Enchanted Valley Farm Grows Year Round

Enchanted Valley Farm uses

Growing Dome to provide for its

fresh, homemade spreads!

Find this homestead on the Archuleta County map where you least expect to find anything close to an organic export food processing facility, and you find Archuleta County’s finest organic export food processing facility.

Of course, when you find such a facility in such a place, you expect to find extraordinary people.  And in Aspen Springs, just east of Broken Off and far from any water main, you find them:  Barbara and Daniele, partners and creators of Enchanted Valley Farm.

Barbara Danielle inside the Growing Dome

The name is apt.  Not ‘Efficient’ Valley Farm or ‘Practicable’ Valley Farm. Only enchantment leads people to start businesses like this, in locations like this.

Remarkably, neither Barbara nor Daniele had a background in farming or food production before moving to Pagosa. Daniele is an architect from Geneva, who had practiced for decades in Switzerland, California and Mexico. Barbara practiced as a dental hygienist in Houston for 30 years.

Then they visited Pagosa: “Then we came up here and fell in love with Pagosa, and sunshine and cool nights, and said ‘Let’s go home and sell everything and come back, and bring the camper.’” Daniele recalled.  “But when we bought our first property we moved into the growing dome,” Barbara added.

That first property was in Chromo, where Barbara and Daniele built their first house. Well, they nearly built it: “We had a property in Chromo, and our house was three-quarter’s built, and it burned down, and we had no insurance.” Soon thereafter, the women looked at a growing dome for sale in Aspen Springs, and purchased the dome and home, which today houses their commercial kitchen.

Remarkable willpower keeps Enchanted Valley in business producing up to 1300 containers of organic pestos, spreads and live-sprouted hummus each week — 26 varieties of organic, live, raw food — and distributing their unique products from Las Cruces to Jackson Hole.

Willpower and that combination of seriousness of purpose and capacity for delight I find in every successful business person in Pagosa, and rarely find in government-funded or public/private enterprises, whose will power seems limited to asking those in power in Denver and Washington, “Will you give us grants, please?”

Recently, sales have slowed, whether due to the recession or an increasingly regimented organic foods market controlled by distributors such as Rainbow, Shamrock and Cisco.  Barbara lamented the demanding production rhythm Enchanted Valley had reached the previous summer: “We can’t keep that up, that pace. Nobody wants to work that hard, and I don’t want to push people that hard all the time. We had fantastic people working for us, and you begin to feel like the master with the whip. ‘You have four cases to finish before you can go.’”  Continued…

Daniele is matter-of-fact about creating the future for their firm:  “You have to discover the level at which you can be happy. And then to stay there, we have to do other things, like growing organic tomatoes and herbs in our growing domes for the local markets.”

It’s easy to see Barbara and Daniele devoting the patient, hard work to creating a local market for the organic produce from their domes. And then see that market cornered by the Town’s geothermal greenhouse project, with its land give-away and free geothermal utilities, state and federal grants and, inevitably, taxpayer supported labor from the already stretched Town Parks department. If it can corner the local rhubarb market, the Town may get its finger into every pie literally.

But one can’t see any grant-funded hobby houses inspiring the plain hard work of these two remarkable women. After detailing the process of creating their hand-crafted spreads during the fifty-hour work week, Daniele described with a sense of leisure their two “days off” delivering their product regionally and working in the gardens and domes planting, transplanting, harvesting and washing.

With a sweet evenhandedness, Barbara discussed the romance of growing food: “People don’t realize that you have to care for your animals, and milk your cows every day, and plant lettuce every three weeks if you want continuing quality. Yet, at the same time you have to be perpetually hopeful when you are holding that small seed and see that beautiful harvest because otherwise it is so much work. You plant them, and transplant them, and transplant them, and then harvest them and schlep them here and schlep them there.” It was nearly 8pm, and Barbara said this with a warm end-of-day smile, weary but playful.

I asked the partners if regular water service would help. Barbara was quick to respond: “It would be like a dream come true, but we just try to make it through every month and pay our electric bill and our phone bill,” while Daniele added, “But this really is our dream come true. It is, it is, it is.”

And Daniele is confident that she can create a partnership with the water delivery man: “He was coming and delivering his truck of water.  And I said ‘We will agree to an exchange and I will give you carrots for water.  His response was ‘Oh, but you will have to give me a lot of carrots.’ I said, ‘No, I will be happy with the water and you will be happy with the carrots and you will not calculate anymore!’”

Before departing, I asked the partners what kept them working seventy-hour weeks to just meet the bills. “It is because we are good friends,” Daniel said thoughtfully with a smile, “and we believe in commitments, and believe that we are meant in this life to do something special together.”

“And,” Barbara added with a smile, “next week we will have baby goats.”

Glenn Walsh | 6/9/10

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