Farm and ranch life is fruitful but difficult.
New Mexico’s agricultural footprint spans centuries.
The New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces has created an exhibit that honors the women in agriculture called “Her Land: Women in Agriculture.”
“We’re going to feature a woman every four months,” says Craig Massey, museum spokesman. “We’ve been talking a lot about this with our staff on how we can go better and recognize women in the field who are making a difference.”
Massey says the interactive museum, which has welcomed visitors from all over the world, brings to life the 4,000-year history of farming and ranching in New Mexico. It is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, the highest national honor for museums.
The main building contains more than 24,000 square feet of exhibit space.
The first person featured in the exhibit is Felicia Thal, a longtime rancher in northeastern New Mexico who died in 2020 at age 92.
Thal was born in Durban, South Africa, in 1928.
Her adventures led her and her husband, Alan, to New York, Minnesota, Detroit, Kansas City, and eventually New Mexico, in 1972.
The Thals decided to make cattle ranching a priority and fell in love with the northeastern part of the state and bought a ranch north of Las Vegas.
Thal was a woman of varied interests and many talents. She began to focus on raising cattle and quickly became one of the state’s leaders in the industry.
While living on the ranch in the Mora Valley, she took a leadership role in several organizations, including the Cattle Growers Association, where she executed a succes sful healthy-beef campaign. She helped develop the New Mexico Beef Council and was the first woman to be chosen as Cattleman of the Year.
Massey says Thal was an early supporter and founding member of the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum.
“She fought hard to make the dream of a museum that celebrates agriculture in New Mexico, a reality,” Massey says.
Massey says that in 2017, 41% of producers in New Mexico were female. He says it’s not just farmers or ranchers who are featured in the coming exh An emphasis is being placed on contemporary leaders and those who represent the future.
“Museums typically focus on the stories of our ancestors and their incredible accomplishments,” says Heather A. Reed, museum executive director. “We often forget to look around to see that history is unfolding right in front of us within our communities and our state. ‘Her Land’ spotlights the amazing feats and contributions of modern-day women and showcases the young women working on the future of agriculture. This ongoing project will rotate every few months and will allow us to record history in real time for generations to come.”