Folks can enjoy all sorts of art adventures south of the Gila River, many of them documented in Lili DeBarbieri’s “A Guide to Southern Arizona’s Historic Farms & Ranches” recently published by The History Press. It’s a fascinating mix of farming and ranching with history and culture.
DeBarbieri’s book profiles nearly two dozen “rustic Southwest retreats,” highlighting ties with agriculture, art, wildlife and more. Seems you can enjoy a nature museum at the Tanque Verde Ranch in Tucson, a sculpture path at the Triangle 2 Ranch Bed and Breakfast in Oracle, and exhibits of visual art at Rancho Linda Vista (also in Oracle). None of these hidden treasures had crossed my path before reading DeBarbieri’s book.
Several of the places DeBarbieri profiles have seen stagecoach, train and car traffic. One was once inhabited by Apache Indians, and another was once home to Pima Indians. One is considered the site where Geronimo was born. And another once hosted an intriguing visitor in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor. Seems the Simpson Hotel in Duncan even has ties to the case of the Great Orphan Abduction, which went all the way to the Supreme Court.
Many have welcomed famous guests through the years. DeBarbieri notes that John Wayne was a guest at the Hacienda Corona de Guevavi in Nogales. Guests of the 3C Ranch in Oracle included Mae West and Richard Nixon, and guests of the Kenyon Ranch in Tumacacori included Cary Grant and Ricky Nelson. President John Kennedy, Steve McQueen and Walt Disney all stayed at the Triangle T Historic Ranch in Dragoon.
Even fans of film, modern art and musical theater will find fascinating tidbits in DeBarbieri’s book, which explores the Oracle ranch where Andy Warhol filmed the Western movie spoof “Lonesome Cowboy” in 1968, the Amado farm boasting corn fields featured in the opening scene of the movie “Oklahoma” and the Tucson ranch where movies starring Ronald Reagan, George Clooney and others were filmed.
DeBarbieri also reveals getaways of famous folk like Natalie Wood, Paul Newman and Gene Kelly — and shares details about a ranch near Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s childhood home. She’s even uncovered tales featuring folks from Shirley Temple Black to Johnny Depp, making the book a compelling read for those who follow celebrity adventures. Clearly Southern Arizona trumps the Jersey Shore.
Folks who follow a different sort of wildlife will enjoy reading about all the desert critters spotted around Southern Arizona farms and ranches. Seems guests of the Triangle L. Ranch Bed and Breakfast in Oracle sometimes spot hawks, ravens, rabbits, roadrunners, quail, chipmunks and songbirds by day — plus owls, javelina, bobcats and coyotes after nightfall.
Guests at the McKenzie Inn Bed and Breakfast in Eloy sometimes spy buzzard, burrowing owls, coyotes, bats and rabbits. DeBarbieri’s book also recounts the sighting of a rare leopard frog by a guest at Across the Creek at Aravaipa Farms in Winkelman, and notes that the best Arizona place to view sandhill cranes is just two miles from Sojourner’s Homestead Bed and Breakfast in McNeal. Horseback riding is available at many of the farms and ranches she profiles, and one is set up for “BYOH” riders.
Folks can learn plenty of new skills while enjoying agritourism in Southern Arizona. Across the Creek at Aravaipa Farms in Winkelman offers jam-making classes, Simpson Hotel in Duncan has workshops in canning and drying garden produce, and Amuniyalde los Zopilotes in Patgonia will send you home with new gardening techniques. Just reading DeBarbieri’s book will introduce you to new recipes for blueberry pie, minted melon soup, green chili pie, desert Sonoran hummus and other ranch or farm specialties.
Some farms and ranches offer volunteer opportunities, and many help visitors up their knowledge and appreciation of organic foods. Some have special activities for children, and evening meals that make a perfect setting for family members to talk about each day’s adventures. While some have a more social feel, with plentiful opportunities for guests to meet and mingle, others feature more solitary fare. So ask about such things before you decide which places to explore.
Note: Click here to learn more about “A Guide to Southern Arizona’s Historic Farms & Ranches” by Lili DeBarbieri
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