Fruit, Fiber, and Fire


Fruit, Fiber, and Fire

A History of Modern Agriculture in New Mexico

William R. Carleton

228 pages


June 2021


$55.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

June 2021


$55.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

June 2021


$55.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

Fray Francisco Atanasio Domínguez Award from the Historical Society of New Mexico
New Mexico-Arizona Book Award Finalist in History

For much of the twentieth century, modernization did not simply radiate from cities into the hinterlands; rather, the broad project of modernity, and resistance to it, has often originated in farm fields, at agricultural festivals, and in agrarian stories. In New Mexico no crops have defined the people and their landscape in the industrial era more than apples, cotton, and chiles.

In Fruit, Fiber, and Fire William R. Carleton explores the industrialization of apples, cotton, and chiles to show how agriculture has affected the culture of twentieth-century New Mexico. The physical origins, the shifting cultural meanings, and the environmental and market requirements of these three iconic plants all broadly point to the convergence in New Mexico of larger regions—the Mexican North, the American Northeast, and the American South—and the convergence of diverse regional attitudes toward industry in agriculture.

Through the local stories that represent lives filled with meaningful struggles, lessons, and successes, along with the systems of knowledge in our recent agricultural past, Carleton provides a history of the broader culture of farmers and farmworkers. In the process, seemingly mere marginalia—a farmworker’s meal, a small orchard’s advertisement campaign, or a long-gone chile seed—add up to an agricultural past with diverse cultural influences, many possible futures, and competing visions of how to feed and clothe ourselves that remain relevant as we continue to reimagine the crops of our future.

Author Bio

William R. Carleton is the editor of Edible New Mexico and lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.


"American agricultural historians will find this study revealing and suggestive for similar investigations regarding the development of modern agriculture across cultural borderlands where competing ideas and traditions merge to change the agricultural landscape for crops, people, and the land. It also is essential reading for anyone interested in the history of New Mexico. Carleton has written an informative and engaging agricultural history for New Mexico that significantly contributes to the larger agricultural history of the United States."—R. Douglas Hurt, Agricultural History Review

"Carleton . . . provides a unique text on the agricultural history of New Mexico that would be relevant as an addition to any library institution supporting programs in history or agricultural history, and is essential for libraries in the southwestern US and northern Mexico, as well as those supporting historical study of the American West."—J. Cummings, Choice

“William Carleton tells a richly textured story of New Mexican agriculture that sheds new light on the rise of modern industrial agriculture in the twentieth century. In particular, he shows in fascinating detail how ‘industrial’ agriculture often incorporated ‘traditional’ elements and therefore how misleading those labels can be.”—William Thomas Okie, author of The Georgia Peach: Culture, Agriculture, and Environment in the American South

“Extremely important. . . . Fruit, Fiber, and Fire is a significant contribution to the fields of New Mexico history, Southwest history, agricultural history, historical geography, cultural history, and borderlands history.”—Sterling Evans, author of Bound in Twine: The History and Ecology of the Henequen-Wheat Complex for Mexico and the American and Canadian Plains, 1880–1950

Table of Contents

Part 1. Apples
1. Before There Were Aliens, There Were Apples: Myths, Moths, and Modernity in New Mexico’s Early Commercial Orchards
2. Patent Lies and the “People’s Business”: The Modern Core of Northern New Mexico Agriculture, 1940–80
Part 2. Cotton
3. The Shifting Subjects of a Southwest King: Cotton, Agricultural Industrialization, and Migrations in the Interwar New Mexico Borderlands
4. Diversification, Paternalism, and the Transnational Threads of Cotton in Southern New Mexico: The Industrial Ideal at Work at Stahmann Farms, 1926–70
Part 3. Chile
5. Crossing Chiles, Crossing Borders: Dr. Fabián García, the New Mexican Chile Pepper, and Modernity in the Early Twentieth-Century U.S.-Mexico Borderlands
6. The Evolution of a Modern Pod: The Industrial Chile and Its Storytellers in New Mexico


Fray Francisco Atanasio Domínguez Award from the Historical Society of New Mexico
New Mexico-Arizona Book Award Finalist in History

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