I never publicly shared the following story, so here it goes. As I’ve mentioned before, my family had fallen on tough times, and I grew up in extreme poverty with no electricity, little food, & no running water other than the creek running through our land. Times were tough; my stepfather was bedridden and unable to work, and even though my mother worked 60-80 hour weeks, we were still rolling pennies for gas money. I wasn’t sure of what options we had to get out of our current situation.
Well, one day during my FFA (Future Farmers of America) class in 8th grade, we had a guest speaker come in and talk about a new livestock program they were promoting. The program would allow my family to take out a loan to purchase seven cows and one bull we could use to breed and sell livestock. This program seemed to be heaven-sent! This opportunity was what I could do to help my family out of poverty. However, there were a few items on the checklist that I had to do to be able to buy the cattle. You had to have land. Check. We had 160 acres that my stepfather had purchased before he became disabled. We had to have a fence around that 160 acres, and we needed to have a barn for feeding. We didn’t have anything, so that would have to be built. So, I grabbed the paperwork and waited impatiently as the bus bumped along the dirt roads that took me home after school.
I burst through the door of our trailer home and told my stepdad everything. I told him I would build the barn and the fence and get up every morning at 5:30 to feed our cows. It seemed like a bulletproof plan to me, and I’m not sure how I convinced both of my parents, but they probably agreed out of desperation. I don’t think I sold anything harder than I sold the dream of becoming a rancher at 13 years old!
Once everything got approved, I had to start right away. I began with the fence first. There were a few border spaces around the property, but most had to be fixed or entirely built. So I started there. Picking up posts, a post driver, barbed wire, and a barbed wire stretcher. Oh, and gloves. It would be best if you had gloves. After 160 acres of stretched barbed wire fence and scratches up and down my arms, I was tired, but the dream continued. The barn would come next. My stepfather barked orders, and I put my head down and hammered this and screwed that. I only had one goal, and that was to be able to provide for my family. As hard as this work was, it was so fulfilling. I had found a purpose. I had value.
Well, the fence and barn were done now; I just needed some hay and some cattle. I took the truck (yes, I had been driving since 11 on those dirt roads), and I worked with a local farmer to load up 25-30 bales of hay for the cattle coming. I never itched as much as I did that day as the hay got all down my shirt and into my chest. I remember jumping into the creek to find any solution to the nonstop scratching I was doing.
I remember the first time I saw Big Boy the bull. He and I became fast friends. He knew he could take me as I wrangled his horns around, but he loved me, and I loved him. I would call cattle at 5:30 am to feed him, and I would always lower our heads and butt them up against one another. I knew we were going to build something special. I would fatten him and his ladies up, and he would have the land to live as he pleased. But I never got to see that dream come true.
I never became a rancher, and I never was able to help lift my family out of poverty. Desperate times became more desperate, and one day I came home with Big Boy and the cows gone. My parents had sold them before they could profit from all the hard work I had put in. I don’t blame my parents. They did what they thought would be best, but it was still hard for me.
Within the last few years, I’ve become a partner at Fresh Chile & Rio Grande Winery, and I’ve been able to return to my roots in agriculture. I’ve worked with chile farmers in the fields of Hatch, New Mexico, and we grow grapes in the Mesilla Valley that give us wine. From stacking chile sacks in trailers in July & crushing grapes in August, I’ve experienced our hot climate during monsoon season.
I’m straightforward in my approach to workwear, and I’ve been testing Carhartt, Dickies, and others in the field. While this industry is full of legends that have come before us, there’s something to be said about extreme farming in the southwest. That’s why I believe in Organ Mountain Workwear and why farmers & workers in our region need our products.
From the farm to the ranch, American farmers need a voice in the desert. That’s why we are releasing workwear as our next evolution as an apparel brand. Our shirts have flooded up and down the Rio Grande with cotton grown in New Mexico & West Texas. We are focused on building a workwear division that will give our farmers, workers, & the hard-working class of people of the southwest a brand they can wear proudly. We’re working the land so that we can give back to others. That’s the history of New Mexico. That’s the story. That’s why our mission is: Made To Work.
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See ya’ll around the valley,
P.S. While we are only releasing two items with our Workwear release, we will be releasing more items to build out our collection this year. From headwear, jackets & shirts, we got you covered. Thank you for being so supportive.