FOR MILLENNIA, some of the Southwest’s most mineral-rich geothermal waters have bubbled out of northern New Mexico’s lush Río Ojo Caliente Valley. Known to Tewa-speaking Pueblo people as Posipopi (the Green Springs), the place sacred to many Indigenous peoples was later named Ojo Caliente (Hot Spring) by the Spanish.
These arsenic, lithia, soda, and iron hot springs mark the spot of one of the oldest health resorts in the country. While visitors from around the world have come to know Ojo Caliente’s waters as fonts of healing and restoration, the resort also boasts a lesser-known source of nourishment with its on-site farm and restaurant.
Unlike the upscale spa, Ojo Farm’s 1.5 acres of organic vegetables, fruits, and flowers are not perfectly manicured. They are, however, carefully considered. Water-efficient cover crops and wildflowers attract pollinators and enrich the soil. Space-saving tomato-laden trellises practically burst out of high tunnels. Pepper rows zigzag with the terrain, working with the land instead of against it.
This sustainable and symbiotic approach to farming is indicative of a grander ethos at Ojo Caliente.
“I see an elemental relationship happening here,” says head farmer Conor Gilliland. “This place was built around water, the air or atmosphere is protected through our noise policy, the farmers work the earth, and the food we produce is ‘fired’ at the Artesian.”
The Artesian Restaurant lies just up the road in a historic adobe building that was once the property’s mercantile. The farm’s fresh organic produce is represented in many of the dishes served daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Executive chef Zachary Perron, who heads the food program at both Ojo Caliente and its sister location, Ojo Santa Fe Spa Resort, collaborates with Gilliland to plan seasonal menus and specials at both restaurants based on the bounty of the harvest. “Working here has hammered home some things that I’ve been interested in for a long time as a chef,” says Perron. “What are we giving people to put in their bodies, how are the ingredients produced, and how do we make them sing?”
Recently, some of those ingredients could be found in a velvety and spicy heirloom tomato soup, crunchy poblano fries, and the ever-evolving Ojo Farm Salad, featuring just-harvested field greens, shaved watermelon radishes, sweet salad turnips, toasted piñon, and a cilantro-lime vinaigrette. “You don’t need to do much with this produce to show it off,” says Perron.
“The mineral-rich terroir of the area gives an earthy, sometimes smoky, quality to the food grown here,” adds Ojo Caliente’s marketing director, Sarah Sims. In addition to quality produce, both the Artesian and Ojo Santa Fe’s Blue Heron Restaurant strive to offer dishes that provide comfort akin to the other amenities at Ojo spas. “Part of serving our community means growing and making food that is approachable,” says Sims, mentioning menu favorites like the mahi-mahi tacos and chile-doused blue-corn enchiladas. “We want to nourish the mind, body, and soul.”
Another way Ojo Caliente focuses on community and sustainability is by making sure nothing they grow goes to waste. Locals and guests can purchase produce at the spa’s gift shop. Surplus goes to the commissary, where the resort’s staff of 150 employees take home whatever they want, free of charge. Anything left over is distributed to a local food bank.
“We are the largest employer in the area,” says Sims. “Our mission is to help sustain the community, be stewards for the land, and to protect the springs for generations to come.”