History Of The Soto Farms Hatch New Mexico
Mr. and Mrs. Soto, hatch chile farmers, came to the US from Mexico in 1980 and started working for a local farmer, (Flores Farms) in Hatch New Mexico for some time learning about the different varieties and growing techniques for the Hatch chile. Mr. Soto worked for many of the farmers including the cotton farmers learning the trade, operating heavy equipment, and doing a variety of different tasks with his brother working year round.
Mrs. Soto was a stay at home mom taking care of all the household needs and also teaching the children from a early age the craft of ristra assembly, with all the members of the family, aunts and uncles included, making ristras for the Flores Farms which they wholesaled the in Albuquerque, NM.
Then in 1998 Mr. Soto leased 5 acres of farm land and begun his own farming venture wholesaling chile and ristras in Albuquerque, NM. It started as a family business and the family and kids would help with different tasks on the farm including picking chile at harvest time.
In 2004 the Sotos opened their chile business and store in Hatch NM and the business began to grow every year. During chile season they would hire 10 to 20 people to help with the chile at harvest time. A couple of years later they bought their own 5 acres of farm land.
Back then the Hatch chile business was not what it is today and most of the chile and chile ristras went to Albuquerque, Taos, Espanola and different northern markets sometimes spending the night and setting up small stands at various locations. It was a struggle in the early days as they developed their own clients for their product. Sometimes the Sotos would come back with a half a load of unsold chile in there small Mazda truck which often went bad after a few days because they couldn’t sell the chile.
When they made their chile ristras the stems were sewed together to form the ristra however when it got windy they would start falling apart. They learned that a better way to assemble the ristras was to tie them together with rubber bands which improve the look of the ristras and prevented them from falling apart. There method was to take 8 chiles the same size and tie them together with rubber bands. Then they would take 2 bunches and tie them together in a loop and tie them to the main sting to construct the ristra.
They old method was to sew the stems together which made the ristras shinny and fragile. If you shook them they would fall apart. The Soto method would make the chiles nice and thick. This way of constructing the ristras would hide the stems and made the ristras look very nice and attractive.
The New Mexico tradition for most people was to buy the red chile and make ristras to let the chile dry as a decoration and then remove the chiles needed to make their favorite red chile dishes when dry. In the early days this was the preferred method of storing red chile.
Once the wholesale customers realized the high quality of the ristras the orders started coming in for full truckloads of ristras to the northern NM markets. Year after year the orders began to multiply.