Need proof that New Mexico agriculture is growing, changing? Head to your local farmers market

Recent USDA data takes form across New Mexico’s 75 farmers markets

(LAS CRUCES, N.M.) – You can be forgiven if you were a bit skeptical about the news earlier this year that more young people are joining New Mexico’s agricultural community, that more kinds of agricultural items are being produced here, and that the number of sales venues for farmers and ranchers is increasing.

Those highlights were revealed in USDA’s 2012 Census of Agriculture, released partly in February and fully in May.  The New Mexico-specific news was trumpeted widely across the state and the country.

Data doubters and subscribers alike will be happy to know that you can see these trends playing out every time their local farmers market convenes.  (No worries if you don’t know where the market nearest you is located.)

Twenty years ago, you were lucky to have lived near the approximately 20 farmers markets that existed in the state at that time.  Today, the number of markets has grown to 75.

“That growth isn’t just in the number of markets but also in the specialty crops and other items you can find at any given market,” said Denise Miller, executive director of the New Mexico Farmers Marketing Association (NMFMA), which serves as a centralized resource center for markets across the state. 

Miller says the list of fresh produce you’ll find at the market this time of year includes New Mexico’s signature green chile, as well as apples, kale, grapes, and tomatoes.  You’ll also find eggs, honey, meat and goat cheese, to name a few non-produce items. 

And because the harvest is coming on strong, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack recently declared August 3-9 this year as “National Farmers Market Week” to encourage people to shop at their local farmers market, talk with the farmers who sell their products there, and feel the strong sense of community the markets create.

“If you’ve never been to your local farmers market, go now while the markets are at their peak,” said New Mexico Secretary of Agriculture Jeff Witte.  “Farmers markets offer New Mexico’s agricultural community another channel for selling their products, and they offer customers the chance to reconnect to the very kind of farm and ranch life they might be generations removed from.”

One factor feeding into the growth of New Mexico farmers markets is the increasing convenience of buying items from them.  Many markets have begun to accept credit and debit cards, as well as benefits related to programs such as the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program, the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

For more information – including the address, day(s), and hours of the market(s) near you – please visit the NMFMA’s website.