New Mexico‘s economy has been based in cattle ranching and farming for 200 years, and still has a significant presence with 24,800 farms in operation. Farms vary from livestock to aquaculture, and the top 3 crops grown in the state are wheat, corn for grain, and pecans. There is also a growing presence of farmers’ markets throughout the state, with more than 70 currently established.
New Mexico is 1st in the nation for chile production and in the top 3 for pecan production. A strong business climate and competitive electric prices, land costs, and wages separate New Mexico from other states.
New Mexico has become a national leader in cheese and milk production and ranks in the top 10 for number of milk cows in the nation. The state produces approximately 642 million pounds of milk per month for a total of 7.711 billion pounds in 2016. New Mexico currently has 172 dairies that ship milk across state lines as well as 15 processing plants that produce a wide range of products from packaged fluid milk to cheese to whey protein concentrate. New Mexico is home to several cheese plants, two of the largest are Southwest Cheese, in Clovis, and Leprino Foods, in Roswell.
Specialty foods from New Mexico are sold worldwide, and chile is the most distinctive. Planted chile acreage in 2016 totaled 9,200 acres, producing 69,000 tons. The estimated value of the crop was $50.6 million. Luna and Doña Ana Counties lead the state in chile production.
Pecans, peanuts, and pistachios are grown and processed here and shipped all over the globe. In 2016, the state produced 22.4 million pounds of peanuts and 72 million pounds of pecans, accounting for nearly 27% of the annual national pecan crop. Pecans are grown all over New Mexico with the largest concentration in Dona Ana County. Peanut acreage in New Mexico can be found in Lea and Roosevelt Counties. New Mexico is one of the top 3 producing states for pistachios along with California and Arizona. The production of pistachios for these states combined is 99.99% for the nation. Pistachio farms in New Mexico can primarily be found in Otero County.
Organic food sales in the U.S. have grown exponentially, and New Mexico is positioned to show strong growth. There are currently 194 organic and certified organic farms across the state, with 48 more farms positioning for organic status. The New Mexico Department of Agriculture provides organic certification, assists farmers in selling their product, and provides a variety of training to the industry. Skarsgard Farms, Coonridge Organic Goat Cheese, Shepard’s Lamb, and Soaring Eagle Ranch are just a few of the organic companies that call New Mexico home.
New Mexico’s sunbaked soils and chilly high-desert nights provide fertile ground for a wide variety of varietals. Wine was first produced in New Mexico in 1629 by Spanish missionaries. More than 40 wineries produce approximately 350,000 gallons annually. Festivals are held throughout the state each summer and early fall.
New Mexico’s first microbrewery, Santa Fe Brewing Company, opened in 1988. Since then there are more than 50 that have opened and are still in operation across the state. Some of these craft beers have won titles at the Great American Beer Festival and World Beer Cup, and others can be found on store shelves across the country. Production for 2013 reached over 58,000 barrels of craft beer. Follow the Ale Trail to visit New Mexico microbreweries and find events.
There are several organizations in the state that assist farms and value-added agriculture businesses: