Farmers Market was established in 1962 by Ralph Basila, a first generation Lebanese immigrant to the US. Prior to this, he ran Basila Produce, a produce wholesaling company in Albuquerque. Until now, including me, there are 4 generations who have worked there, and my 6 year old son will hopefully continue the tradition into the future. The original slogan of Farmers Market was “Where a Fast Nickel Beats a Slow Dime.” Not many people understand what that means anymore, as times have changed and things got more expensive. Albuquerque back then was a very different place.
At its peak, Farmers Market had 10 different stores in Albuquerque, as well as supplying many restaurants and vendors around New Mexico. We made more fruit baskets than anyone else in New Mexico. We were a very large company. As years went by, we all got older, people retired, and the world passed us by somewhat. Our number of stores shrank over years and years from 10 to 1, and finally to none. Operating a yearlong small grocery store became impossible for many of the same reasons that large corporations have made other types of stores impossible. Even though we did some things like New Mexico chile and gift baskets well, we were unable to cover the costs of running a store during the winter months when seasonal fruit availability is scarce, because it has to come up from South America, South Africa, or Oceania.
Our history roasting chile
We started roasting chile at Farmers Market in 1977, and were the first to do it in Albuquerque. During the first year, my father burnt himself and plenty of chile, but it was a tradition that caught on, and we never looked back.
Now that it is 2024, we have been roasting for 47 years. That’s a long pedigree of chile roasting that is impossible to match in Albuquerque. We started roasting chile earliest, and have almost certainly sold more than anyone else in Albuquerque. During our peak, we would often sell more than 400 sacks of chile at our busiest location on Eubank and Snowheights. That was a different time though. We didn’t pay attention to social media, or anything else online. We didn’t promote our brand in a 21st century method, and as years went by, we became less well known. I believe we are good at what we do, and our core values remain the same, but now we are putting more effort into modernizing our brand.
Our history since 2017
Although we have closed the yearlong operation of Farmers Market as times have changed since then, we continue to roast chile every year. The reason is simple: we know what we are good at. Although many in New Mexico try to roast chile as a quick and easy business to do, it is a lot more complex than it looks. Not every farmer grows quality product, nor is reliable. More than just that, chile doesn’t stay fresh very long, even under refrigeration. Two things we always tried to do well were roasting chile and making fruit baskets for Christmas or special occasions. Our current approach is to try to focus as much as possible on chile. It is much easier to run a chile stand than it was to run multiple grocery stores selling hundreds of different items all year This allows us to hone our skills and try to provide a quality of service that would not be possible while also running Farmers Market.
Our commitment to quality
We get shipments 3-4 times a week, because we want to make sure that our chile reaches our customers within a few days of harvest. Most of what we sell has been harvested and delivered to us within 24 hours, so it has more time to vine ripen. We buy almost entirely local produce, so we don’t need to account for product sitting in Los Angeles or McAllen, Texas for days, then being trucked for days, only to wind up in a more local distribution center for a few days before it finally reaches its destination. Our local produce tastes better than what you can find in the grocery store, because it doesn’t need to be harvested under ripe to extend shelf life. Not only that, but it is better for you, as it is more full of nutrients. Buying local shortens the supply chain, and allows us to offer our customers the best product quality and freshness at the same time.
There is a reason we don’t ship fresh chile, and it isn’t because shipping costs are too expensive, even though they generally cost far more than the chile itself. The reason is that we are not ok with telling our customers “choose 2 day shipping or quality isn’t guaranteed,” like many other businesses online. Imagine ordering chile, receiving it in bad condition, then the seller telling you that it is your fault. We wholeheartedly stand by our products and service, and can’t afford to risk damaging our reputation among our customers.
Our plans in 2024 and beyond
We learned our lesson in the past by overextending. At our peak, Farmers Market had 10 stores, and distributed produce to many restaurants and other local grocery stores such as The Fruit Basket and others. At this size, it was too much work, and probably resulted in us not doing as good of a job as we could have. We are not willing to repeat the mistake of biting off more than we can chew. Our sole focus is on providing a great place to get roasted green chile, red chile ristras, and local produce. We will also try to sell more specialty products that people love. There are a few different plans we have to improve our quality of service and customer experience as well.
We can’t reveal too much yet, as chile roasting in Albuquerque is a very competitive field. I will update on our blog and also on our Facebook page, so be sure to check back often. We hope to be your favorite place to get roasted green chile and red chile ristras in Albuquerque in 2024 and beyond. I also hope that you check out our recipes section for ideas about what to cook with your red and green chile. Thank you to everyone who has supported us along this 59 year journey, and we look forward to continuing for years to come.
About me specifically
My name is Jhett Kendall Browne. I started roasting chile in 2002, when I was 12 years old. Since then, I have taken part in roasting chile for 15 seasons. That being said, I have stayed in food related businesses for pretty much all of my adult life. I spent a few years as a private chef in Taiwan. During this time, I also grew a lot of New Mexico chile on my roof, using seeds I brought over in a suitcase. I grew a lot of Big Jim and Sandia chile, roasting them with a blowtorch. I brought the tradition of New Mexico with me, I also grew a decent amount of superhots that I made fermented hotsauces with.
I’ve lived in and explored a lot of different countries, always looking for different flavors. That being said, I’ve always come back to New Mexican food. New Mexico isn’t the most famous state, but our food is well known for good reason. If it wasn’t good, I wouldn’t put so much effort into gardening and growing chile in so many different countries.
I believe that my background gives me a unique ability to understand chile vs other chile roasters in Albuquerque. I train our chile roasters every year with a deep explanation of every single step of the roasting process based on food science. Furthermore, I make sure they know the importance of every single step, and WHY we roast chile the way we do. Training in this way is an important aspect of our quality control that I ensure. I guarantee that we won’t be like the grocery stores who throw some rookie out on the roaster without any real training. We are professionals at all things Hatch chile, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.