History ETDs

Publication Date

Winter 11-14-2017


In New Mexico, no crops have defined the people and their landscape in the industrial era more than apples, cotton, and chile peppers. They illustrate, more than any other three crops in twentieth-century New Mexico, how agriculture has spurred migrations of plants and people, and in turn, shaped the culture of the place. The physical origins, the shifting cultural meanings, and the environmental and market requirements of these three iconic plants all broadly point to the convergence in New Mexico of diverse regional attitudes toward industry in agriculture. These three crops, all industrialized at different times in the twentieth century and in very different ways, in turn help illuminate New Mexico’s long and fraught relationship with modernity. As this dissertation illustrates, for much of the twentieth century modernization did not simply radiate from cities into its hinterlands; rather, the broad project of modernity, and resistance to it, has often originated in farm fields, at agricultural festivals, and in agrarian stories.

A central premise to this investigation is that there is neither a single form of industrial agriculture nor a single form of traditional agriculture; rather, many ever-changing approaches of agriculture have often existed in tandem, often influencing each other in surprising ways. Through examining how various approaches to agriculture have relied upon, benefited from, or challenged each other, simple dichotomies between industrial and non-industrial agriculture disappear. In their place emerges a more nuanced portrait of an ever-changing, creative agricultural landscape that defies teleological narratives of inevitable and ever-increasing resource and labor exploitation that often accompany discussions of agricultural industrialization. Agricultural industrialization in the twentieth century, this dissertation shows, followed a nonlinear and highly contingent path.

Level of Degree


Department Name


First Committee Member (Chair)

Virginia Scharff

Second Committee Member

Samuel Truett

Third Committee Member

Luis Campos

Fourth Committee Member

Jared Farmer


Apples, Cotton, Chile Peppers, Industrialization, Modernity

Document Type


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History Commons