Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum

New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum brings agricultural heritage to life


| June 2000



Aermotor windmill stands like a sentinel at the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum

With a 20-foot fan, this Aermotor windmill stands like a sentinel at the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum.

Studying the agricultural heritage in the American southwest is like traveling to a different world – several different worlds, actually. The New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum is uniquely well qualified to act as your tour guide. 

The Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum, located in Las Cruces, is a handsome new facility committed to preserving the state's unique agricultural heritage. But the story at the Heritage Museum goes well beyond mere display of artifacts from the past.

"We put a lot of emphasis on heritage," says Craig Massey, the museum's public relations director. "We take a little more personal look at history; at a way of life. The agricultural history of New Mexico is very unusual. It represents a weave of cultures – Native Americans, Spaniards and Hispanos, European immigrants ... We look at everything from stone tools used in 1100, to things used by homesteaders in 1900."

That comprehensive look back is achieved in a working ranch environment. The museum is housed in a large building reminiscent of a traditional ranch house, surrounded by 47 acres where outdoor exhibits are springing up like flowers in the desert. A working dairy barn and blacksmith shop are already in place, as are a 70-year-old windmill, and corrals housing cattle, sheep, goats and burros. Finishing touches are being put on the most recent additions – demonstration plots and a Children's Discovery Barn (where kids can get nose-to-nose with young animals) – in the "South 20" this year. Pieces of vintage iron are displayed indoors and out ("One of our goals is to use the old horse-drawn equipment in the fields, showing how the work used to be done," says Curator Toni Laumbach), and native plants and crops are showcased in orchards and gardens.

Complementing those features is the museum's permanent "Generations" exhibit. The 3,100-square foot exhibit takes in the big picture of 3,000 years of agricultural history in New Mexico. The biographies of 33 people – some real, some imagined – are used to tell the state's tale of farming and ranching over the centuries. Some elements in that exhibit are interactive: Try your hand at grinding corn the old fashioned way, hop on to a saddle, tie knots in rope.

And then there's the collection: You'll find everything from ancient artifacts like spear points, baskets and pottery, to a full-size reconstruction of a Mogollon pithouse, to a stagecoach, to a full line-up of antique tools, implements, engines and tractors. (And don't miss the bone-yard out back!)