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History of Eagle Ranch and Heart of the Desert

Welcome to Eagle Ranch

Eagle Ranch Pistachio Groves and Heart of the Desert Vineyards are owned and operated by George and Marianne Schweers.

The Beginning

heart of the desert

George, an Air Force officer stationed at Holloman AFB in 1969, had been raised in rural Nebraska. A longtime family goal was to return to the field of agriculture after military service. So, in the early 1970’s, after the family determined that they wanted to stay in the Tularosa Basin, the search for a crop that would grow in desert conditions began. While the Schweers were researching, they received a phone call from Harvey Widner, employed by a contractor at Holloman AFB, who had heard of the Schweers’ project via the “Holloman Wireless.” Harvey had also studied desert crops and had planted 400 seedling pistachio trees. When the contractor left Holloman in 1974, Harvey offered to sell his 400 two-year-old trees to the Schweers, and a family farm was born! Little did they know what was in store!

The Early Years

For the first five years, George and Marianne and their three children, Gordon, Laura, and Jean worked the farm. After work, after school, and weekends, their days were filled with farming – all done by hand. The first expansion of the groves took place with the planting of 700 trees. This was done with the help of the local high school baseball team. Gordon was on the team and they were always looking for a fundraiser. Each subsequent expansion brought its own set of challenges. Being the only grove in New Mexico, there was no support industry in place for harvesting or processing. Necessity truly being the mother of invention, the Schweers had to develop their own processing operation, or truck the nuts out of state for processing. Fabricating equipment, buying used equipment, and trucking the nuts for salting and roasting, were all ongoing projects in the early years.

Heart of the Desert

All throughout the Schweers married life, they had other enterprises they worked on, along with their regular jobs. They wanted their children to think of themselves as “Eagles”, that wonderful, high flying symbol of our country. All the extra ventures were called “Eagle Enterprises”, so when they began the pistachio groves, it was natural to name it “Eagle Ranch”. In 1986, the small farm came to the attention of Anheuser Busch Corp., who had a division called “Eagle Brand Snacks”. The trademarks were in conflict. After about a year and a half of legal negotiations, the Schweers decided to change their trademark to reflect the place the pistachios were grown.

“Heart of the Desert” became the new trademark on the packages of pistachios that were grown on the farm. It was a blessing in disguise, for as the product line increased, the brand, “Heart of the Desert” became even more fitting. Since the trademark conflict was only about products sold in the marketplace, the name “Eagle Ranch” could still be used for the farm. The Schweers opted to keep that in place as a reminder of how it all began.

Today

Eagle Ranch is the home of New Mexico’s first and largest producing pistachio groves. It is still a totally self-contained operation, with growing, harvesting, processing, and marketing their pistachios directly to the consumer.

Heart of the Desert wines were added to the product line in 2002. The vineyard added to the diversity of the farm. 12,000 vines were planted initially, and the yield of their first crop, was encouraging enough that additional vines were put in, for a total of 24,000 vines. The seven different varieties of grape vines harvested each year are: Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Shiraz, Riesling, Malvasia Bianca, and Gewurztraminer, making the production of a wide range of wines possible.

heart of the desert