New Mexico’s rich agricultural history and culture are the foundation for today’s farmers, and preserving the state’s Western heritage is an important and essential endeavor. To help educate locals about New Mexico’s storied past, several museums make it a mission to preserve its history.
Located in Las Cruces, the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum opened to the public in 1998, welcoming visitors from across the globe.
“The museum preserves and shares the 4,000-year history of growing food in this region through indoor and outdoor exhibits, educational programs, and special events,” says Craig Massey, communications manager at the museum. It also houses a variety of animals, including seven different breeds of beef cattle, and features art galleries, a greenhouse, theater, barns and more.
“New Mexico’s agricultural history helps define who we are,” Massey says. “All of us, somewhere down our genealogical line, had ancestors who grew their own food. This museum is about people.”
On the eastern side of the state, the Lea County Museum is known as the Biggest Little Museum in the West. Founded in 1969, the museum’s mission is to collect, document, interpret, preserve and display historic, natural and cultural artifacts from Lea County and the surrounding areas.
“The permanent settlement of Lea land is the history of ranching and farming from the late 19th century until the 1920s,” says Jim Harris, of the museum. “In the late 1920s, oil and gas were discovered near Hobbs, and the economy has become more dependent on them; however, Lea is still a land of ranches and farms. Lea remains culturally centered on agricultural life.”
He adds that educating visitors helps them understand just how hard life was in the early days, and how easy and important our agriculture consumerism is today.
“Old horse-drawn plows have been replaced with sophisticated tractors, and the number and quality of products provided by farmers and ranchers have grown dramatically,” Harris says.
In Belen, the Belén Harvey House Museum showcases the impact of the Santa Fe railroad and the Harvey House restaurant that resulted from it. And in Deming, visitors can stop by the Deming Luna Mimbres Museum to see paintings, furniture, period rooms, antique machines and much more that represent the everyday lives of the citizens of Deming and the Mimbres Valley.