History & Mission Statement

Alcalde Science Center with Fields and Cattle in Foreground and Mountains in Background
Alcalde (Photo Courtesy of NMSU)


New Mexico State University's Sustainable Agriculture Science Center (SASC) at Alcalde sits on 60 acres of property formerly known as the San Gabriel Ranch. The San Gabriel Ranch originally was part of a large land grant given to General Juan Andres Archuleta, an officer in the Spanish Army, in the early 1700s by the Spanish Crown. Two of the buildings served as the seat of justice for an area that now encompasses three counties. The name "Alcalde" means "mayor" or "Justice of the Peace." The original building, which was used as the courthouse, still stands on the property.

In the early 1800s, Josefina, the daughter of General Juan Andres Archuleta, married Joseph Clark and together had a son named Elias. In the early 1900s, Elias sold a small part of the original land grant to Caroline Stanley who later married Richard Pfaffle. With this land, the Pfaffle family established the San Gabriel Ranch as a "dude ranch" that catered to a lucrative crowd from the East Coast. Elite personalities who visited the ranch included the Rockefeller family, who at times leased the entire pavilion for parties; Mary Cabot Wheelwright, who founded the Wheelwright Museum; and Georgia O'Keefe, a painter/writer who moved to Abiquiu, New Mexico in 1929 after frequently visiting the San Gabriel Ranch. Ms. O'Keefe would return to the Alcalde Science Center's third floor gazebo where she would gaze out over the valley and work on some of her paintings.

In the early 1910s, Richard Pfaffle mortgaged the ranch to Florence Bartlett, a philanthropist from Chicago. Ms. Bartlett had the present offices of the Alcalde Science Center built in 1923 as well as the outbuilding, now called "Santa Maria El Mirador Home" that is located next door. A patron of folk art, Ms. Bartlett founded the International Folk Art Museum and attempted to establish it at this location; but due to the remote nature of Alcalde at this time, the museum failed. However, it did flourish in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

In 1950, Ms. Bartlett deeded the ranch property to the State of New Mexico. The Museum of New Mexico received part of the property, but not knowing what to do with it, later sold it to New Mexico State University for $80,000. Since 1952, New Mexico State University has been using the site for agricultural research. The main office building that had been Ms. Bartlett's house was obtained by NMSU in the late 1960s from the Welfare Department.

Today, the Sustainable Agriculture Science Center conducts agricultural and natural resource research to benefit small family farms and ranches of north-central New Mexico. Past research methods/crops include: fruit trees, chiles, small grains, dry beans, Christmas trees, alfalfa, flowers, potatoes, water management, sweet corn, tomatoes, various berries, and medicinal herbs. The Science Center has also investigated relay-intercropping green-manure legumes and forages into sweet corn and chile. We continue to research and educate around the subject matters of acequia culture, forages, fruit production, herbs, high tunnels and hoop houses, organic production, row crops, and sustainable agricultural techniques. We hold a variety of workshops and events throughout the year, including bee keeping, pest management, fruit tree and bramble pruning, and of course our very popular, annual field day.

We are open Monday through Friday from 7:30am - 4:30pm; closed for lunch from 12:00-1:00pm.

For general information or questions, please contact the Rio Arriba County Extension Service at 505-685-4523 (Abiquiu) or 575-588-7423 (Tierra Amarilla).

Sustainable Agriculture Science Center at Alcalde
371 County Road 40
P.O. Box 159
Alcalde, N.M. 87511
Phone: (505) 852-4241
Fax: (505) 852-2857
Email: alcalde@nmsu.edu