The Schweers Family

George Schweers had a game plan, which, five years before he retired from an Air Force career, the family would decide where and what they were going to do after “graduating” from the Air Force. Born and raised on a farm in Nebraska, George’s goal had always been to return to farming. Stationed at Holloman AFB, near Alamogordo, New Mexico, the desert climate was appealing, and George felt there had to be something they could grow there. So, Marianne and their three children Gordon, Laura, and Jean had a mission—find the crop!

While researching the crops grown in the deserts of the world, one crop kept coming to the top of the lists—pistachios. Able to be stored as a dry product, a high-value crop and native to the arid climates of the pistachio-producing regions of Iran—a match for New Mexico—the Schweers believed they had found what they would grow in the desert. They hadn’t seen a pistachio tree yet, but they bought land and started preparations. This was in the early 1970s. By 1976, they had the first crop off of their 400 trees.

The California pistachio industry was emerging at that time, and the Schweers found information and support from the farm advisors, the university, and the growers themselves. Each year, a trip to California, the “Mecca” of pistachios, was made. George and Marianne attended every conference, but one, since there was a California Pistachio Association, now known as American Pistachio Growers.

Ken Puryear, of Pioneer Nursery, called George, back then, and said he had a pile of pistachio trees they had accumulated from damaged pots. Ken had thrown dirt over them and thought the trees were good, but California growers were geared to planting potted trees. He said that if George wanted to come get them and try to plant the bare root trees, he’d only have to pay for the trees that grew. George did, and every one of the trees grew. The support from California was priceless.

Eagle Ranch grew, inch by inch. Far from support services, it was soon evident that the farm would have to be self-sufficient. That was finally accomplished in 1986, with the installation of the salting and roasting plant. Since then, everything from growing, harvesting, processing, packaging, and sales to the consumer, are done on the premise.

The trade name, “Heart of the Desert”, was also developed in 1986, after Anheuser Busch politely told the Schweers that their trademark, “Eagle Ranch Pistachios” was too close to their “Eagle Brand Snacks” trade name. The farm remains “Eagle Ranch,” but all products are marketed as “Heart of the Desert.”

Currently, the Schweers have 85 acres of pistachios and a vineyard of 24,000 vines located between Alamogordo and Tularosa, New Mexico. All three children help with the business in some fashion, from running the online shopping cart, to graphic and web design and marketing support. Marketing is done through their four retail stores and a web store. A recent addition to the farm store, is an upscale Tuscan patio for weddings and other special events.

In their wildest dreams, the Schweers couldn’t have imagined the experiences, the camaraderie, the challenges, and the rewards this crop has given them. What a ride!

The Schweers Family

George and Marianne Schweers