Snake Ranch Farm Stores is a popular summer destination for locally grown chile and other produce. Erica Trevino is a sixth generation member and part owner of both the seasonal store as well as the ranch located just off of Interstate 25. Trevino sat down with El Defensor Chieftain to talk about the family business.
Question: How long has your produce stand been here?
Answer: We’ve been up and running in San Antonio for about 15 years. Before we had a produce stand on the farm just down the road to the east.
Q: Who initially started the business?
A: My dad, Chris, and mom, Paula’s family, the Sichler Family Farms has been in the Middle Rio Grande Valley for around 140 years. When my parents got married they came here which is where I was born 31 years ago. My grandfather decided to open a produce stand to earn a little extra money beyond just selling alfalfa.
Q: Are you born and raised in Socorro?
A: I am. The reason I remember how long we’ve been doing this is because we started the year I was born. Now my brother, Stephen, is part owner and runs our Los Lunas location. I’ve been able to be a part of the business expanding to Valencia County after just being in Socorro county.
Q: What types of products do you sell?
A: Again we mainly produce alfalfa but our second biggest product on the farm is chile - green and red. Then we have watermelon, squash, cucumbers and all the other fixings that come along with it. We grow a lot of different vegetables and fruits.
Q: Day to day how does your business operate?
A: It varies with customers and employees because we’re seasonal. We sell here from August to October. The weekends are always busier. September is typically our biggest month of the year for people stocking up before the winter. Farming goes year round.
Q: How many employees do you have?
A: At the produce stand between our two locations we have between 18 to 20. On the farm seasonally we have around 25 pickers. During the off season we have around three to four employees. Most of the people that work for us typically come through word of mouth. We have a great staff which is amazing because it’s hard to ask people to work for a few months then be out of a job. But they know with us that they will always have a job with us. There are struggles every year in a small town, but for the most part we have been very fortunate.
Q: What was it that started your roadside business?
A: It was initially a roadside stand along the farming road here in San Antonio and word of mouth helped us grow. It was very small until sales increased and my father decided to buy this piece of property and actually built the building from scratch, as well as the location in Los Lunas. After my brother became a partner they decided to rebrand which is when they decided to become Snake Ranch Farms.
Q: How does your family run the actual farm?
A: My parents are pretty much homestead there taking care of things. When my brother turned 18 he started taking on more responsibilities and he has a home there now. Our family takes great pride in the quality of our produce. If a crop isn’t good we always throw it out.
Q: Did you always live on the farm?
A: No. I moved to Las Cruces and got a degree from New Mexico State University in Agricultural Business and Marketing. At that time I wanted to do my own thing and really decide if agriculture is really what I wanted to do. That is where I met my husband Katlin, a welder, and lived there for ten years to start a family before we came back here. We had two kids, a four year old and two year old. At that point we purchased a small portion of the family farm and built a house there. Now that we’re back I’m able to do more of the bookkeeping side while I take care of the kids.
Q: What are your children’s names?
A: Connor and Ryan. I love being a mom. That was the ultimate thing I always wanted to do. Once I did that I knew it was time to come back. They're here with me at work all the time.
Q: What was your transition between living in San Antonio versus going to NMSU?
A: My first night there I was living in the dorms and couldn’t sleep because I had no idea all of the sounds like police cars and ambulances that you would hear in a bigger city. I sound like a small town girl, but that was certainly different for me. But I loved my experience there. When our family moved back we were ready. It was great to have the space and not deal with next door neighbors. Plus we get to know everyone here, which has a very homey feeling.
Q: A few random questions, what is your favorite movie?
A: I would go “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” because I love how classy Audrey Hepburn is. I’ve always loved how classy that era was. My dad always taught me to be very classy.
Q: Working on a chile farm, are you a red or green person?
A: It depends on the time of year. I tend to like green the most but in the winter red is a go to for warmer dishes like posole and things like that.
Q: What is your favorite book?
A: The Bible. All of my life is based on my faith. Jesus Christ has gotten me to where I’m at. I’ve been through struggles as has everyone and Christ has brought me what I would say is a happy life.
Q: What is your favorite type of music?
A: Texas country. More recent country music has become sort of poppy and the old school Texas style is all about the live performance stuff which I really like.
Q: If you could live anywhere in the world other than San Antonio, where would it be.
A: My husband and I traveled to Chile a few years ago and that experience was great. Probably somewhere in that part of the world. In a lot of ways it's very similar to Socorro. Laid back. They take two hours for lunch but also are able to be very successful because they still work hard.
Q: If there is something that you could change about Socorro County, what would it be?
A: I wish that we could decrease the amount of drugs here in the community. If both those using the drugs as well as running them could step back and see what it’s doing to Socorro that would hopefully change things for the better.
Snake Ranch Farms stores will be closing up shop by the end of the month. The family ranch is always welcome to visitors.