JUST WEST AND NORTH of Española, U.S. 84 heads north through country that inspired the likes of both Ansel Adams and Georgia O’Keeffe. Small farms and ranches are tucked along this route, which passes through the charming rural village of Abiquiú, past stunning mesas and rock cliffs near Ghost Ranch, and up into the ponderosas and high pastures of the Carson National Forest.
Rodriguez S&J Farm: El Guique, a tiny settlement north of Española, is one of my top destinations in harvest season, a spot where you can see eastward across the Río Grande and far beyond, to the Sangre de Cristos. This property once belonged to the late Orlando Casados; the three acres are today run by the Rodriguez clan. They perpetuate many of the crops historical to the area, like pinto beans and corn for chicos (horno-dried corn kernels) and posole. Raul Rodriguez Junior, the “J” in S&J, says, with his big grin, “The gate is always open.”
This season, he expects to have Candy Corn sweet corn, tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, okra, and El Guique landrace heritage chile in green, red, and dried. The yellow-corn chicos are made in the traditional way, with the ears first horno-dried overnight, then laid out on rooftops to completely dry in the warm sun, before being removeded from the ears.
EFT Farm: Eloy and Frances Trujillo farm this family land near where Ansel Adams shot his famous Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, in 1941. They’re specialists in dried traditional herbs for tea and lots of other dried local crops, like pinto beans, Mexican oregano, chicos, and chiles (with seeds that have been in the family and raised on this land for a century). In good fruit years, they also offer apples, peaches, and cherries.
Eloy has an adobe horno oven large enough to roast 450 dozen ears of corn at a time. He’ll be firing it up for an overnight 10-hour demo of corn roasting in early September. Folks are invited to come and camp out if they wish (facilities include a restroom and shower). It’s also fine to come just in the evening, when he fires up the oven with oak and/or juniper logs, burns the wood down to coals, and later loads the horno—or in the morning, when the oven is unsealed and the steaming corn is ready to eat. Call for date and details.
KJ Farms: Ken and Judy Baltz’s hormone and antibiotic-free eggs are so popular that Ken has just added more laying hens to his flock of 550. The Baltzes have rabbits and rabbit meat, too. Visitors are welcome anytime.
Las Parras de Abiquiú Guesthouse and Vineyard: On this 55-acre farm that grows vegetables and berries, Stan and Arin Brader also raise nine varieties of wine grapes for nearby Black Mesa Winery, and two more grape varieties for eating out of the hand. They have beehives, too.
Surrounded by the cliffs and mesas made famous in Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings, two lovely rooms, each appropriate for a couple, blend rustic elegance and luxury. Bedside treats include the farm’s own organic raisins and fresh fruit in season. The walk down to the nearby Río Chama, with its majestic cottonwoods towering overhead, is a must. Reservations are essential for lodging. Open to the public for the Abiquiú Studio Tour over the long Columbus Day weekend; the event features artisans and food. To visit at any other time, call ahead.
Purple Adobe Lavender Farm: Surrounded by whispering cottonwoods, Elizabeth and Roger Ingram’s three-and-a-half acres of lavender fields are open for U-pick or just for a stroll. The aromatic plants seem to love the high, dry climate here. Every farm shop should be as quaint as their Lavender Apothecary, which carries the Ingrams’ full line of bath and body products, culinary lavender and herb blends, lavender-laced snacks like chocolate and caramel corn, and seasonal fresh and dried fruits.
Bode's General Store: A must-stop for its timeless rural mercantile, and a good place for a tamale or green chile cheeseburger, or to pick up some area wine or Monk’s Ale, an enterprise of the nearby Monastery of Christ in the Desert.
Monastery of Christ in the Desert: The gift shop carries lavender crafts and food items like honey (but not their superb ale). Simple guest rooms are available by reservation for singles or couples of a spiritual mindset.
Ganados del Valle Farm: This nonprofit farm (the name means “Shepherds of the Valley”) is dedicated to protecting the ancestral lands and waters of northern New Mexico’s Hispano and Native American cultures in an environmentally sustainable way. It will be conserved as farmland in perpetuity. The sheer Brazos Cliffs appear to shelter the property’s 200 acres. The farm raises everything from radishes and herbs to sheep, specifically Navajo-Churro sheep, good for wool and meat.
Tierra Wools: Above Tierra Amarilla, as you head toward Chama, you’ll encounter Tierra Wools, a three-decade-old business dedicated to preserving sheep and sheep ranching as part of village life and economics. In an old mercantile building on the main street of Los Ojos, Tierra Wools sells stunning hand-dyed and natural yarns and traditional Río Grande style rugs and other weavings, all crafted by village women. The wool comes from sheep pastured in the high mountain meadows surrounding the town. The flocks consist of both Rambouillet and the threatened Navajo-Churro breeds. You can also buy some of New Mexico’s finest organic lamb here, from Shepherd’s Lamb, the business of locals Antonio and Molly Manzanares (profiled in our April 2012 issue, bit.ly/LoveofLamb). Tierra Wools also offers classes in spinning, weaving, and hand-dyeing wools. (Note: Tierra Wools has relocated to Chama since this article was originally published.)
Tierra Wools Guest House: If you’d like to spend the night in this quaint agricultural village, known too for its distinctive blend of Victorian and traditional adobe architectures, choose from two suites in a single casita: the Río Grande or the Main Casita (two bedrooms). Both have simple Southwestern décor. (Note: Tierra Wools has relocated to Chama since this article was originally published.)
From here, you can pick up U.S. 64 from Tierra Amarilla and head toward Taos.