Category Archives: NMDA News and Hot Topics

New Mexico’s 75 farmers markets good for economy, community

USDA picks Santa Fe to kick off National Farmers Market Week, Aug. 2-8

SANTA FE – If you need proof that farmers markets are good for the economy and community, just spend some time this week during National Farmers Market Week watching the exchanges of locally grown food, dollars, and conversation that take place at any one of New Mexico’s 75 farmers markets.

USDA officials were in Santa Fe on Saturday, Aug. 1, to kick off the national event.

“[The Santa Fe Farmers Market has] gone from a small, informal group of farmers organizing in the 1960s to the largest farmers market in the state with [more than 100] active vendors,” said Anne Alonzo, the administrator of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).  She pointed to the fact that the Santa Fe market is often ranked as one of the top 10 farmers markets in the country.

Alonzo and New Mexico Secretary of Agriculture Jeff Witte talked about the growth in the number and economic impact of farmers markets in New Mexico and across the country.  According to the New Mexico Farmers Marketing Association, the combined sales at all of New Mexico’s 75 farmers markets amounts to close to $9 million a year.

Farmers markets have also seen an increase in the diversity of their customers.  One reason: increased support for nutrition-benefits programs such as Double Up Food Bucks.  That program – awarded $100 thousand in federal funds and $400 thousand in state funds this year – allows recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to double their purchasing power of fresh, local fruits and vegetables (as well as eggs, meats, cheeses, and bread) when they present their SNAP benefits card at more than 30 of the state’s 75 farmers markets.

“It’s a win for low-income families in New Mexico, for New Mexico farmers and ranchers who sell at the farmers markets, and for communities in the state that will see these dollars cycled locally,” Witte said.

Santa Fe Farmers Market Director Paolo Speirn told the crowd that small-scale agriculture – the kind often sustained by sales at farmers markets – is a way of life.

“We can’t take our farmers markets for granted,” Speirn said.  “They need you to show up on market days with rain and even on market days with snow.”

NMDA has partnered with USDA on a pilot project to anonymously collect price information from farmers markets across the state so that a database can be created.  That database will help vendors know how to price their items, and customers know what items they can expect at the farmers market and what they should expect to pay for them.  NMDA is recruiting volunteers to help gather such price information.

Alonzo said that USDA is currently surveying farmers market managers across the country to identify any trends that may be quietly underway.  Last year’s survey – the results of which are being released this month – show that farmers markets continue to grow and serve as popular community gathering places.

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Longtime staffer to lead NMDA’s efforts in ensuring quality of local dairy products

NMDA works to ensure quality of milk
and dairy products made in New Mexico

(LAS CRUCES, N.M.) – New Mexico consistently ranks among the top 10 states in the country in milk production and among the top five in cheese production.  Ever wondered about the regulatory framework for ensuring that all of that milk, cheese, and other dairy products are safe to eat and drink?

New Mexico Department of Agriculture’s (NMDA) Dairy Division conducts sanitary inspections of milking barns and milk-processing facilities, and it samples milk and dairy products – all to ensure the quality of those products.  The Dairy Division’s work covers conventional and certified organic dairies, and it covers dairies where goat’s milk is produced, not just dairies where cow’s milk is produced.  Now that division is undergoing a change in leadership.

Dustin Cox will serve as NMDA’s Dairy Division director after having served for 15 years as an inspector in the same division.  Cox replaces Alf Reeb, who retired June 30 after 25 years of working in state government to ensure the quality of milk and dairy products originating from New Mexico.

“Alf takes with him a tremendous amount of knowledge, but the transition in leadership will be smooth because Dustin brings a tremendous amount of knowledge,” New Mexico Secretary of Agriculture Jeff Witte said.  “Going forward, there’s no one better than Dustin to lead NMDA’s efforts to ensure the quality of milk and other dairy products made here in New Mexico.”

Cox grew up on a farm in Bosque Farms and spent summers working with his grandfather, who designed dairy barns and installed milking equipment for a living.  That’s where Cox learned “the importance of keeping equipment clean in order to maintain regulatory compliance”, he said.

Regulatory compliance is precisely the role NMDA plays in New Mexico’s dairy sector.  Cox will oversee a team of inspectors who carry out that work by:

  • collecting samples of milk and dairy products for food safety testing
  • inspecting the sanitation of the facilities in which the cows are milked
  • inspecting the sanitation of processing facilities where raw milk is pasteurized, and where cheese, yogurt, and more are made
  • inspecting the trailers used to haul milk to ensure that they’re sound and sanitary
  • testing and permitting the people who haul milk from the farm to the processing facility to ensure they maintain the food safety of milk during transport

This work is in addition to the work that dairy farmers themselves do to maintain milk quality.  The farmers sample what they feed their dairy cows to make sure it’s good, and then they sample the milk those cows produce.  Every load – that is, all the milk that’s hauled in one of those stainless steel cylindrical trailers you see on the interstate – is tested for quality at the facilities where milk is pasteurized, and where it’s turned into products like cheese and yogurt.

There are approximately 150 dairy farms in New Mexico, as well as 14 facilities where raw milk is processed into pasteurized milk, cheese, yogurt, and more.  The value of raw milk – prior to being pasteurized and turned into high-value products like cheese and ice cream – produced in New Mexico tops $1 billion every year, making it one of the top contributors to the state’s agricultural economy.

NMDA hosts four pesticide collection events in August to help public safely dispose of pesticides at no cost

NMDA hosts four pesticide collection events
in August to help public
safely dispose of pesticides at no cost

(LAS CRUCES, N.M.) – New Mexico Department of Agriculture (NMDA) is hosting four free events in August across New Mexico to safely collect pesticides from pesticide applicators/dealers, farmers, and ranchers.  NMDA is partnering with Advanced Environmental Solutions to ensure safe disposal.

The events are open to all pesticide applicators and dealers, farmers and ranchers, and members of the public.

All four events take place from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.:

  • PORTALES: Monday, August 3 at the Roosevelt County Fairgrounds, located at 705 East Lime Street
  • ARTESIA: Thursday, August 6 at the Eddy County Fairgrounds, located at 3402 South 13th Street
  • ANTHONY: Monday, August 10 at Performance Agriculture, located at 1946 Anthony Drive
  • ALBUQUERQUE: Thursday, August 13 at the Bernalillo County Extension Office, located at 1510 Menaul Boulevard, NW

“Our goal is to collect any old, unwanted, outdated, cancelled, or inactive pesticide products – including products that are hard to identify – to ensure that they aren’t disposed of in an unsafe way,” said New Mexico Secretary of Agriculture Jeff Witte.

Those intending to drop off unused pesticides are asked to secure any leaking containers or broken bags in a containment bag or liner.  People at all four events will be asked to complete an anonymous survey to help NMDA get a better sense of pesticide use in the state.

NMDA’s Pesticide Compliance Section works to ensure compliance with pesticide law governing the use of agricultural, horticultural, and structural pesticides.  The section certifies and licenses the people who apply pesticides for hire, ensure that pesticides distributed in New Mexico are properly registered, and investigates tips and complaints about pesticides suspected to have been applied improperly.

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Project aims to help New Mexico farmers’ markets sellers, customers

NMDA looks to recruit farmers’ market fans
to help gather price information

(LAS CRUCES, N.M.) – Fans of farmers’ markets, local food, and New Mexico agriculture are invited to participate in a project that aims to benefit small local farmers and their customers.

New Mexico Department of Agriculture (NMDA) is looking for people across the state who frequent their local farmers’ market.  The agency is asking them to take a few notes about the prices of the fruits and vegetables – as well as eggs and specialty items like honey and mushrooms – for sale there, then share what they learn so that a statewide clearinghouse of price information can be created.  The goal is to help New Mexico growers and customers alike know the price range of produce at local farmers’ markets.

“Some growers shy away from selling their produce at their local farmers’ market because they simply don’t know how to price their items,” New Mexico Secretary of Agriculture Jeff Witte said.  “And on the customer side, people who think a trip to the farmers’ market is much more expensive than a trip to the grocery store, might be more likely to visit their local market if they could just see how comparable the prices are.”

Witte said the project will also serve customers by letting them know the wide range of produce available at their local farmers’ market.

Farmers’ market managers, vendors, market volunteers, board members, retired vendors, dedicated market “regulars”, and college or high school students are all examples of potential volunteers for the project.  The information they gather will be combined and posted on NMDA’s website as a monthly report.  Vendors’ and volunteers’ names and other identifying information will be kept confidential.

NMDA is working on the pilot project on behalf of USDA, which is also working with a few other state departments of agriculture to gather similar data elsewhere in the country.  In addition to helping both growers and customers know the range of prices at a farmers’ market, USDA’s other goal is to use the information to help create loan programs and crop disaster assistance programs for small growers.

Genevieve Morgan, a former vendor at and manager of the farmers’ market in Silver City, is leading the project for NMDA.  For more details on how the program works – and to sign up as a participant – please contact her at 575-646-1811 or gmorgan@nmda.nmsu.edu.

NMDA ready to help New Mexico ranchers export livestock

Ranchers invited to stop by NMDA booth
at Cattle Growers meeting
to learn more, sign up for trade opportunities

(LAS CRUCES, N.M.) – New Mexico Department of Agriculture (NMDA) is working to help New Mexico ranchers develop and expand the markets they sell their cattle and other livestock into – especially Mexico and other Latin American countries.

Ranchers can learn more by stopping by NMDA’s booth at the 2015 New Mexico Joint Stockmen’s Mid-Year Meeting, happening June 14-16 in Ruidoso.  There, they’ll be able to meet and talk with Juan Sanchez, NMDA’s marketing specialist who is leading trade missions to help export New Mexico livestock (and other high-value agricultural commodities) into Mexico and other Latin American countries.  The programs Sanchez works with can benefit ranchers of all backgrounds, no matter their exporting experience.

Sanchez – who is fluent in both English and Spanish – soon will be hosting a group of qualified Mexican cattle buyers on an inbound trade mission.  Other trade and marketing activities are also filling up the calendar.  Sanchez is asking ranchers interested in these activities to let him know of their interest.

Ranchers who cannot attend the Cattle Growers meeting can get in touch with Sanchez by calling 575-646-4929 or emailing jsanchez@nmda.nmsu.edu.

Sanchez is working with U.S. Livestock Genetics Export, Inc. (USLGE) to conduct trade activities on behalf of New Mexico livestock producers.  USLGE is a trade association that helps export U.S. dairy, beef, sheep, pigs, and horses, as well as their genetics.  It awards funds to state departments of agriculture to support their trade missions and other efforts aimed at increasing export markets.

In addition to his livestock activities, Sanchez also works to promote the state’s chile, onions, and other crops; local food and agriculture at the state fair; and more.

For more information about NMDA and its activities to promote New Mexico food and agricultural products, please visit www.nmda.nmsu.edu/marketing.