Whitt’s End Ranch- The Story

BY: CINDY RAY

Is a life path deliberate; or just a product of aimless wandering? 

One might wonder the path of Lisa Whitt, the owner and creator of Whitt’s End Rancho in Baja, Mexico. 

I went for a little tour of Lisa’s ranch and what she has accomplished over the past decade in East Cape. I found that only a part of the story lies with the wonderful products she makes. The even more riveting story is how she got to where she is now. It is an inspiration of fortitude and shattered dreams that have led her to where she is today.

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Lisa was a traveler and a wandering soul during her late teens and 20s.  She was originally from Riverside (not exactly ranch-farm area). She then moved to Huntington Beach then Hollywood (lived with a rock star) from 1978 to 1983.

Then the wandering soul traveled to Europe in 1983 for 3 months, which turned into 4 years! She found work at the youth hostels. Part of that time living in Amsterdam; the rest she toured all over Europe. 

She came back to the states in December of 1986. Lisa then returned to Huntington Beach meeting her husband, Travis Whitt, in February of 2000. They moved to Vista, CA. She had been working as a paralegal for an auto group at the time. In 2000 Travis rode in the Baja 2000 on the championship team with his Honda XR650. That being said; he knew a little bit about Baja, Mexico. 

Lisa and Travis had a 50-acre ranch around San Diego at that time but were planning their retirement. They were looking to buy in Baja. In 2006 they rented a car and drove down to the East Cape and bought a lot in Castillo de Arena planning to build a home. The community was too congested for Travis so they bought 10 acres not far from there. This location is where the Whitt’s End Rancho sits today. It lies about 6 miles north of Crossroads (Vida Soul); and 8 miles south of Cabo Pulmo. 

Travis and Lisa had a small home built and they decided to raise goats. It took about 6 months to acquire some goats and Lisa began teaching herself to be a goat rancher.

It was not easy; the terrain is brutal on the East Cape. Cacti bushes with thorns; trees with thorns; crawling bugs and slithering serpents (cubelibres). The climate is hot and dry and water is brought in from wells in water trucks. Many pilas are required to supply the water needed. The vegetation, animals, and insects all clamor for any drop of water.  Sufficient water stores needed to be provided for. The couple was not rich, however, they were not in debt. This was big, considering the U.S. was amid a huge recession. 

In 2010 Lisa started selling her signature goat cheeses at the Farmer’s Market in San Jose. She also frequented the Pedregal Farmer’s Market about that time as well. Keep in mind that the trek to San Jose del Cabo from the ranch is one and a half hours on a good day. Pedregal is another good half an hour on top of that. Not exactly an easy day for either market. Around 2012 Lisa and others started a market in Castillo de Arena, then one in Boca de Salado. Both are seasonal areas relying on “snowbirds” for commerce. In 2016 Lisa moved to selling her products (there were more now) to the popular Zacatitos farmer’s market which is also seasonal. The business was struggling so Travis frequently went stateside to work to help financially support the ranch.

Fast forward to March 2017. Travis, while working, had been staying with his sister Kim in Vista, CA. Lisa was keeping things together down at the ranch in the East Cape. She was basically on her own to ranch and care for their herd, which had grown at this point. 

All of the goats required daily milking. Then in an instant, the unimaginable happened. Travis and his sister were murdered. Lisa lived “off the grid” in the East Cape, so a longtime friend, Jeff Quaid, rode all the way up from San Jose del Cabo to give her the horrifying news. Can you imagine the shock of it? First the numbing, stunning feeling, then the grieving and emptiness that would follow. Finally, the stark realization that you are on your own and you must carry on.

Lisa did carry on. With the help of her family and the local community, she did just that. Her ranch practices and therefore, her products, changed and evolved better than ever.

Instead of keeping the goats corralled and feeding them alfalfa, she let them free range. They are meant to be grazers and browsers and instinctively know what they should eat.

She has continued to expand the product line to include raw goat’s milk, yogurt organic chicken broths and unpasteurized and aged cheeses.  Some of the trees that she has planted replenish moisture and produce passion fruit from which she makes curd. The crops she grows nourish, feed and are a source of healing. Nothing goes to waste. She cooks the chickens for the broth, the meat is eaten and the bones are boiled with vinegar (it softens them) to feed the dogs. Her organic discards are composted or utilized for feed and she uses natural fertilizer.  Lisa focuses on producing “clean” real food. She produces less and less of her “signature” cheeses which are pasteurized. By definition then, sterilized, as in not a living food.

During our interview, she was culturing a large pot of goat’s milk for feta cheese. I watched her add the cultured coagulants and gently stir the vat periodically with an experienced hand. She explained that with a learned and watchful eye, she knows when to separate the curds from the whey to make the cheese. At the same time, she was preparing lunch for Nora, her mom and her ranch hand, Iain.  

Nora is very knowledgeable about nutrition and a great mentor. They educated me on the intricacies of our body’s digestive system and the bacteria and enzymes that are necessary to keep our systems “clean”.  Along her journey, Lisa has changed her focus from making money and is now on a more meaningful path. Lisa’s passions are not only to bring real food to her consumers but also to share and informing them on what is “good” clean food as well. Another passion is focusing on natural and regenerative farming and ranching techniques. Everything is naturally grown, nurtured, and harvested. The byproducts are clean and the footprint is positive.

Since the products are so fresh; they are only available within a 100-mile area and vary seasonally. In some of the many products produced, organic chicken broth, sauerkraut, Kim Chi, organic honey, cultured mayonnaise sweet hot mustard goat cheesecake, marshmallows, cajeta (caramel) and many more.

Lisa’s products are available at Zacatitos Farmer’s Market and at her ranch in the East Cape. The ranch road is off of the coast road with a toboggan as the marker. It is evenly situated between Vinorama and Los Frailes. It is best to contact her for availability. 

Lisa’s email is whittsendrancho@gmail.com and Whitt’s End Rancho is on Facebook. She will deliver for a specified minimum order amount as well.

As I was leaving the ranch it struck me how little I know and how much I had learned about what goes into making all of her artisan cheeses and edibles. 

The Whitt’s End Rancho is truly a holistic place; reminiscent of the old ranches in California when I was growing up. The animals, the garden, the shade trees with the rocking chair on the porch overlooking the sea in the distance. The amazing cheeses and artisan products. I would highly recommend visiting, or at the very least, looking for her products. I plan to go back with money in hand very soon.