Over 110 years ago, two sets of my great-grandparents settled one mile apart on the Llano Estacado of Eastern New Mexico, throwing distance from the Texas state line. Their children, grandchildren and now I have all lived on and worked this land that I am proud to call my home. It has always been my hope that my children, who were also born and raised here, and their children will continue to be a part of this land as well.
I remember what agriculture used to look like in Curry County. Corn, sorghum, barley, wheat, alfalfa, cotton, even soybeans and tomatoes. You’ll never hear anyone say that farming the High Plains is easy, but, back then, and depending on what plot of land you worked, we did what we needed to to keep the land healthy and survive as a small family farm.
Today, however, it seems as though agriculture means one thing: cattle. The land is used to either grow feed products for cattle, or to house, milk and process cattle directly. No more sorghum, and gone are the tomato fields. This is not meant to be an affront to my dairy and rancher neighbors, but rather to state clearly that the cattle business is the only real viable agricultural business in the area.
In this way, “Big Ag” has won the battle. Small farmers like me are slowly breathing our last breaths, and those of us who remain are likely without succession plans and, in the worst cases, saddled with enormous debt. Small farmers just don’t have many options – and when a business runs out of options, it dies.
However, what we do have is some land and vast knowledge of how to work it, around 300 days of sunshine every year, and a work ethic that doesn’t have an off button. Given options, small farmers will succeed. In so doing they will hire local help and support their local communities; it’s what family farms do.
That is why I, my entire family, and many other small agricultural business people across this state adamantly support the legalization of cannabis in New Mexico. To assume that the fine folks across the rural communities of this great state are against legalization would be a grave mistake.