Matt’s Trip to New Mexico Chili Farm

Of the many experiences I’ve enjoyed as owner of Bourbon Barrel Foods, there’s none I like better than experiencing the process and passion of other people making things that we use.
I’ve had this experience with several things–bourbon, soy sauce, sorghum, sea salt, sake, ceramics, cherries–and there’s one common denominator with our vendor’s hands.

Las Cruces, NM
Rio Valley is one of our new vendors. They grow chilis and peppers. That includes paprika. They’re a family-owned farm. My relationship with Rio started with BBF’s effort to source as many domestic ingredients as possible. In this case, they’re becoming our supplier for paprika and chili powder. I had been asked to tour this farm a few times but it never worked with my schedule. I regret not taking advantage of the invite sooner.

We’ve been selling Bourbon Smoked Paprika for nearly 10 years now.  And while I had a vague understanding of the process, I had never witnessed and understood it.

As it is with most good things, there is a definite hands-on approach to the harvest and process of the chili peppers at Rio Valley. In the fields, workers pick the peppers by hand. The peppers are transported to the dehydration facility where they are washed and sorted by hand. They are then placed on long wooded trays, stacked on a rail and pushed into a gas-fired, dehydration oven. Once the peppers are dried they are dumped, put through a mill and crushed. Everything happened in a circle and quite the picture of efficiency. Very impressive.

During my tour, there was one dominating factor in the field, in the processing plant, in the warehouse, and in the office—Passion! This dedication and love of work permeated each level of employee. A family member was in direct contact with each worker. It was assuring and impressive! It reminded me of my own company. It’s not an easy thing to do when you’re a company that grows and processes 12 million pounds of peppers each year. It’s nice to know that’s the type of company Bourbon Barrel Foods is in business with.