For some people, the entrepreneurial spirit strikes when they see a need and decide to provide.
By Ellen Miller-Goins
Others have a passion they are bursting to share. For Elizabeth and Eric vom Dorp, it may have been a little of both. The two share a lifelong love of adventure and a can-do spirit that began when they fell in love 50-plus years ago.
Eric was headed to South America in 1968 when he stopped to visit a friend at the commune in Lama, NM. He stayed two years before he traveled to Europe where he met Elizabeth. In 1971, he returned to New Mexico, this time with his wife, and the duo rented a small cabin on property owned by Elmira Mackie who, with husband Ted, had settled in the bucolic San Cristobal valley in the 1920s.
Enraptured by their surroundings, they bought part of the property from Elmira, then founded Questa Honey, a product many locals and visitors still miss, and hauled Christmas trees to California to sell. They raised two children in the valley before embarking on different career paths.
Referring to the honey business, which at its peak produced 180,000 to 200,000 pounds of honey annually from hives all over Northern New Mexico and parts of Southern Colorado, Eric says, “It’s a lot of work and angst. People steal the hives, then there’s wildfires, bears, trucks break down… everything that can happen. I was foolish enough to hold on, but it didn’t work out, so I let it go.”
The couple moved to Hawaii for several years before returning to San Cristobal for the next phase of their lives. They purchased the rest of the Mackie’s homestead, home to overnight cabin rentals, a blacksmith’s forge, trading post and the former Post Office.
That they would share the land that had so captured their imagination was a given. The goji berries were inspired by Elizabeth’s fondness for the tangy berries. A purported superfood, goji berries can be eaten raw, cooked or dried for use in herbal teas. In 2008, the vom Dorps began growing the berries on five acres using sustainable farming practices like drip irrigation and organic methodology and continue to sell them today
The rest of the property is home to a two-acre pumpkin patch, a petting zoo with sheep, goats and alpacas, a working organic farm with guinea hens, turkeys and chickens (farm fresh eggs for guests), apple orchard, raspberries, flower gardens, creeks, ponds, aspen and cottonwood trees, plus a 1,600-square-foot barn — a popular venue for weddings and other events.
The property is both a retreat for those seeking to unplug and an adventure for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms program that pairs volunteers with organic farmers who need help. WWOOFers stay in a bunkhouse near the rental cabins, all of which evoke the literary and artistic heritage of the Mackie property and the nearby D.H. Lawrence Ranch.
“We found watercolors by D.H. Lawrence in our attic, and letters to the publishers by Frieda Lawrence,” the vom Dorps note on their website. Additionally, “Aldous Huxley lived and wrote in one of our cabins and he built the outhouse that still stands in back.”
Guest cabins invite creative get-aways with names like Huxley, Georgia O’Keeffe, Writer’s Cabin, Poet’s View, Artist’s Retreat, Dorothy Brett, D.H. Lawrence and Frieda Lawrence. The Pond Casita, which was partially dug into the ground, once housed chickens. All the cabins are powered by solar energy from on-site panels and are cleaned with earth-friendly products. Guests who love the glamping experience can also rent one of two tipis on site.
San Cristobal’s Post Office was moved to another, more convenient location and the old trading post now serves as a “farm-to-table” cafe and gathering space for guests. Other guest amenities include cedar Ofuros (Japanese-style soaking hot tubs), wood-fired and infrared saunas, hammocks, farm-fresh eggs and produce. Add-ons include gourmet breakfasts and dinners. Guests will find incredible birding and star gazing on site. The vom Dorps and crew can also offer advice on where to find the best fishing, hiking, horse trail rides, shopping and sightseeing around the Enchanted Circle. As the vom Dorps note on their website, “We envisioned that this magic land would be a sanctuary best shared with others.”