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‘One of the greats’: Patriarch of Wagner Farms

Then- Governor Susana Martinez gives a hug to Gus Wagner, while visiting Wagner Farms in Corrales in 2014. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The legacy of Gus Wagner, the Corrales chile farmer who died Feb. 15 at the age of 87, can be summed up in three words: family, friends and farming.

With Gus as the quiet, steady patriarch, four generations of Wagners have grown chile, pumpkins, corn, apples and melons on Wagner Farms in Corrales. Gus was a hard worker who was passionate about preserving New Mexico farmland and agricultural traditions, his son Jim said.

“He was so good to people, and everyone was always happy to see him,” Jim said. “He would give them a big smile and share his farming tips. He built relationships in this community, and his love of agriculture had a big impact on all these local farmers in the valley.”

Augustine Wagner, Gus Wagner’s father, bought the homestead and farm in 1910. Gus was born on July 9, 1932, to Augustine and Trinidad Wagner. A lot has changed since the Wagners started farming in Corrales, but one thing stayed the same: Gus loved to hang out at the farm and visit with anyone who stopped by.

Wagner was a council member for the Village of Corrales for eight years and served 26 years as a Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District board member. Corrales presented Gus with the annual Agricultural Heritage Award in 1995. In 2018, the Village proclaimed Oct. 21 “Gus and Arlene Wagner Day,” in honor of the family’s contributions to community agriculture.

Angelo DeHerrea, 2, Annalicia Sanchez, 12, Angelina DeHerrea, 1 and their mother, Amanda Padilla of Albuquerque, hunt for pumpkins to carve for Halloween at Wagner’s Farmland Experience in Corrales in 2018. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

The community expressed gratitude for Gus and his legacy on social media this week. “Corrales lost one of the greats,” the Corrales Growers’ Market posted on Facebook.

Wagner’s granddaughter, Chantelle Fawn, recalls summers on the farm with her cousins and her grandpa, who was “quiet but generous.”

“Working on the farm brought us together, and we were all best friends. My grandpa loved to provide that environment for us, because family was so important to him,” Fawn said. “So many people don’t care or know about farming, but my grandpa did, and I want to keep that tradition going with me and my son.”

Fawn and her family continued her grandfather’s legacy by starting Farmer’s Daughters, a female-led company that provides local food and education for restaurants, farmers’ markets and breweries.

Gus is survived by wife, Arlene Wagner (Espinosa); children Anthony Wagner, Bobby (Donna) Wagner, Jim (Roxanne) Wagner and Gina Wagner; sisters Mariana Swann and Adela CdeBaca, 14 grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents and sisters Sophia Martinez, Mary DeBaca and Eva Cordova.

A celebration of life will be held Sunday, Feb. 23, at 5 p.m. at San Ysidro Church, 5015 Corrales Road, across from Wagner Farms. A funeral Mass will be Monday, Feb. 24, at 11 a.m. at the same church. A tractor hayride processional will follow the Monday services to honor Wagner’s farming legacy.

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