2019 Farmer All-Star: La Mesa Organic Farms
Mesa Ruiz of La Mesa Organic Farms primarily grows blue corn and apples, from which he creates apple cider, pupusas, posole, and deliciously rich atole (a hot drink thickened with corn and flavored with just about anything you can imagine.) His booth is easy to spot – he always has a hungry crowd waiting for a hot-off-the-grill blue corn pupusa stuffed with beans and cheese and topped with chile.
Mesa has been farming for 25 years, and has been a vendor at the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market for six years. “I just always loved farming. My brother and I started farming together about 25 years ago on my father’s land, up in Guadalupita. I love the soil and being outside. I find a lot of peace in the land while farming,” said Mesa. His operation is family run. Mesa does most of the work himself, but hires on extra hands in the fall for the apple and corn harvest. For La Mesa Organic Farms, he manages five different locations for a total of about 20 acres in Dixon and the Embudo Valley. He also recently took over management of an apple orchard in Rio Rancho.
Although the drought left no one unscathed, La Mesa Organic Farms managed to fair well this year. “The challenge is having the foresight to really know where to plant, when to plant with drought coming up. I moved all my crops along the Rio Grande, knowing that we would really struggle for water. The apples may be a little smaller this year, but it looks like all the crops are going to produce,” said Mesa.
One of Mesa’s goals in his business is being very cautious about a sustainability threshold. “I’m not headed into major production of my cider or corn. I’m trying to keep it at a level where I’m able to be the one out here taking care of my corn, the trees, my apples.”
Keeping his operation sustainable also means Mesa can be involved with all aspects of the business. “I really enjoy being a farmer. I think some of my proudest moments are simply being at Market and really connecting with people. Having people come up to me and really see what I’m doing just from my products, tasting the food that I’m preparing and saying, ‘This is amazing. This food is something that I really value,’ and thanking me for it.”
As Mesa eloquently put it, “farming is both a business and a lifestyle choice for me. I feel really proud when people ask me what I do, and I get to say that I’m a farmer, because I really believe in the farm.”
Photos and video by Gabriella Marks Photography