WWOOFing in Montezuma Canyon

Organic fruit and wine grape farming on the canyon country of the Colorado Plateau

First of all for those of you who do not know, WWOOF stands for Willing Workers on Organic Farms. 150 Acres of land in amazing red rock canyons in the juniper and pinion forest and canyonlands of the high desert on the Colorado Plateau. The year round creek bisects the property with a grove of cottonwoods. Almost 20 Anasazi sites are scattered around the property, with cliff ruins, petroglyphs and pictographs decorating the canyon walls. 21 acres of grape vines, hundreds of fruit and nut trees, and a prolific garden make up the main work to be done on the property. Having such low humidity we don’t have a lot of the major pest problems that lead vineyards to use  organic pesticides, making them less sustainable. Instead we can deal with the few problems without resorting to using organic pesticides by using cover crops that promote pest predators, and doing a lot of hand weeding. Stay of length is up to you, ranging from a few weeks, to all summer. Working months are between March and October, the beginning and end of the frost free days. There is a cabin on the property built by the wwoofers using alot of reclaimed construction materials which sleeps 8. We also have two guest bedrooms in the main house, although if you prefer more privacy there is a trailer available on the property with solar panels if you are looking for a bit more solitude. The WWOOF farmers are expected to learn how to prune and take care of grape vines or fruit and nut trees. The plants always appreciate the extra attention.

I am a 27 year old graduate of UC Santa Cruz, who decided to turn our “ranch” into a viable organic farm and vineyard. We are completely on solar power, and we are installing a solar well so that our house water will be off the grid as well. If you are interested in the Anasazi, our canyon is a treasure trove of old ruins and remnants that you can see and discover up close.  We would love to have more people come out and experience this amazing farm in this amazing area. After graduating from college I took over farming of the Montezuma Canyon Ranch full time in march of 2009. I decided to move expand the focus of the farm from apples, peaches, pears, and cherries into a wine grape vineyard.We have 21 acres of wine grapes planted (Chenin Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir). We also have 4 acres of mostly mature fruit and nut trees.

For prospective WWOOFers we have satellite internet, satellite tv, and phone service sometimes, but we are completely off the grid. We rely on solar for our power, pump our own water, compost, and haul our own trash/recycling. The project list for next summer includes building 6 more acres of grape trellising, topping and suckering the fruit orchard, building a new larger garden, training grape vines, and planting a new orchard. There should be lots of projects going on at once, so their should be a pretty good variety of jobs to do. There is always plenty of food so Wwoofers can raid the pantry, and there are three great meals a day. I can accommodate special diets. The work requirement is 30 hours a week, and there is a definite feel of accomplishment at the end of the day. We usually do something as a group on the weekends, but sometimes you want to get away and relax on your own. On weekends there is hiking, backpacking, climbing, mountain biking, and rafting (plenty of extra gear and equipment) or lounging around the ranch reading from the thousand book wwoofer library and book exchange. The wwoofers have canned hundreds of quarts of fruits and vegetables to make the harvest last year round. There is lots of time for cooking during the day, like handmade pasta and bread from scratch. As for getting here without a car there is a new cheap shuttle from SLC or Green River to Monticello which runs once a day. You can take the train or greyhound to both SLC or Green River, then catch the shuttle the rest of the way. Rideshare on craigslist.com or ksl.com work if you get lucky. Hope you come out this season.


Reviews and Blogs about MCR from around the web

Wwoof Comments:

8/11/2010 11:01:47 AM by Anonymous
Montezuma Canyon Ranch was such an awesome first wwoofing experience! 
Excellent accommodations, first in the Ranch house and then the last couple of days in a large and comfortable trailer. Beautiful place, delicious group dinners, really great and easy going people, from the ranch man Danny to the ranch hands and other wwoofers. 
The work consisted of planting vines, assisting Josey in framing the solar cabin, digging up weeds, cutting down and pulling out 9 foot trees, stripping the bark from the trees and cleaning the ranch house/fridge. Not easy work, but very fulfilling knowing I had accomplished something at the end of the day. 
Definitely a beautiful place with amazing people I hope to see again. 

8/13/2010 2:27:34 PM by Anonymous
My Fiance and I had a great time working at M.C.R. There is no shortage of work to do at this new/growing Ranch and the days are full. The accommodations are vary from luxury to rustic depending on how many are on the ranch.(WWOOFer cabin is being built now! It will be awesome) Danny is awesome to work for and he is a really great host on the weekends too. Be prepared to work hard and have a good time too. 

12/1/2010 5:04:49 PM by hadriankozi
Amazing first experience farming. There is nothing I could complain about except that I had to leave… I wish I could have stayed. 

4/6/2011 8:31:53 PM by Anonymous
MCR is the best! I was here for 6wks in the fall–it was my first wwoofing experience and I couldn’t have asked for a better one. Danny is the greatest host, and gives you an awesome time working hard AND playing hard! Some of the work I did: weeding, hoeing, building an awesome cabin for future wwoofers, and a day of canning fruit. Also got a glimpse into the process of winemaking. 
The canyon and the landscape are stunning; the people were great; the work was satisfying; I never thought I would say this, but I miss Utah. Definitely go to MCR if you have the chance! 

9/12/2011 1:23:50 AM by klichtmannsperger
My boyfriend and I stayed at the farm for a week and it was really fun! We met a lot of great people and learnd a lot of things in “house building” :) , because we helped to build a wooffer cabin. The landscape where the farm is located is just amazing!! All the indian ruins and the canyons… We were 7 wooffers and we always had something to lough about so it was a lot of fun! We really hope that we can come back sometimes…Thank’s for the great time! 

10/9/2011 12:13:12 PM by Alexandra91
Montezuma, a paradise on earth! How to describe these three months I spent there? It’s simple, three months of laughter, of complicity, friendship, meeting, party, walks on the canyons, evenings around a campfire, swimming in lakes and rivers, canyoning ! One feels immediately at home either and we feel welcomed at the first second! Danny is just understanding, very kind and very funny! The work is tiring but always in good mood, so it is great! Life in Montezuma, reminded me of an endless weekend full of happiness, laughter and work! Danny is a great boss! The only drawback, but not least, after living there, you’ll would like to stay here forever! Go to Montezuma and you’ll be very happy ! 

1/18/2012 3:52:54 PM by celiab87
Thank you danny!! We spend a crazy and awesome time in your farm! you are a great teacher about the wine and your canyon!!! we liked a lot making wine and finding archeological stones!! you built a wonderful place where it’s magical to work and to live!! see you soon!! the french crazy girls! 

4/19/2012 10:41:45 PM by PeterHollingshead
Danny is the most accommodating, fair, funny, and all around great guy you’ll ever work with. Work is solid and fair, the area is beautiful, and it’s just a lot of fun. 

5/29/2012 4:11:02 PM by Hanneslerin
Danny is very well organized, he knows what he`s doing and he has a plan, I think that`s very impressive for a 25 year old! If you like structured work and a very clean place to stay you will like it. 
The Montezuma Canyon is really beautieful as is the ranch. 
I would recommend the farm to younger WWOOFers- that means under 25- I think you can have a lot of fun with Danny and all the other really nice WOOFers when you are around the same age and have the same interests. Danny takes the WWOOFers out for hiking and other events on the weekends. 
We wish him the best for the future, a lot of nice WWOOFers and we are sure he will be successful!! 

12/22/2012 5:00:27 PM by katewright
Amazing. Just amazing. MCR is an absolutely wonderful place to spend a few weeks, a couple months, or an entire season – I’d recommend staying as long as possible. It’s a beautiful vineyard and orchard set in one of the most incredible spots I’ve ever visited, and work is fairly balanced with exploring all that the area has to offer. The work itself feels more like fun, particularly for a plant nerd like me, and throughout my two months (way too short!) at MCR there were always plenty of great people to work alongside. This place attracts the best of the best, WWOOFer-wise. Visit MCR and learn a few things about grapevines, pick bazillions of cherries, run with the dogs, scale the canyon walls, relax at the Blue Goose, search for the secret pig shed, play Tapatio pranks, test Danny’s boundless knowledge of all wine-related topics, throw cave parties, and just have a rollicking good time.


“We absolutely hit the jackpot with our farm. It is run by a 23 year old graduate from UC Santa Cruz named Danny who was so welcoming and warm and easy going. We moved into his gorgeous Santa Fe style home, each were given our own deluxe queen sized air mattress (heaven after a week of tiny thin backpacking air mattresses) and made to feel completely at home. Our job for the week was to plant 5600 grape vines to help him jump start the organic winery he is developing on the property. Not easy work but it was incredibly rewarding to see field after field that we had planted. In the evenings we played Scrabble, had Salsa dance lessons (led by the two kids in our group who were expert Salsa dancers!), s’mores bonfires, made amazing meals, introduced the kids to “The Lost Boys” (how did I not remember the ridiculous prevalence of mullets in that movie?!!?), and went exploring down canyon to see the many ruins and petroglphys. Like the backpacking section, it was absolutely perfect! So fun and challenging and relaxing and awesome.” 
“MCR was a great first WWOOFing experience! It will be hard for any other farm to come close to how bitchen MCR is. Weekday life on the ranch involved 6-7 hours of work broken up by an hour lunch. Work involved: planting grape vines, weeding fields for days (by hand), cutting down trees, fixing irrigation systems, shoveling dirt, cleaning house and framing 3 walls of a cabin. After a hard days work we typically had a beer or two, shot the shit, showered up and had a late family style dinner of massive proportions. 
During our two week stay we enjoyed working for and in the company of Danny, the Rancher. We were also lucky to live and work with WWOOFers Wonseok from S. Korea and Alex & Ronan from France. For colorful commentary and ass kickin’ there was Josey and full time ranch resident Chuck. 
We had a great time at the MCR, the good times could fill pages…good times with good people, what more could we ask for?” 
“The whole vineyard/ranch has a magical feeling about it, yes we work hard while we are at work but with a great bunch of people, the opportunity to learn new manual labour skills and being situated in a deep canyon in Utah it was an experience I’ll never forget.”
“I stopped the car and stared in amazement at what looked an awful lot like a vineyard right in the middle of the southern Utah wilderness.”
“During the day we dug holes, a foot deep, to plant new shrubs. I smelled wild sage, which was a lovely companion as I put my hands in the hard dirt…To me wwoofing is like a different type of the typical internship. You get to learn about a new industry and gain new skills, but you gain much more because you live where you work and therefore experience a completely new living environment as well. You also build close relationships and learn about a variety of things by talking to new people.”
“He learned about starting vineyards through reading an endless supply of how-to start-up books. This is truly remarkable and inspiring, and as it is a perfect illustration of how possible urban sustainability actually is. An upbringing in the field, as we learn, is not as important as drive, initiative, and environmental literacy.”
“There’s much to say about getting to know where your food comes from. Here at the ranch, food means orchards with apples, pears, and peaches and rows upon rows of grapevines, all about three-years old, that soon will be yielding some fantastic wine. Living in the canyon has also meant living “off the grid” with all our energy and heat coming from solar panels (one that I helped install!) and wood (that I scavenged for, sawed, and chopped!). It also means conserving water (since everything is pumped) and doing laundry only on sunny days. It has felt good to live in this way, to live with certain restrictions. It makes you conscious of the resources you use. It makes feeling warm and getting clean all the more appreciated.

The Community

Montezuma Canyon is a pretty much north-south 2000 foot gash in the Colorado Plateau, near the Colorado Border in San Juan County, Southeast Utah. 1000 years ago, the 50 miles of the canyon were dotted with settlement of ancient Puebloans, who certainly numbered in the thousands. Today, it is home to about 8 families, all of them tied together by the remoteness of the geography, and years of mutual reliance and friendship. When the nearest gas station or grocery store is 15 miles away, and where all of us live literally off ALL grids — no phone lines, electricity, sewers, water, or even cellular normal service, we have become a real, if tiny, community. Our nearest neighbors, the DeHarts, are truly amazing people, as are the Houghtons and the Tracy family, “the Texans”, Hoot and Lila,  and of course the colorful brothers Bill and Bob Stone. We are truly blessed to call them friends. Come visit us, and you will meet them. Pictures coming soon…..


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Off Roading

Shortcut to Moab

Taking an off-road route to get to Moab in the Land Rover Discovery.

Later on the Shortcut to Moab

Taking an off-road route to get to Moab in the Land Rover Discovery. We encounter an easy stream to cross.

Ceder Mesa Off Roading

Looking for Anasazi Ruins while playing lound rock music.

Montezuma Canyon Ranch website by danny.
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