Tuesday, March 21, 2023
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South Valley Couple Turns Abandoned Vineyard Into Family Farm


Chris and Yana Whitson are more or less new to the farming biz. But their homegrown goat farm is already making an impression on the local food scene. Bomvida Farms is located in Bosque, N.M., an unincorporated farming community down the I-25 corridor just south of Belen. The Whitsons sold their house in Albuquerque in 2013 and traveled around the continent with their three young sons until COVID hit, curtailing the family's wandering ways. It was then they made the decision to return to New Mexico and start a farm on an abandoned winery south of Albuquerque.

"We didn't even start doing farmers market until late summer last year, 'cause there was nothing here. Just old grapes," says Chris from his earthy new home. "No one had touched this place for 10, 12 years easy."

So what drew the couple to the old vineyard? "It was on the market and not very expensive," admits Chris. "It had irrigation system and electricity, and that was our only requirement." The Whitsons were living in Mexico and returned home to look at what was on the market along the Rio Grande Valley. After examining some places that "were in pretty bad shape," the Whitsons found the disused vineyard on Bosque's Winery Road. "We made a big mistake thinking the trellises from the old grapes would make it easy to do fencing. And it actually makes it harder. We're actually getting ready to wipe as many of them out as we can."

Over they last couple years, they've added pigs, chickens, a cow and plenty of goats. In addition to selling the goats' milk, Chris and Yana also make goat cheese and an increasingly popular line of goat milk soaps, with the assistance of their children. "We started with these soaps," says Yana. "Our little dinosaur soaps." The hand-poured soaps, which are also available at the Museum of Natural History and Science gift shop, were based on drawings by the couple's 8-year-old son. Yana, who is half-Navajo, even designed a soap that looks like a Navajo rug.

"We're gluttons for punishment. We have so many different," says Chris. "We make soap from the goat's milk. We do baking, gluten-free. Cause and the kids are allergic to wheat. There's no wheat in here. This is an all-gluten-free facility. We grow crops. We sell the milk. And we have a membership program where people treat us like their pantries. We have families that come from as far as Uptown once a week and they pick up butter and cheese and yogurt and soap. And we have lettuce still growing in the winter, so salad mixes, spinach." The Bomvida membership program, based on a flat monthly fee, allows the farmers to operate "like a private chef," supplying members with milk, meat, cheese and other farm goods.

"The reason we did this, building a commercial kitchen on the farm, was because I'd seen this for years—before even the pandemic—the holes in our food system," says Chris. "When you go into a grocery store you never know whether they're going to have the thing you went in to go get. We've had people tell us that they can't find lettuce at Walmart. But I have lettuce right here. We've had lettuce since October. I've never run out."

Chris estimates he works "a hundred hours a week. It's constant. It's every day. You gotta milk the animals every day. We've just got the one cow now. The goats are all pregnant, so none of them are getting milked right now. That will probably change in another two or three weeks." At which point the Bomvida herd will double or triple in size. "We started with six or seven goats. So, now we're up to 19. Unless it's their first kidding, they usually have two or three." says Chris, who contributes little to the natural birthing process. "Sixty percent of the time, we just walk outside and there are baby goats. We don't hear anything, we don't see anything. We come out and it's light and there are little tiny things wobbling around."

If you feel like visiting the Whitsons and their many goats, Chris promises, "We're here every day." Customers can also reach them online at bomvida.com and soapbygoats.com. Although fresh vegetables are in short supply this time of year, there's plenty of milk, soap and baked goods to go around. And the Whitsons say that, "Once spring gets here, we'll do five markets a week: two in Socorro, one in Las Lunas, one in Bosque Farms, and the other one's in Belen."


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