One of the favorite places that my wife and I like to visit just across the Texas border from El Paso is Stahmann’s Farms in southern New Mexico. The farm is located along one of the best day drives in the El Paso regon, the Don Juan de Onate Trail otherwise known as New Mexico Route 28:
The Onate Trail is named after the Spanish conquistador Don Juan de Onate that observant On-Walkabout readers may remember was responsible for the slaughter of hundreds of Native-Americans at the Acomo Pueblo in central New Mexico that is still greatly remember by the Acoma to this day. Anyway despite the controversy around the person the trail is named after the Onate Trail is a pleasant drive through the farm land that surrounds the slow moving waters of the Rio Grande River that have provided irrigation for crops for the people that have lived along its banks for centuries:
The waters of the Rio Grande create a giant green serpant of vegetation that runs through this otherwise harshly dry desert enviroment. These lush farm fields are dramatically backdropped by the rugged peaks of the Organ Mountains:
However, when the road becomes swallowed by huge columns of trees it becomes clear that at least one farm has taken the irrigation capabilities of the Rio Grande to a whole other level. These columns of trees are pecan trees that make up the 3,200 acre Stahmann Farms that claims to be the largest family owned pecan farm in the world:
Stahmann Farms has its own Stahmann’s Country Store located in the middle of its farm that provides visitors information about the farm, samples of its products, and of course pecans for sale:
Miles of Pecan Trees line Historical Highway 28. In the midst of which is the Stahmann’s Country Store. In the summer their branches spread out over the road in an arbor of green. In the fall their branches bend with the rich weight of nuts yet to be harvested and in the spring they are decorated with a filigree of green. In the winter they rest against the sky like soldiers in formation. The Pecan Trees at Stahmann Farms are always beautiful regardless of the season. However, over 78 years ago when Mr. W.J. Stahmann and his son Deane Stahmann purchased this stretch of countryside in the Mesilla Valley thirty miles north of El Paso, the area was little more than a barren wasteland of shrub, sand dunes with innumerous hidden potential.
A buggy-maker by trade, W.J. Stahmann came to the Mesilla Valley from Wisconsin, on a barge traveling down the Mississippi, keeping bees along the way. He found himself settling first in El Paso where W.J. Stahmann raised cotton and tomatoes which led to the erecting of a canning plant after which W.J. Stahmann opened four cotton gins in the Mesilla Valley. In 1926, W.J. purchased the first 2,900 acres of what was to become Stahmann Farms in Southern New Mexico. He and his son Deane cleared the land with teams of mules and planted acres of cotton. The Stahmanns experimented with different types of cotton and Deane developed a number of new varieties that are still being grown around the world. Deane also set up research farms in Jamaica and Mexico in order to experiment with growing cotton year round and used Chinese geese to weed his cotton fields in New Mexico.
Seventy years later no one knows why Deane Stahmann decided to pull out his cotton plants and plant the first pecan trees in the valley. Some say it was his wife’s idea. Others say it was the economy or the development of synthetic fabrics. Whatever the reason, he planted over 4,000 acres of pecan trees in the early 1930’s on two separate plots of land, the 2,900 acre Santo Tomas Farm and the 1,100 Snow Farm. Soon the Stahmanns became the largest pecan producing family in the United States. Years later, when Deane Jr. planted 2,000 acres of trees in Australia, the Stahmanns became the Largest Pecan Producers in the World!
Pecans are the only mass market nut native to the Americas. It has been said that George Washington carried pecans in his pocket during the Revolutionary War. The nut’s scientific designation Carya Illinoensis and original Algonquin Indian name “paccan” also reflect the pecan’s American origins. Sweet, fragrant and wonderful in gourmet pecan candy, fine baked goods or for just plain eating, Stahmann’s Pecans quickly became an American Success story.
A number of Hollywood Celebrities visited Stahmann Farms during the 40’s and 50’s and a pictorial of the farm was featured in Life Magazine. Stahmann Farms employed hundreds of workers and the farm itself was likened to a small town with houses for the employees, an infirmary and a commissary and general store in what is now the location of Stahmann’s Country Store.
The principal varieties of pecans grown on Stahmann Farms are the Western Schley and the Bradley, two varieties that yield very high quality soft-shelled pecans. The average age of a bearing tree is around fifty years. The orchard has approximately 180,000 trees with a basic spacing of thirty by thirty feet or 48 trees per acre. Today, Stahmanns produces eight to ten million pounds of pecans per year.
Driving through the orchard, you will notice that weeds and grass grow freely among the trees. Although the fields do not look as nice as they did when the weeds were cut every three weeks, this practice yields good results. Stahmann Farms virtually stopped using chemical insecticides in 1987. Today, green and black aphids are controlled with thousands of ladybugs, lacewing flies and other natural predators that live and reproduce in those ugly weeds.
Pecan harvesting is a highly mechanized operation completed in three stages. First, the fields are cleared of weeds, grass, branches and other debris. Second, sophisticated machines called shakers hold and shake specific branches of the tree, causing virtually all the nuts to fall from the tree, as well as many dry leaves and branches. During the third stage of the operation, sweepers form rows of pecans between the trees and finally a harvester picks up the pecans from the ground. Light material such as leaves and sticks are blown back onto the field by the harvester while pecans and rocks are dumped into a cart.
Today, customers can purchase Gourmet Pecan Gifts and Gift Baskets at the Country Store as well as a specialty shop in Mesilla, NM right off of the famous “Old Mesilla” Town Square. Both Stores carry Pecan Gourmet Candies, Confections, Pecan Clusters, Pecan Barks and Pecan Pie.
Stahmanns Pecans’ Mail Order Department Ships Worldwide. During the 4th Quarter (October thru December) the Gourmet Candy Plant manufactures copious amounts of Gourmet Candies and Confections that are to be shipped all across the United States. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas, hundreds of thousands of packages leave to their respective destinations and make Christmases special all across the globe. Our Corporate Division handles business to business giving and large, multiple destination orders. Give us a call today for immediate assistance with your Corporate Order!
Stahmanns is a member of The New Mexico Specialty Foods Association: trade association of New Mexico specialty food producers and related industry associates.
Inside the Stahmann’s Country Store they have quite a large selection of various pecan products for sale:
Every cake, pie, chocolate candy, etc. that you can think of that could have a pecan in it, is for sale inside the country store:
My wife and I bought a few of the pecan products for ourselves as well as a couple of really nice pecan gift sets for some friends of ours who really ended up enjoying the present we got them. Before shopping for a specific product there are samples of the various pecans for sale. My wife and I ate a lot of pecans before we settled on the products we decided to buy. After finishing our shopping we then went over to the little cafe they have as well and purchased some pecan ice cream. The pecan ice cream ended up being quite good, but next time I think we will settle for just one scoop of ice cream because the two scoop cones we each got was just enormous. All in all we enjoy visiting the pecan farm every few months to stock up on pecans and buy gift sets for our friends. We haven’t had anyone yet not be greatly appreciative of receiving a pecan gift set from Stahmann’s. I think it is just a good way to provide a non-generic gift that brings a unique part of the El Paso region to the friend you are giving the present to. When I tell people that the gift set came from the world’s largest family run pecan farm just outside of El Paso they can’t believe that such large farm exists in the harsh desert that surrounds El Paso, but it does thanks to the Rio Grande. So if visiting the El Paso and Las Cruces areas I highly recommend taking a drive down New Mexico Route 28 and checking Stahmann Farms, just don’t order a two scoop ice cream cone like I did.