Fresh chile, beans and onions may come to mind when thinking of New Mexico, but in reality, the state’s agriculture industry is much more than these staple crops. In fact, the industry can be summed up in one word – diverse.
In 2015, New Mexico agriculture was valued at a whopping $4 billion, including forest products sold and other farm income, thanks to the 24,700 farms covering 43.2 million acres across the state. New Mexico farms are large with the average size ringing in at 1,749 acres.
The state’s hardworking farmers and ranchers grow and raise important commodities including beef, milk, hay, pecans, corn, wheat, cotton, sorghum, peanuts, potatoes and more. New Mexico continues to be among the nation’s leaders in chile pepper and pecan production, producing 33 and 29 percent of America’s total production, respectively. Additionally, New Mexico ranks in the top 10 nationally for both cheese and milk production.
New Mexico is a major player in value-added agriculture with specialty foods produced in the state sold worldwide.
Not only are the crops diverse in New Mexico, but so are the people who grow them. In the past several years there has been an increase in the number of both young New Mexican farmers and minority New Mexican farmers. According to the most recent Census of Agriculture, the number of Hispanic-operated farms grew from 6,475 in 2007 to 9,377 in 2012. The number of farmers under the age of 34 also rose, increasing from 818 in 2007 to 1,200 in 2012.
With steady growth, New Mexico’s industry continues to embrace innovation and gain success. However, it’s also rooted deep in tradition with a cultural respect and appreciation for its history. Farmers, ranchers, chefs and consumers all continue to highlight the state’s heritage through food.
Who’s Your Farmer?
In the Land of Enchantment, farmers come in all shapes and sizes.
According to the most recent Census of Agriculture, New Mexico’s farmers have become more diverse with the number of both minority and young farmers increasing significantly.
Currently, the state has 9,377 Hispanic-operated farms, up from 6,475 five years before. There is also an increase in young farmers, specifically those under the age of 34. The average age of a New Mexican farmer is around 60 years old.
Though New Mexico includes conventional farming, organic farming is also a large sector of the agriculture industry, with 116 organic farms recorded in 2014.
To Market We Go
For fresh, local food, look no further than your friendly neighborhood farmers market.
New Mexico’s farmers markets allow consumers to meet and talk to the hardworking farmers growing their food, learn to eat seasonally, support their communities and keep dollars in the state.
The New Mexico Farmers Marketing Association supports markets across the state and gives helpful tips to make the most out of market trips. Different climates in New Mexico offer different crops, so it’s important to know what’s in season in your region. You can also find tips on how to shop and store fresh produce.
Find a map of New Mexico’s markets and more information at farmersmarketsnm.org.
Spicy chile peppers, beans and maybe even livestock are some of New Mexico’s most well-known commodities, so the state’s top crop may surprise you.
Hay is New Mexico’s No. 1 crop, and specifically, alfalfa hay. More than 30 percent of the state’s production is exported. In 2015, the Land of Enchantment produced 893,000 tons of alfalfa hay, with a production value of $188.4 million.
The hay itself is used for pasture, silage and greenchop, and it is a significant contribution to the state’s livestock industry, acting as food for cattle and more.
Every year, the New Mexico Country Store at the New Mexico State Fair offers local, tasty treats. Inside the Agriculture Building, customers shop for several hundred New Mexico-made salsas, sauces, honeys, jams, jellies and more. Learn more at statefair.exponm.com.
Another venue surely to excite food enthusiasts is the annual HomeGrown: A New Mexico Food Show & Gift Market at the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum. This two-day, indoor event showcases products made in the state. Dozens of vendors offer samples of unique, New Mexican foods like sauces, spices, baked goods, nuts, pies, jerky and more. Learn more at nmfarmandranchmuseum.org.