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A Rare Glimpse at Traditional Crops Grown in New Mexico

Posted by Longino Bustillos, New Mexico State Statistician, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service in Research and Science
Dec 05, 2019
Chile pepper in New Mexico
Chile pepper farms in New Mexico cover more than 8,000 acres of land, dotting the landscape with vibrant colors. Photo taken by Longino Bustillos, USDA NASS

Farming has been a part of New Mexico for over 2,500 years, ever since Native Americans first grew corn, squash, and beans throughout the region. The 2017 Census of Agriculture provides a rare look into our state’s agriculture crop acreages and livestock numbers. For instance, the 2017 Ag Census shows Native Americans account for 24 percent of New Mexico's farms and ranches. Maize, a crop traditionally grown here, can be found on 596 farms with 1,923 acres of the native corn.

September is a highly anticipated time throughout the state each year as it marks the height of chile pepper harvest. While green chile roasting has been common in New Mexico for quite some time, increasingly, green chile is being shipped fresh to other parts of the country for roasting. According to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, New Mexico ranked first in the nation for chile pepper acreage with 8,313 acres. Doña Ana (PDF, 917 KB) and Luna counties ranked first and second among U.S. counties with chile acreage.

Livestock is also a big part of the state's agriculture with 10,888 ranches reporting 1.5 million head of cattle. Data also show 4,037 ranches reported 105,896 head of sheep in 2017.

Although New Mexico has a history of growing particular crops and raising livestock, the state's ranchers and farmers continually prove to be versatile. Dairy is the largest commodity in the state and New Mexico’s farmers produced $1.3 billion in milk sales in 2017, ranking 9th in the nation. Pecan production has taken over the top spot for crop sales in the state with $220.8 million in sales from 50,722 acres. Doña Ana County continues to lead the nation in pecan production with just under 67 million pounds from 34,319 acres.

New questions on the 2017 Census of Agriculture questionnaire help us tell the story of young producers aged 35 or under, beginning farmers and ranchers, and producers with military service. In New Mexico, there were 2,848 young producers aged 35 or under, seven percent of the state total. The state also had 10,628 new and beginning producers, 26 percent of the state’s total. In addition, 5,366 of New Mexico farmers and ranchers served in the military, 13 percent of the state’s total.

For more details about New Mexico’s diverse agriculture, visit the 2017 Census of Agriculture.

Category/Topic: Research and Science