The Graves family lives on the farm they settled almost 100 years ago. For 35 years they’ve grown and sold green chile in Roswell. Andrew Graves currently runs the farm, along with his family. He and his brothers are the fourth generation to run this family farm.
Every August, people all over New Mexico begin looking forward to the smell of roasting green chiles. The sight of a tumble-roaster with a bushel of green chiles inspires anticipation in almost every New Mexican heart.
For many Roswellites, the country drive southeast of town for Graves Farm chiles has become a tradition. This year it’s looking like a good crop, but it’s going to be about two weeks late. Andrew explained they had to replant due to crop failure. He said we can expect to start stocking up around the third week of August.
Graves Farms doesn’t wholesale their chiles and they don’t sell them anywhere except at their farm. In the off-season, packages of chiles that they’ve fire-roasted and flash frozen are offered.
Andrew said they grow about twenty-five acres of chile each year. Since each acre produces about ten thousand pounds of chiles, the farm produces about a quarter-million pounds of chiles every year along with 40 other crops such as watermelons, cantaloupes, cucumbers, squash, eggplant, and black-eyed peas. Andrew says rotation of the crops is important in order to keep the soil nutritious for the plants. In addition to the chile and other crops, Graves Farms grows grains that they sell to the dairies as cattle feed. All of those extra crops supplement their green chile business.
Selling produce at the Saturday morning Farmers’ Markets allows Graves Farms to interact with the community quite a bit. The Farmers’ Market takes place on the courthouse lawn at fifth and Main Street. It opens at 7:00 A.M. every Saturday beginning in July and running through October. On earlier Saturdays, they have squash and a few other early crops. But as the season progresses they’ll bring in their famous chiles, corn and a variety of other crops.
The corn maze generally opens around mid-August. People come out to see if they can get lost and find themselves again. In October, the maze changes a bit. It becomes the scary maze. Families can find themselves face-to-face with zombies, monsters and legendary horror characters. Along with the scary maze, people can join the zombie paint-ball shoot. The entire family can load up on a specially built trailer and shoot anything that comes out of the corn maze.
Shortly after the school year begins, Graves Farms start scheduling with local schools. They like to give kids a tour of the pumpkin patch. They offer hayrides to the public on Saturdays and Sundays beginning in September. People can take the hayride to the pumpkin patch and pick their own pumpkins.
The farm festival will be in mid-October. That’s the kickoff for the Halloween season. The entertainment is reasonably priced. The corn maze and the hayride are $5.00 each. Pumpkins cost from $4.00 up depending on the size. The corn maze is $12.50 and the Paint-Ball Shoot is $15.00. The farm festival, the corn maze, and the scary maze are coming into their twelfth season. The Zombie Paint-Ball shoot is now four years old.
Agritourism is a relatively new part of their business.
Andrew knows that agriculture will always be big in Chaves County. “The dairies have a high feed demand,” he said. “As long as Leprino is taking milk and dairies are milking cows, the farmers will be growing feed. We’re sitting on two aquifers. That’s unique in the world. There are only a few places in the world that have two aquifers.”
Agriculture is what they’ve been doing all along, and that’s not going to change.
The feed-grain is a solid investment, but Graves Farm is known for their green chile and they do not take that reputation lightly. Roswell knows their green chile is the best in the world.
I’d heard that the sharper the point at the end of the chile the hotter the pepper so I asked Andrew how the heat of a chile is determined. It turns out what I thought was not quite accurate. “The point on the end of a chile does not necessarily mean it’s hot,” he said. Some hot breeds are shorter, and they’ll have sharper points, but it’s no guarantee.
“For the most part heat comes from the variety.” When you buy the seed, the specific genus is what decides how hot it will be, but that’s just the beginning. If you stress a chile plant for water or nutrients it will try to make seeds and will be hotter than if you water it too much. It will have more Scovilles. There’s a wide variance of heat within any breed.”
“Scoville was the name of the man who established the units of heat in peppers. There’s a vein inside a chile, the Scovilles are on that vein. If they’re orange and you can see them, it’s going to be a pretty hot pepper. The pain sensors from eating hot chile release endorphins just like chocolate does.”
For folks who no longer live in the area but can’t forget the taste of Graves Farm green chiles, they ship to all 50 states. You can order your chiles at www.gravesfarm.com.
“We want our community to know that we appreciate them and all their business,” Andrew said. “If it wasn’t for people coming outside of town to us, we couldn’t be here.”
A long-standing tradition in the Roswell area, Graves Farms will likely be feeding many generations to come.
Graves Farms Local store is located at 6265 S. Graves Road, in East Grand Plains. 8:30 to 5:00, Monday through Saturday.
Article originally published in Focus on Roswell 2019: Summer Edition.