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In the Desert, An Oasis

The town of New Cuyama sits on Highway 166 between Santa Maria and Bakersfield, nestled in Santa Barbara County’s high desert in the Cuyama Valley, and neighboring small farms, ranches, wineries and national landmarks, including the Carrizo Plain National Monument, Los Padres National Forest, and Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge. The remote town lends itself to a quiet, off-the-grid experience that feels worlds away from the laid back yet active California that most people idealize. Instead there are farmland sunsets, scenic rolling hills and some of the best stargazing in all of California.

 

Here, a bit unexpectedly, is where you’ll find the Cuyama Buckhorn resort, originally a simple roadside motel built in the 1950s, and now a stylish, mid-century farmhouse retreat that includes a farm-to-table restaurant and bar, craft coffee shop, market of local products and very intentional communal spaces — the majority of which are outdoors, to take in the star-filled night skies and wilderness of the Cuyama Valley. There is also a glistening heated pool to splash in under the warm California sun, and jacuzzi to warm up in on cool desert nights.

From left to right: Chef Daniel Horn, who prioritizes seasonal ingredients from local Cuyama farms to inspire his menu; The Buckhorn’s signature red truck welcomes arriving guests; Each room has its own patio looking over the central courtyard.

Olive trees line the path to the communal fire pit, where guests make s'mores in the evenings.

More than 60 years since originally opening, Cuyama Buckhorn remains a historic establishment and a local gem after Ferial Sadeghian and Jeff Vance, business partners and architects from Los Angeles-based design-build firm iDGroup, purchased the property in March of 2018. By revitalizing the property and highlighting the history of Cuyama Buckhorn and the Cuyama Valley, Ferial and Jeff have established the resort as a creative hub for guests, locals and adventurous wanderers, set in sustainability.

 

All landscaping is drought tolerant and desert friendly, requiring low water usage. The grass is turf. Local farm partners in the area were consulted to determine plants and trees that would do best in the desert climate and require the least amount of water. The edible landscaping of herbs and garden boxes with fresh produce on property provides for the restaurant. For food not grown onsite, sourcing local ingredients is a priority to support the valley’s economy and limit the transportation of food, resulting in lesser fossil fuels burned.

From left to right: Go hungry for breakfast at The Buck Stop; Cuyama is flanked by the Caliente Mountains (pictured) on the north and the Sierra Madre Mountains on the south; The Cuyama Buckhorn’s signature mustard yellow reflects the area’s super bloom wildflowers seen in photos on the bedroom walls.

Architectural details from the past iterations of the motel have been reused, including old oil pipes utilized for custom built outdoor furniture, reclaimed wood for headboards and side tables, vintage furniture and décor elements repurposed throughout the property, and old water troughs and other pieces of old machinery turned into fountains and art pieces. Decomposed granite, which is permeable, going back into the land, has been applied throughout the resort. And guestrooms feature sustainably produced Further bath products, made from converting waste grease (vegetable oil) from fine restaurants into glycerin.

From left to right: Local ingredients turned into elegant menu items; A peaceful moment at the pool; The Buck Stop restaurant welcomes diners for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Cuyama Buckhorn, an updated resort with hints of yesteryear, is an escape from the city and a picture-perfect place to unwind. And then stay, sip and support the community of Cuyama, this beautifully remote slice of heaven. From the glamping in huts to locally made mead from Cuyama Beverage Company, there are many ways to support local resilience and have a picture-perfect get-a-way at the

same time. At the heart of it all is Blue Sky Center, an area nonprofit that builds models for resilient, thriving, and inclusive rural economies in the Cuyama Valley. As a place-based organization, their creative team prioritizes projects and collaborations that celebrate the abundance of Cuyama. Blue Sky’s work focuses on rural resilience, developing initiatives that address persistent inequities in rural development while championing the opportunities for sustained, deliberate economic empowerment in partnership with Cuyama residents and entrepreneurs.

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