too. How great is that?

The evening before my interview with Debbie, one of my girlfriends and I had dinner at THO. Both of us had a great meal and included some picpoul paired with our delightful food. We always have a great meal, and the service is just right too. The timing is impeccable. Knowing when to come to the table is almost an art form itself.

Beet salad

I sat down with Debbie, and both of us had a beet salad. I had it the evening before, and it was too good not to have yet again. It was tough to keep myself from eating it as I asked questions.

I asked her what she would like people to know about THO. She humbly told me that THO has a European Alfresco atmosphere, which you can see and feel as soon as you walk inside.

Wine wall
Art wall
Bar area

Then, I asked about Covid…What kind of impact did it have on your business? It was a financial, emotional, and massive hit to our small business. We could only keep a few people and did our best to ensure we were here after the shutdown. Luckily, our town is so supportive, and there were times we would have lines around the block to pick up food. I feel so grateful to our local people and all those people that brought extra people with them to buy our lunches and dinners. We were even making fried chicken. It must have been something people needed at the time. They may have seen it as comfort food, but it brought in the orders. Again, I feel grateful, supported, and so humbled.

I also asked how BLM impacted her establishment, and she said that she has always had a diverse staff. We welcome everyone. No one has or ever will be turned away from our establishment because of the color of their skin. We employ people of diverse backgrounds because we all learn from each other.

Are there other things you want people to know about THO? Debbie told me that the space could be rented for rehearsal dinners, brunches, and after-wedding parties.

Their wine list is mainly from this area. She has personal relationships with the winery owners and was the first to start purchasing Daou’s wines.

Our food is seasonal, so our menu changes with the season. So even if you are a regular, you have a new menu every season.

Perfect little alcove on the patio
The scent and sound of water is always welcome

Introduce Yourself

I live in the beautiful San Luis Obispo area. I love it here and wanted to do something to make a difference in the lives of people that are trying to start operating their businesses more sustainably. I also wanted to give tourists information about where they can find these gems. What the people offer and how they are trying to go sustainable or how they have achieved it.

It’s been almost two years since I started this project that began as my thesis project. I took what I learned from my thesis project and decided to blog about places to sip. Any beverage doesn’t have to be wine or alcoholic. Tell people about sustainable restaurants, food trucks, and other snacks to savor. Let people know where to have fun, and play…which has so many definitions. To me, leisure time and playtime are the same things. Where does one stay that offers a sustainable environment? I will show you some places that need to be on your radar if sustainability is something important to you.