If someone asked you to picture a typical farmer in the Land of Enchantment, what would that person look like? If the person who comes to mind is a young woman, you'd …
If someone asked you to picture a typical farmer in the Land of Enchantment, what would that person look like? If the person who comes to mind is a young woman, you'd be right on.
According to the most recent data from the Census of Agriculture, women, young people and military veterans are having an important and growing impact on farming and food production in the state.
Take a walk around the Taos Farmers Market on the plaza on a Saturday morning to see just how true this is.
On Saturday (May 25), Jada Grant was busy arranging pots of herbs and medicinal plants for Spirit Healing, a cooperative of elder women and young doulas (someone who helps women during and through their pregnancies).
"We're trying to take care of ourselves," Grant said. "This is a community of gardens, farms and women helping each other."
Across the plaza was Kata Li, who grew up helping out on the family farm in Llano, in the Peñasco Valley. Normally a student at the University of New Mexico, she's at home on the farm this summer.
"It's awesome" to see more young farmers in New Mexico, she said. "It's very important to keep young people farming. There's just so many new ways of doing things."
Bucking the national trend, New Mexico has actually increased the number of farms in the last few years, according to the census data. The state added nearly 10,000 new farms between 2002 and 2017. Female producers had a big part to play in that, making up 41 percent of people in agriculture as of 2017.
And out of over 25,000 farms in New Mexico, about 11 percent are operated by young people.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines a "young producer" as anyone under the age of 35.
Here's another way of looking at it: young farmers are responsible for growing on about 3.2 million acres in New Mexico, which is more than double the size of Taos County.
At the same time, the number of military veterans in agriculture is on the rise.
Pea farmer Nicanor Ortega grew up in Arroyo Hondo. He served in the Persian Gulf while in the U.S. Army. He came back to the area several years ago to start his farm -- carrying on the old traditions, but innovating ways to make it a sustainable lifestyle for him and his family.
"I'm trying to do my part to just use my water," he said.
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