The New Mexico Grown Program
New Mexico is abundant with locally and regionally produced foods—from fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts, to beef and milk. Then there are the many products created from farm and ranch businesses such as traditional foods—chile products, salsa and tortillas—to artisanal products such as goat and milk cheeses, wheat for breads, wines, and hops for beer. Overall, agriculture in New Mexico contributes over $4 billion to the state’s economy annually and is considered the state’s fourth-largest economic sector.
Yet, approximately 97 percent of what we grow, produce and process is exported, leaving us to rely on the larger marketplace to bring in food from elsewhere, including globally. The global marketplace is important to dairy and beef producers, who account for. Additionally, New Mexico is a major producer of pecans, pistachios and onions. A big market for New Mexico’s pecans is China.
With the growth of farmers’ markets in New Mexico as well as fruit and vegetable sales to schools, and a wide variety of regionally produced products purchased by grocery stores and restaurants, there is much potential to expand these opportunities for our farmers and ranchers.
In a state where much of the revenues are predicated on oil and gas sales to pay for education, health and human services, agriculture, infrastructure and many other services, investing in our regional food and farm system could expand economic opportunities in New Mexico, keeping more dollars in our communities while continuing to support the agriculture sectors that are export-oriented. In a study called Food and Farm Economy for New Mexico, economist for the Crossroad Resource Center, Ken Meter states, “If consumers bought 15 percent of their food directly from local farmers, farm income would increase over $375 million. For every dollar that goes to local farmers, at least $1.80 is re-spent in the community. Thus, 15 percent in purchases from local farmers would generate $670 million per year in new community wealth.” In addition, close to 60 million meals are served annually in New Mexico’s schools, corrections facilities, senior centers and public hospitals—a market largely untapped except with the schools. There is much potential for New Mexico to create more market opportunities that would add to the regional economy and strengthen our food and farming system.
In an effort to address this potential there is a collective effort under way called the New Mexico Grown Program, a five-year vision to create a coordinated regional system that connects farmers with aggregation facilities and distribution, while managing sales, promotion and education programs—referred to as a “supply chain” or “value chain.” There are examples of initiatives already under way. The New Mexico Grown Program works to bring more of the participants in the system together to create ad coordinate more opportunities.
Pam Roy is executive director of Farm to Table, a Santa Fe-based nonprofit organization supporting farmers and food related community programs. She can be reached at 505.660.8403 or email@example.com