Mesilla Valley Produce Launches Into Hatch Green Chile Program; Owner and Founder TJ Runyan Dicusses Investments and Expansion
LAS CRUCES, NM - If you haven’t guessed already, my favorite section of the supermarket is the fresh produce department. And this time of year, all I can think about is grilling, spicy summer dishes, and cocktails with a kick. One of those categories that responds to all those gastronomic demands is the Hatch Green Chile, and one company on the retail radar is Mesilla Valley Produce.
Dedicated to bringing the highest level of customer service, value, and versatility to the industry, Mesilla Valley is launching into the spring season with the company’s premier Hatch Green Chile program, tailored to the needs of retail partners and consumers’ palates.
Here to speak with me about the company’s upcoming season and why the acronym MVP is so appropriately fitting, is TJ Runyan, Owner and Founder of Mesilla Valley Produce.
“2017 is an exciting year as we are positioning ourselves to become the premier source of Hatch and New Mexico Green Chiles,” TJ shares with me, adding that all of Mesilla Valley’s product is New Mexico Certified which insures its customers are getting authentic New Mexico-grown Chiles. “We are achieving this goal by increasing acreage with our established growers and adding experienced growers into the fold. We are investing heavily in our production facility as well, and introducing new packaging across our portfolio in the coming months.”
Mesilla Valley’s grower base is also aligned with similar goals to provide customers with the highest-quality Hatch Green Chile, grown and packed in a safe and sustainable manner.
TJ began Mesilla Valley in the Summer of 2008 with 100 acres of watermelons and a small Hatch Green Chile program. The team has continued to grow from its niche program and now specializes in summer onions, watermelons, pumpkins, and pinto beans in addition to the company’s popular Hatch Green Chiles.
TJ comes from a production agriculture background, and began his journey in the produce business at C.H. Robinson in Houston in 1999. After moving on from that role, TJ became a sales manager for an onion grower coop in Hatch called Skyline Produce where he was sales manager 2001-2008, before founding Mesilla Valley.
Mesilla has now been providing customers with high-quality Hatch Green Chiles for over 15 years.
“Demand for our product has always exceeded what we were able to supply within the market. We have always known we wanted to get bigger in the pepper deal, but doing it the right way was important,” TJ shares. “This winter an opportunity came up to add significant volume by partnering with a dynamic family of growers, Select Produce.”
Currently, Mesilla Valley is in the process of putting in new production lines with two brand new hydro-chillers and drying system. This will give the team more flexibility in their production schedule and allow them to be even gentler with the product. The whole goal of this is to increase customer service by quicker turn-arounds in shipping as well as increased shelf-life.
“One of the most important aspects of the Hatch Chile season is being able to have quick turnarounds on orders. Everybody generally tries to run ads in the month of August, so being able to turn order quickly is important. That is why we are investing heavily in the production facility,” TJ adds.
But the program does not stop there.
“We have about 300 acres dedicated exclusively to our fresh program, but also have access to about another 500 acres that are currently planted for processing which we can access due to untimely rains,” he shares.
Mesilla Valley grows primarily in the Hatch Valley where most of its growers are positioned, and in the North and Central parts of the Valley and in Las Uvas Valley which is considered the Hatch growing region.
“I am proud of the fact we continue to grow and add new programs every year. I feel we are aligned with the best growers out of each area that are focused on providing our customers with not only quality products, but also produce grown in a safe and sustainable manner,” TJ comments, reflecting on the company’s evolution. “We have a great relationship with retail partners that has allowed us to expand our programs and continue to look at new ideas. To use an analogy, I think we have gone from having a ticket to the game in the first year or two, to now being in the game, and we are striving for the MVP trophy.”
And as the company shares, it hopes to be less in the running for the MVP award and instead, to take it. Don't miss your chance to find out for yourself by swinging by booth #423 at this year's Viva Fresh Expo in Austin, Texas!