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Organic flame-roasted chile heats up local stores

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By Carol A. Clark

With the increasing trend toward eating organic, Smith’s Food and Drug Centers in Los Alamos and White Rock are stocking organic flame-roasted chopped green chile from Bueno Foods.“We see an increase in organic food sales almost weekly,” said John Roberts, store manager of Smith’s on Central Avenue. “We’re trying to expand our organic products line every opportunity we have. Along with the organic green chile, we’re stocking organic foods in almost every category including canned vegetables, fresh produce and meats. We’re bringing in an upper-grade, private selection line of organic meat that even exceeds standards set by the organic industry.”The mild chile, manufactured by Bueno Foods, is certified by the New Mexico Organic Commodity Commission and USDA, is stocked in the frozen section of stores throughout New Mexico, said Ana Baca, one of the second generation of Bueno Foods owners.“This is the first organic green chile product on the market,” Baca said.Her father, Joseph Baca, loved green chile, she said, and grew it organically in his own garden every year. He and his brothers started the company in Albuquerque following WWII. His children have positions in the company now, Baca said.“Our father built this from the ground up with his brothers and I think his spirit is here. That’s why I think all of us kids have made our way back here,” she said. “We wanted to honor his life’s work and that’s why we went organic.”More than half a century later, Bueno Foods is one of the Southwest’s premier producers of New Mexican and Mexican foods, still owned and operated by the Baca family, Baca said, adding that today the company employs some 250 people year-round and up to 400 people during its peak season.The Baca family is environmentally friendly, utilizing sustainable practices in their business, Baca said. Chile peels, seeds and stems are given to a company that makes compost, and corn and flour tortilla scraps go to a company that makes livestock feed, she said.Baca’s sister, Jacqueline Baca, is an M.B.A. graduate of the University of New Mexico. She has been president of Bueno Foods since 1986. Her brother, Gene Baca, a 1986 graduate of the Harvard School of Law, is senior vice president.Sister Catherine Baca, M.D., has served as production manager, quality control manager and is now vice president of technical services. Sister Marijo Baca, who holds a master’s degree, pioneered the distribution of Bueno’s products in the Colorado market, said Baca, who is a writer and graduate of Stanford University and the University of New Mexico. She is the company’s communications manager.Baca helps ensure the company’s purpose is realized, which she said is to have a positive influence on people’s lives by producing high quality authentic products, by providing hundreds of job opportunities and through community involvement.“We’re really a home-grown New Mexico company,” Baca said. “What we’ve always been about is being a positive influence on our community by supplying jobs, bringing money back to the state and helping the community in terms of charitable causes.”Baca and her family take great pride in preserving and sharing the cultural and culinary traditions of their New Mexico heritage, she said, adding that she does this through her writing.She is an author of three children’s picture books including “Benito’s Bizcochitos,” “Chiles for Benito” and “Benito’s Sopaipillas.” She is also the author of Bueno’s own popular cookbooks, “The Seasons: A Cookbook for Life and Harvesting Our Heritage: Healthy Cooking & Eating for Life.”Her first novel titled “Mama Fela’s Girls,” published in 2006, was named Best Historical Fiction by the New Mexico Book Awards in 2007.For information, access www.buenofoods.com or call 1-800-888-7336.