Agriculture may not be the first thing to come to mind when visiting Santa Ana Pueblo in New Mexico, a landscape of sun-swept mesas and sage-studded desert. But agriculture and the knowledge of how to coax abundant crops from this seemingly harsh land is part of the foundation of Santa Ana Pueblo’s history and culture. And today, this agricultural spirit is infused into Santa Ana Pueblo’s tourism enterprises and shared with the world through agritourism.
Visitors from around the world savor Santa Ana Pueblo blue and yellow corn in the Pueblo’s fine-dining Corn Maiden and Prairie Star restaurants. Indigenous plants and trees are sold at the Santa Ana Garden Center. And, most recently, guests can enjoy Gruet wine made with grapes grown at Santa Ana Pueblo Vineyard.
In the 1980s the tribal council decided to reclaim the Pueblo’s history of communal agriculture for the benefit of its people, and established Santa Ana Pueblo Agricultural Enterprises in 1986. The Tribe ended leasing its land and was now farming for itself, creating revenue and jobs for the Tribe by growing and selling alfalfa and Sudan grass. That same year, Santa Ana Pueblo began planting blue and yellow corn, traditional crops of great importance to New Mexico’s 19 Pueblo Tribes. A mill was built, and Santa Ana Pueblo could now grind and sell corn meal and flour. Also in 1986, the Tribe opened its fine-dining Prairie Star Restaurant in a historic ranch house with 18-inch-thick adobe walls, and soon began using corn it grew in menu items.
“Santa Ana has always been an agriculturally based community, and Santa Ana Pueblo’s location has always been a blessing,” says Joseph Bronk, Director of Santa Ana Agricultural Enterprises. Bronk came to work for the department soon after its creation in 1986 and became its director in 2000. “Santa Ana has been able to keep its traditional village and lands protected from the outside world while at the same time taking advantage of its location to make it easy for people to visit our commercial facilities today. The Pueblo has been very good about what it shares and what it keeps for itself, and keeping the two worlds separate.”
Santa Ana Pueblo’s most recent ANA grant allowed it to plant its vineyard in 2014, establish infrastructure and irrigation, and hire seasonal workers. Today, the 30-acre vineyard in cooperation with Albuquerque-based Gruet winery produces 140 tons of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier grapes at 5,200 feet, making the Pinot Noir some of the highest-grown such grapes in the world.
“New Mexico, and especially this area, was the first grape-growing region in what is now the U.S.,” Bronk says. “Franciscan friars traveling with the Spanish planted grapes here to make sacramental wine in 1629.”
Santa Ana Farm was the Pueblo’s first business, established in 1986. This 130-acre farm primarily grows alfalfa and Sudan grass (a hybrid of sorghum and drummondii) that is sold to ranchers as livestock feed. The farm’s equipment and staff are also available to tribal members who need farming help such as plowing their family fields. All Tribal members may take advantage of this service. “In this way the commercial operation also keeps the traditional family farming alive at Santa Ana,” Brock says.
Santa Ana Blue Corn and Mill, also established in 1986, grows yellow and blue corn–a nutritious crop that has long been revered throughout the Southwest. The Pueblo’s mill processes the corn for both wholesale and retail products. The blue corn is used in the Tribe’s Corn Maiden restaurant at Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa and in the resort’s gift shop, and also the Prairie Star restaurant (http://mynewmexicogolf.com/prairiestar/). Santa Ana Pueblo corn products are also sold directly to the public at its Cooking Post retail and online outlet (www.cookingpost.com). Santa Ana Pueblo blue corn is also sold to La Montanita Co-op, an Albuquerque-based natural grocer that also supplies a number of restaurants, and Skarsgard Farms, a home food delivery business that serves the greater Albuquerque area. “We have an horno oven and can roast corn traditionally,” Bronk says. “This is important for tribal members. Our atolé is very popular here at the Pueblo.” Local brewery Kaktus Brewing Co. is using Santa Ana Pueblo’s blue corn to brew a blue corn beer that is sold at the Tribe’s resort.
Santa Ana Nursery grows native Southwest plants and trees, and sells wholesale to entities such as the U.S. Government. “We sell indigenous plants for big projects, such as river restoration work,” Bronk says. “We just sold 5,000 butterfly weeds (Asclepias tuberosa) to the U.S. Government for a project. It’s a type of milkweed for monarch butterflies.” Santa Ana Pueblo also has its own Natural Resources Department that purchases plants and trees from the nursery for projects such as bosque restoration along the Rio Grande. This natural, wooded area is available to the general public via trails at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort. Signage along the trail details plants’ importance to Santa Ana Pueblo, and contributes to the guest experience at the Tribe’s luxury resort.
The Santa Ana Garden Center grows and sells plants and trees to the general public (www.santaana.org/garden.htm). This forward-facing retail business has landscaped walking paths with signed plants and trees so that customers can identify what they like. Everything sold at the garden center falls within Zone 6, this region’s growing zone. Located behind the Pueblo’s Warrior Fuel gas station, the garden center is easily accessible off of U.S. 550 near the town of Bernalillo. “The Garden Center is really a business for the locals here,” Brock says. “It makes us a part of the greater community here, and it brings people from Albuqueruqe who might otherwise come out this way and see the other businesses we have, even if it’s just getting gas at Warrior Fuel. It’s a unique nursery with a great reputation, so people make the trip. And hopefully when they’re here, they’ll check out our other businesses.”
Santa Ana’s newest agritourism enterprise is its Santa Ana Pueblo/Gruet Vineyard. The Tribe owns and manages the 30-acre vineyard, and sells the grapes to Albuquerque-based Gruet Winery that is known internationally for its Méthod Champenoise sparkling and other wines. Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier grapes are grown here, picked and sent to Gruet’s winery that is just a few miles south of the vineyard in Albuquerque. Gruet wines are offered at the Tribe’s Prairie Star restaurant near its Santa Ana Golf Club and at the Corn Maiden restaurant within its luxury Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort, a joint venture with Hyatt Hotels that opened in 2000.