With names such as Big Jim and Miss Junie, a casual listener could have mistaken last weekend's kickoff of the Ignacio Green Chile Fest as an entirely social affair.
But Big Jim and Miss Junie aren't people, they're varieties of green chile, and an Allison farmer is proving he can grow the succulent green veggies just as well as his counterparts in Hatch, New Mexico.
This is the third year Mike Wright and his son, Justin, have grown chile commercially, and now their crop has grown to an acre and a half of mild and hot chiles. They've added more land into production every year.
A few acres of chile might not sound like much, "'til you're hoeing weeds," Mike Wright said of this year's crop. It's been a bountiful one, however.
"We've done really well this year," he added.
By their second week of harvest, they had brought in 200 bushels.
Luck and planning played into that, as well. The Wrights start growing chile plants in February in three greenhouses, transferring the small plants into bigger containers in April. By Memorial Day, they were planning to put the chiles in the ground, but they decided to wait, missing the early June freeze that struck so many gardens and fruit trees this year. A cold spell a week later froze the tops of some plants, but the damage wasn't too bad, then the plants thrived all summer.
The Wrights use a drip irrigation system with plastic mulch that uses far less water than flood irrigation for the chiles, which they said could use as much water as their previous hay crop.
Mike Wright said they'll keep harvesting until the first frost, which used to happen as early as August or September in Allison, but he said lately hasn't taken place until October.
The Wrights charge $25 for a roasted bushel of chile, and customers are welcome to come to the farm in Allison. They should call first to check on roasting times at 749-3362.
Farmers Fresh Market in Ignacio also sells the chiles, roasting in the evenings. Customers can call and place their orders at 563-4400 or to check on roasting times.
The chile fest on Friday and Saturday included a chili cook-off with competitions for red and green varieties, a salsa contest and a corn hole tournament. It was hosted by Farmers Fresh and the Ignacio Chamber of Commerce.