AS A FOURTH-GENERATION LAS CRUCEN, Chris Schaefer carries on his family’s love for Mesilla Valley abundance. The owner of Dry Point Distillers is inspired by regional agriculture when crafting seasonal cocktails—and his flavored small-batch gins and vodkas—for the Dry Point tasting room. “When we started, we wanted to use local products, like the peaches and pears that everyone here has in their yards,” he says. “We continue to use as many as possible.”
Schaefer sources fruits and vegetables from local farm-to-market store FARMesilla, melons and chile from growers in Hatch, and fresh herbs and flowers from nearby Calhoun Flower Farms. Mesilla hot spot Don Felix Café, meanwhile, pairs Dry Point’s cocktails with sophisticated street tacos. This mutual support among growers, artisans, and restaurateurs has cultivated what Schaefer calls an “explosion of small food businesses” that bring the bounty of the valley to residents and visitors alike.
Get a primer on southern New Mexico’s 4,000-year-old agricultural history at the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum, featuring corrals filled with livestock, demonstration gardens, and interactive exhibits. Those roots are also evident each Wednesday and Saturday at the downtown Farmers and Crafts Market, a 51-year-old tradition that now spans seven blocks of Main Street. Goods locally made or grown—from honey to bread, seasonal produce to nuts, coffee to candles, jewelry to furniture—can be found here year-round.
Regional produce and blooms find their way into multicourse “meal experiences” at Willow + Blaine, a garden-to-table bistro in the Mesquite Historic District, and in the authentic borderlands cuisine at Nellie’s Café and La Nueva Casita. Amble the Walk of Flame Green Chile Trail for other fiery options.
Family-owned Amaro Winery, one of several in the region honoring New Mexico’s nearly 500-year-old winemaking heritage, crafts award-winning reds and whites that can be enjoyed on the patio with live music on Fridays and salsa dancing on Saturdays.
“So many look at southern New Mexico as being barren and hot,” says Schaefer. “We are happy to highlight a lush valley with abundant flora and fauna and a long growing season, where great food and beverages, arts, and culture are always available.”
Pick Your Pleasure
Shop for holiday gifts at HomeGrown, a food and gift extravaganza with 80-plus New Mexico vendors, November 19–20.
Ring in 2023 at the Chile Drop, a New Year’s Eve tradition on Plaza de Las Cruces, December 31.
Experience ranching traditions at Cowboy Days, at the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum in March.
Raise a glass at the New Mexico Wine Festival on Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends.
Praise art at the Franciscan Festival of Fine Arts, a more intimate place to interact with local artists Labor Day weekend.