Chile peppers are harvested at Diaz Farms in Deming, where farmer Eddie Diaz grows produce such as chile, watermelons and onions that are part of the Grown with Tradition logo program.

Chile peppers are harvested at Diaz Farms in Deming, where farmer Eddie Diaz grows produce such as chile, watermelons and onions that are part of the Grown with Tradition logo program.

Not long after Jim Hawman and his late wife, Cleda, bought a small farm near Las Cruces and started growing blackberries, the couple envisioned growing their business. With that, the family bought The Truck Farm in 1996, and the sweet success of that venture led them to purchase a local gift shop a couple of years later, selling fruit-based products including pies, cobblers, jams and jellies. Then, in 1999, the Hawmans acquired the Tia Rita line of chile-based dishes and gourmet spices, and the Desert Farms line of gourmet jellies, as well as marmalades, condiments and honey.

Taking the business a step further, The Truck Farm added Cannon’s Sweet Hots – savory, flame-roasted green chile – to its family of products in 2008. The flourishing company has grown so much that it is now selling more than 60 different products and gift baskets in specialty stores throughout the nation and internationally. On the company website, shoppers can find many kinds of salsas, seasonings and, the most popular product, the award-winning Besito Caliente sauce.

Eddie Diaz after Chili pepper harvest.

Eddie Diaz after Chili pepper harvest.

Marketing Opportunities

The Truck Farm’s success can certainly be attributed to good business sense, well-timed acquisitions and fresh products for processing. But the company also received a considerable boost through its participation in the New Mexico Department of Agriculture’s Taste the Tradition (TTT) and Grown with Tradition (GWT) programs established in 2000. The operation specifically benefited from the TTT program.

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“We were just looking for help to grow our business,” Justin Hawman, Jim’s son, says of how they ended up contacting the New Mexico Department of Agriculture (NMDA). “We started as a farm, then began manufacturing agricultural products using ingredients from the farm. We reached out to the NMDA and found out they were starting this program to promote local businesses and agricultural companies. It opened marketing opportunities to us.”

The Truck Farm in Las Cruces offers a variety of Taste the Tradition-branded local products, such as Cannon’s Sweet Hots.

Truck Farm stand offer a variety of products all produced locally and available in New Mexico gift baskets.

Increasing Awareness

The aim of NMDA’s Taste and Grown logo program is to identify and promote all New Mexico agricultural products including food, fiber, wine, produce, nuts and livestock through the use of one easily recognizable logo. In the last 16 years, the marketing campaign has helped improve and expand markets for the state’s agricultural products by increasing awareness, encouraging consumers to purchase products with the Taste and Grown logos. The logos are designed to emphasize the traits that make New Mexico agricultural products special – and the traditions attached to them.

“All agricultural products that are in production today have a history steeped in family traditions worth emphasizing, talking about and even celebrating,” says Felicia Chacon-Frost, NMDA marketing specialist.

watermelons“I think our strong point is the relationships we have with our members and the willingness to provide any support that we can,” she adds. “We also have a well-rounded staff with expertise in both domestic and international markets, food service, livestock, social media, and much more.”

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In Deming, Diaz Farms grows red and green chile and a variety of other vegetables and fruits, selling its produce at Diaz Farms Produce Stand. The NMDA marketing program, specifically the GWT, has assisted the operation. Ruben Diaz started the farm in 1963, growing cotton and grains. Today, with help from his sons, Sam, Eddie and Carlos, son-in-law, Art, and other family members, the 1,600-acre farm specializes in chile, also growing onions, sweet corn, cantaloupes, watermelons, pinto beans, cucumbers, okra and alfalfa.

“We participated in the program two years ago. It helped to brand the product and show that it comes from here. It has also helped promote the area,” Eddie Diaz says.