Updated: April 25, 2012
Dixon’s Apple Orchard
The Real Story
Dust rising on the canyon walls, lines of people smiling from ear to ear, the crunch of apples all around, this was Dixon’s. The buzz of the apple shed selling apples faster than they could be bagged, and oh, the cider, these are all memories…memories of Dixon’s Apple Orchard, located by Cochiti Lake, NM in the Jemez Mountains, known as Rancho de la Cañada.
Fred and Faye Dixon started this New Mexico tradition in 1944 when they came to what was a dude ranch owned by James W. Young. Mr. Young owned the Spanish land grant known as “Rancho de la Cañada”. Fred and Faye managed this Ranch and developed the apple orchard for Mr. Young over the following 20 years. In 1964, Mr. Young decided to give this parcel of land (9,000 + acres) as a gift in trust to the University of New Mexico (UNM). In doing this, he wanted the land kept in perpetuity, not sold or changed. Fred and Faye Dixon now leased the land from UNM and continued running the orchard. They grew the business into a flourishing one, seeing growth year by year. From shipping apples to Los Angeles, to not being able to meet the supply and demand in NM. As a result, Dixon’s apples were strictly sold on the ranch by the time Becky Dixon Mullane arrived.
Faye Dixon died in December of 1985, as did Fred’s desire to carry on alone in the orchard. Becky (Fred’s granddaughter) was in her first year of college and decided that she needed to be with her Granddad. Becky was living with her Granddad by March of 1986, at the age of 18. Fred and granddaughter Becky worked side by side. In eight years Becky learned every aspect of the orchard before meeting her husband, Jim Mullane. When they married, Fred put the existing lease that he had with UNM in Becky’s name.
Jim and Becky were married in the apple blossoms on April 24, 1993. It was a beautiful wedding in the “Champagne Orchard”, a vital part of Dixon’s Apple Orchard. This was the start of a whole new family in this generational business. Jim and Becky had three beautiful children: Luke now 16, Cody 14, and Natalie 12. The three children were such a part of the orchard, this was their life and future.
Once again, the business continued to grow and flourish. Jim and Becky were approached by the State Land Office (SLO) and UNM in 2006. They announced to Jim and Becky in their living room that the land, being Rancho de la Cañada, was now being traded to the SLO from UNM. This hurt Fred, Becky and Jim very much; it violated Mr. Young’s wishes. There was nothing anyone could do, the swap was taking place. Jim and Becky still desired to carry on the apple business that was such an icon in New Mexico. A lease was formed within the State Land Office for Jim and Becky. It was a 75 year Business Lease, which gave Luke, Cody, and Natalie the hope of carrying on the Dixon tradition in New Mexico. They immediately began to plant additional apple trees and install a more efficient irrigation system The business continued to grow by bushels and pecks, including hayride, chuck wagon, and wedding events. Life was going well.
The Los Conchas Fire struck on June 26, 2011. The fire engulfed Dixon’s Apple Orchard and surrounding areas. Jim, Becky, Luke, Cody, and Natalie decided to strive ahead, working countless hours in the hopes of surviving. Larger creek beds were made, barriers were put up, irrigation put back in, and on and on went the list. The dream was to rise above the ashes left by this tragedy. With the monsoon season, flooding became more of a fear. The creek rose most every afternoon during July, of course the question being, “Where are the kids?” August came with many more “mini floods” that the creek banks could handle, that is until August 21 and 22. On those two dates, the unimaginable happened, the flood of all floods. Our family watched from the hill sides of the orchard as our livelihood was being destroyed. Our son Cody, the quietest of our three children, said “We can’t do this anymore.” With the flooding, our emotional tie was taken away. It was after this, we decided that our time in the canyon was over. Countless times we think of Granddad and Grandmother and are so thankful that they didn’t have to see this devastation take place to what was built over the years.
Our family has poured a lot into the canyon and into the state enjoying every minute of it. Now we are in a turn of events, which is a change in our lives, not by choice, but by what life has handed us. We are in the midst of trying to assign our lease to someone else. We thought this was best, since there is a provision in our long term business lease to transfer it. This particular party is interested in keeping the orchard going. Also, this would enable our family to move on and start a new life, hopefully running another apple orchard. We are trying to work this out with the State Land Office and have run into problems with them. They have refused to transfer our lease as described above and have suggested that tax payer money would be subsidizing our move. This is untrue and not our intention. In all that we have done to try and close this matter, it has been totally funded by our family. In turn, by prolonging this resolution Commissioner Powell is the one needlessly using tax payer money. Our desire is to move on and let another party, who meets the qualifications of our lease and wants to try to keep the orchard going, have the opportunity to do this. This has been our intention. We ask you to call or e-mail Commissioner Ray Powell and urge him to transfer the lease as we have requested. We ask you to do this for the future of our family and for the future of the apple trees. Thank you for supporting us as friends and apple customers past, present, and future.
Commissioner Ray Powell:
Jim and Becky Mullane