Gillis Farms

Hatch, New Mexico

Gillis Farms

Hatch, New Mexico

Family Farming 

Mary Gillis was seven years old when her family purchased a farm in southern New Mexico, determined to carve out a niche growing chili peppers, onions and other crops on fertile land near the Rio Grande. 

Today, Mary still farms with the help of her adult children, grandchildren and more than 100 employees of Gillis Farms. In 1954, Mary and her husband Dencil started farming in the Hatch Valley of New Mexico, growing green and red chiles, onions and squash in an area that is now famous for its unique, flavorful peppers. 

Mary said the farm has experienced high and low points over the years, which has kept her humble even as the farm has prospered in recent years. The Gillis family now operates three companies: Gillis Farms, Desert Springs Produce and Valley Custom Harvesting. 

“We went through hard times and nearly had to go bankrupt,” said Mary. “I think it does people a good job to learn how it is to be on the bottom and have to work up to the top.” 

Growing Stronger with Each Generation 

Mary and Dencil first started working with Farm Credit in the 1980s, as they looked for options to grow the farm and strengthen its financial footing. Over the years, the relationship has continued as the family purchased land and expanded into new services, such as produce storage and custom harvesting. 

Jacob Penn, a relationship manager with American AgCredit, has worked closely with the Gillis family since 2007. He said during his time working with the family, their farming operation has grown at an impressive pace, while bringing new generations into the business. 

“It’s a family-run operation led by a strong matriarch who is a role model to all those around her,” said Jacob. “She raised four amazing children and dozens of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. It’s been great to work with such a well-run, diversified vegetable operation here in southern New Mexico.” 

For Mary, her 80 years living and working on the farm have instilled an appreciation for the family members who came before her. She said that her work on the farm draws inspiration from these past generations while also learning from their mistakes and missteps along the way. 

“I think you learn from generation to generation,” said Mary. “You learn their faults and you learn their success stories. Every generation has something that they can teach you, if you’re willing to learn.” 

This article was originally published by American AgCredit