Eggs and green chile for breakfast. Green chile enchiladas for lunch. Red chile ribs for dinner. New Mexico chile packs dynamic flavor at any time of day.
At Bueno Foods, a chile processor and New Mexican food producer, it’s all that and more. “My father used to say he was ‘bred on red and weaned on green,’” says Ana Baca, whose father Joe and two of his brothers founded Bueno Foods in 1951. “The chile was his pride and joy. He and his family grew and nurtured it on their small family farm in the South Valley. From the time he was a young boy, he remembered selling it from a wagon in Albuquerque. As his children, it’s our heritage. It’s our heart and soul, our cultural identity.”
Duane Gillis, a fourth-generation chile grower, knows the feeling. His family’s 3,500-acre operation in Hatch has long been a source of pride and hard work.
“We are committed to raising a quality product for our customers,” he says. “That means using a six- year rotation, so we grow 500 acres of chile every year. We also have invested in a drip irrigation system to keep our crop healthy and avoid the effects of drought.”
Quality Comes First
The result for both Gillis Farms and Bueno Foods is a thriving business and a strong partnership. “We were the first processor to become New Mexico Chile Certified,” Baca says. “And our farmers were the first to be certified among all the chile farmers in New Mexico. When customers see the Certified New Mexico label, it’s how they know they are getting 100 percent New Mexico-grown green chile.”
That designation is important to Gillis as well. “We do everything we can to ensure the quality and freshness of our product,” he says. “We pick chile by hand daily and deliver it to the processor the same day. We are in constant contact to ensure that our product meets their standards.”
It’s a valuable partnership economically as well. Food processing is the second-largest manufacturing sector in New Mexico. “The chile industry is made up of family-owned farms and small businesses, which are the engines of a healthy economy,” Baca says.
For Gillis Farms, that translates into an average of 20 tons of chile per acre. For Bueno Foods, it means millions of pounds of certified New Mexico-grown green chile processed each year. For residents of the state, it means a quality product for their tables.
Processors like Bueno Foods support growers and create additional jobs for local residents. “There have been many examples of individuals starting as temporary employees during green chile season, doing well and advancing through the ranks to leadership positions,” Baca says. In addition, chile processors support secondary businesses, all of which create a ripple through the local and state economies.
“Chile is the basis of many of our traditions in this state,” Baca says. “It’s the essence of our food. It’s at the core of our autumn roasting rituals. It has become representative of our state identity. And it’s our economic lifeblood. In one way or another, the chile probably touches every single person in our state. At Bueno Foods, we’re proud to be a part of the New Mexico chile industry and are committed to providing great jobs, helping to grow the New Mexico economy, and pioneering innovative ways to bring the world’s best chile to people’s gathering places and onto their tables.”