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  • Ettienne LeFebre

Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm: Taste and the History of Place

This post is part of a series of case studies investigating innovation in historic site interpretation. The case studies explore new technologies, advanced approaches to storytelling, community engagement, and multi-sensory experiential learning. Research and writing for the series was completed by Ettienne LeFebre during her 2023 summer internship with Groundwork, with contributions and oversight by Gretchen Hilyard Boyce.

The Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm is a National Register property located in Albuquerque, New Mexico in the Rio Grande River Valley. Los Poblanos was the home and experimental farm of Albert Simms and Ruth Hanna McCormick Simms, former congresspeople from New Mexico and Illinois respectively, from 1932 to 1964. John Gaw Meem, the progenitor of the iconic Santa Fe Style, designed the original hacienda house and the La Quinta Cultural Center, which both Albert and Ruth used as a space for campaign events and public gatherings. Ruth hired pre-eminent landscape architect Rose Ishbel Greely to design the garden on the property, where she used primarily native plants. The farm was known mainly for its dairy cows and contributions to the growth of the New Mexican dairy industry, but the Simms also grew sugar beets, alfalfa, oats, corn, and barley. In 1990 Armin and Penny Rembe bought Los Poblanos with the intention of preserving its history while maintaining it as a functioning farm. Los Poblanos is currently a high end hotel and organic farm that honors the original goals of the Simms experimental farm and history of the Rio Grande River Valley through the preservation of the property’s historic land use and buildings as a key component of its private business operations.

Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm, “Los Poblanos Ranch,"

Today, Los Poblanos is a 45-room inn known for its lavender products, and sustains itself through its operation as a commercial inn and farm. The use of the historic property as an inn and continuation of its operation as a farm offer visitors a multi-sensory immersive experience that imbues a sense of place and history into their visit. At Los Poblanos, farmers continue to employ experimental farming practices through trials that seek to grow crops that are best suited for the conditions of the Rio Grande Valley. Guests learn about this experimental farming during farm tours as well as through on-site programming that allows guests to participate in harvesting the crops. These programs are primarily available to inn guests, but Los Poblanos offers a selection of its programming to the public as a way of expanding access to these educational opportunities.

Additionally, guests have access to the hotel’s fine dining restaurant, “Campo,” where every meal is made from crops grown at Los Poblanos and reflects the historic and continued crop production on the property. The food is primarily sourced from the kitchen garden and the historic greenhouse, which was used throughout the 1930s and 1940s for crop experimentation. The restaurant’s menu is based on traditional Rio Grande cuisine and seasonal food production, and if certain crops do not come to fruition then the kitchen must improvise as farmers did in the past if their crops failed.

Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm, “Los Poblanos Organic Farm Fields,”

Former Head Chef Jonathan Perno said the process of bringing the crops from the field to the fork is a profound experience for customers. He describes how guests assist in the process of harvesting the crops, and then eating those very crops in their meals, which creates a strong connection for visitors between the historic process of farming at Los Poblanos and the food on their plates. Perno explained that his kitchen aimed to exemplify the traditional tastes of Rio Grande Valley cuisine. Other ingredients, including meat and fruits and vegetables not produced at the farm are grown by local Rio Grande farmers, so meals maintain a full connection to the region.

Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm, “Campo’s Seasonal Breakfast Menu,”

Taste is intimately associated with place, a concept known as terroir. Serving customers food grown at Los Poblanos and giving guests the opportunity to harvest crops alongside farmers, allows them to essentially “taste the place” – creating an experience and memory of the agricultural traditions of the land, which pre-date the creation of Los Poblanos and continue today. Additionally, the tasting process inherently begins with the scent of the food, creating an immersive olfactory experience for guests as well.The stimulation of the senses that results from enjoying a meal sourced in the region creates an interpretive experience. These types of interpretive experiences transcend the traditional “plaque on the wall” approach to educating visitors, and instead offer a memorable sensory experience of Rio Grande cuisine that connect it to how the agricultural history of the area has shaped the culinary style into what it is today.

Los Poblanos is an excellent example of how private businesses can commit themselves to preservation, as well as how touch, taste, and smell can serve as effective tools to immerse guests in the historic and contemporary fabric of a site. Visitors to Los Poblanos can not only see the history of the ranch through the historic buildings and structures, but experience this history through the same agricultural processes that brought multitudes of people like the Simms to New Mexico in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The experience of tasting and smelling the food cooked at Campo deepens their understanding of the unique cuisine of the region, both in style and taste. Guests leave Los Poblanos with a distinct sense of place in their mind, and a deeper understanding of the agricultural history that shaped the region. Although accessibility to interpretation is an issue at Los Poblanos, as both the restaurant and stays at the inn are expensive, other historic sites can utilize many of these sensory interpretation and programming strategies and adapt them to more accessible offerings.

About the Author

Ettienne LeFebre is currently completing her Master’s degree in Public History at Sacramento State University, with a focus in historic preservation and cultural resources management. Her research centers around the diversification of historic resources, increasing public interest and engagement at historic sites, and the preservation of intangible heritage. She specializes in California and Southwestern U.S. history, and aims to preserve historic resources related to the complex and diverse histories of these regions for the benefit of contemporary communities. In her free time she enjoys hiking along the American River, reading, creative writing, and exploring Sacramento’s incredible food scene.


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Friedman, Mitchell. “Los Poblanos Preserves History in New Mexico.” Michelin, June 20, 2022,

Garner, Kate. “The History of Los Poblanos.” Albuquerque Historical Society, November 21, 2021.

“History.” Los Poblanos Inn & Organic Farm. Accessed July 31, 2023.

Jawson, Joanne Seale. “Remarkable Foundations: Rose Ishbel Greely, Landscape Architect.” Washington History 10, no. 1 (Spring/Summer 1988): 46-69,

Lennon, Christine. “One of America’s Most Outstanding Inns Is An Unassuming New Mexico Lavender Farm. Sunset Magazine. March 21, 2022.

Mead, Christopher C. “Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm.” Society of Architectural Historians, SAH Archipedia. Accessed July 31, 2023.

National Trust for Historic Preservation. “Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm. YouTube. November 6, 2013.

New Mexico in Focus, a Production of NMPBS. “Episode 1124 | Los Poblanos & Rio Grande Cuisine.” YouTube. December 15, 2017.

Trubek, Amy B. The Taste of Place: A Cultural Journey Into Terroir. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008.

VisitNewMexico. “NM True TV - Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm.” YouTube. May 31, 2016.

VisitNewMexico. “Los Poblanos - A New Mexico True Experience.” YouTube. May 19, 2016.


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