Rio Grande Refuge Home2023-08-19T18:21:03+00:00


This is a place of rejuvenation.

Come here to renew your spirit.

Learn about sustainable living, farming, building.

Experience the fulfillment of working for your shelter and dinner.

Stay in a luxurious stand-up tent tucked into the apple orchard.  “Glamping” reservations coming soon on Hipcamp!

Cool off with an end of the day swim in the Rio Grande.

Write your book, meditate, retreat from the hustle, get married.

Our Mission

Our Mission is to live and teach a gentle, sustainable way of living with our Earth, her wild ones, and our human community. To that end we have been welcomed by a six-acre farm and orchard on the Rio Grande in the little town of Velarde, New Mexico. This lovely spot has been abandoned by humans for thirty years, leaving it to the deer, an occasional stray cow, raccoons, ravens, heron and sandhill cranes, not to mention the worms, mosquitos and lady bugs. This provides a unique opportunity to share the tasks of recovering a hundred-year-old adobe farmhouse, radically pruning the apple trees to open them to the light, and regenerating the farm land so we can grow the food and herbs and flowers, bees and chickens, and housing that sustain us. Our hard work is rewarded each evening with a short walk through the cottonwood bosque to pray, to swim or just sit to watch the sun go down.


Jesse Hood

Who We Are

The Rio Grande Refuge is part of a land grant from the King of Spain way before the pilgrims landed in New England. It currently holds a community of two humans, a run down adobe farm house, close to one hundred overgrown apple trees, and a jungle of privet bush under towering cottonwood trees lining a peaceful whispering stretch of the Rio Grande.

It is calling for more humans to live and work to bring it forward to a sustainable farm and to build energy efficient and earth friendly facilities so we can share it with you. This little farm is eager for children’s laughter in the trees, small groups of people sitting around tables eating home-grown pumpkin soup, and teams of workers learning sustainable farming practices. We envision shady paths through the jungle leading to quiet benches on the river and little hideouts under apple trees who are likely older than we are. And the more of you who show up in awe of its beauty, the closer we get to that vision.

Meet Jeff Hood

I’m known as a poet, carpenter, soulful facilitator, and wild man. Fortunate, I’m the human the land has chosen as midwife to its rebirth.

This adventure is the culmination of a lifetime. Back in 1972, a buddy and I bought a five-acre farm in rural Maine for $12,000. Our partnership quickly melted down amidst differing visions and non-existent communication skills. Fortunately, fifty years later, our friendship has survived and I’ve kept the dream of sustainable living alive.

Over the years I’ve designed and built multiple homes using all manner of alternative technologies. I’ve sat in encounter groups learning how to listen and feel and express it with some of the visionaries of our age.

I’ve watched the sunrise from 17,000 feet on more than one big mountain and paddled a canoe 400 miles down a river to the Arctic Ocean.

I’ve been a life-long skier, more at home flying down the mountain than sitting here trying to remember passwords.

I’ve been a corporate trainer, sent a few thousand people flying off cliffs on a zip line, published a book of poetry, burned wood, grown tomatoes, and not the least, raised a couple of great kids.

Now, just over seventy winters, I’ve found a place inviting all that and more, and in return I think my soul has finally found its song under a cottonwood tree on the bank of the Rio Grande.

What We Do

Continuing projects include remodeling and restoring the 100-year-old adobe farmhouse into a beautiful welcoming home.  The last 60 years of neglected apple trees are being pruned, trimmed, and grafted with other varietals.  Pumpkins, tomatoes, corn, beans, and more are growing in the half acre garden with space for so much more!  Irrigation flows from the Rio through the acequia to feed our garden.  We congregate regularly to relax under the cottonwood trees and cool off in the Rio, we cook over a campfire and share meals with friends of the small community.  We go down to the river to pray.

turn brush into mulch

build a shop


We have seasonal work schedules to keep you active and happy.

Winter Daily Work Schedule

  • Get up early
  • Get warm
  • Get nourished
  • Prune trees
  • Chop and chip wood
  • Burn brush into char
  • Plan for summer
  • Laugh a lot
  • Go to the river to pray

Summer Daily Work Schedule

  • Get up even earlier
  • Greet a bee, a goat, a great blue heron
  • Enjoy a bowl of fresh fruit and granola
  • Attend a morning work meeting
  • Work hard
  • Swim
  • Work some more
  • Swim some more

How to Participate

Call us, come visit, split wood-carry water, learn to prune apple trees, work in the irrigation ditches, pull weeds from around carrots, write grants, swing a hammer, run a wood chipper, manage the checkbook, learn about strawbale construction, swim in the river, play croquet, laugh, sing, pray. Contribute to the purchase of equipment and building materials. Send us your enthusiasm. Bring a group to soak in the earthy peace of the place.


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