From local treats to livestock shows, New Mexico fairs – whether state, regional, county or tribal – have all the best parts of the ag industry on display for consumers to enjoy and from which they can learn. After all, state fairs originated in the 1800s solely for the purpose of promoting state agriculture. From the Southern New Mexico State Fair in Las Cruces to San Juan County Fair in Farmington to Eastern New Mexico State Fair in Roswell, fairs around the state offer visitors a chance to see, taste and learn about the vast array of products grown or produced in New Mexico.
At the New Mexico State Fair, the New Mexico Department of Agriculture (NMDA) Country Store features the largest selection of NM-grown and -made agricultural products under one roof, according to Felicia Chacon-Frost, NMDA Marketing Specialist. Fairgoers can find everything from honey to pecans, jams and jellies, and, of course, chiles and salsas at the Country Store. Sampling stations within the store provide opportunities for companies to interact with potential customers.
“People that come to the fair each year look forward to the sampling and stock up on their favorite products,” Chacon-Frost says.
Visitors also enjoy the Battle of the Salsas, the longest-standing NMDA promotional event at the state fair, and the New Mexico Green Chile Cheeseburger Contest, which is co-hosted by the New Mexico State Fair and NMDA.
Before the Country Store’s inception, the New Mexico specialty food and beverage industry had a need to both test market new products and market their existing products for greater awareness and increased sales, Chacon-Frost explains. “The New Mexico State Fair was the perfect fit for both needs,” she says. “We consider the store a success because many of the products that were first tested and sold in the Country Store can now be found in various retail stores throughout the state and beyond.”
Fairgoers can be inspired by the future of agriculture at events such as the Bi-County Fair in Prewitt, where 4-H youngsters exhibit their animals, produce, horticulture, baked goods, and arts and crafts. Each year, nearly 100 4-H members participate in the fair, according to Kathy Landers, tribal extension program coordinator and McKinley County extension agent. Learning how to raise something, whether a lamb or a plot of zucchini, teaches responsibility and a sense of pride, says Landers, a 27-year 4-H agent who also helps with the Eastern Navajo Fair in Crownpoint and the Northern Navajo Nation Fair in Shiprock.
“Whether they give the extra produce away or they learn about other outlets like a farmers market, they realize their efforts ended up going on somebody’s table,” Landers says. “And that’s a lesson for all of us.”