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NMSU hosts Sustainable Agriculture Fellows on tour of New Mexico farms

LOS LUNAS – A select group of cooperative extension service agricultural agents from across the country visited New Mexico State University’s Agricultural Science Center at Los Lunas during a recent tour of sustainable agriculture operations in New Mexico.

The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education’s Sustainable Agriculture Fellows visited agricultural operations in Albuquerque, Bosque Farms, Los Lunas, Edgewood, Moriarty, Medanales, Abiquiu, Santa Cruz and Tesuque Pueblo to see the various ways New Mexico farmers are dealing with the issues they face.

“The purpose of this tour was to show the Fellows examples of successful operations that are doing things that are either ecologically sustainable or economically sustainable, or both,” said Patrick Torres, NMSU Cooperative Extension Service interim Northern District department head.

“The Fellows program was established in 2007 as a way to give members of the National Association of County Agricultural Agents a two-year long experience of visiting all four SARE regions to learn more about sustainable agriculture principles and practices,” said Kim Kroll, associate director of the SARE program.

As a U.S. Department of Agriculture program, SARE’s mission is to advance, to the whole of American agriculture, innovations that improve profitability, stewardship and quality of life by investing in groundbreaking research and education.

The expectation from the SARE Fellows program is that the agriculture agents will return to their counties and implement the things they have learned.

The agents visited the farm of Fidel Gonzales, an Agricultura Network farmer in Albuquerque’s South Valley; Skarsgard Farms, an organic farm that sells its produce directly to customers through a shares program, located in Albuquerque’s South Valley; DeSmit Farms in Bosque that produces raw milk from grass-fed cows; LaBatt Foods in Albuquerque, a wholesale food distributor; Schwebach Farms in Moriarty; Edible Exotics in Edgewood; Keenridge Farms in Edgewood; Farside Farms and Vineyard in Medanales, KJ Farms in Medanales; Camino de Paz Farm in Santa Cruz; and Tesuque Pueblo Farm at Tesuque Pueblo.

How the farmers deal with the threat of no irrigation water, or low rations, was of interest to the Fellows from the Midwest and eastern states.

“I found the agriculture in New Mexico to be quite interesting from the perspective of the Midwest,” said Nathan Winter of the University of Minnesota. “I assumed certain things and found out it’s a little bit different. I was intrigued by the way the farmers adapt to very little moisture, and how they figure out ways to grow crops.

Another aspect of the environment that surprised the Fellows was the late frosts in early May.

“I kind of assumed the area had a warmer climate all year round,” Winter said. “I didn’t realize spring frost was problematic.”

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