New Mexico‘s economy has been based in cattle ranching and farming for two centuries, and still has a significant presence with 24,700 farms in operation. There is a growing presence of farmers’ markets throughout the state, with more than 70 currently established.
New Mexico has become a dairy leader and ranks in the top 10 in the nation for milk production and the top five for cheese production. Total milk production in 2017 was 8.2 billion pounds. The state ranks third behind Michigan and Colorado for average milk per cow. The top five milk-producing counties are Chaves, Curry, Dona Ana, Eddy and Lea, in that order. New Mexico is home to the largest cheese plant in North America, Southwest Cheese in Clovis. Other cheese producers are Leprino Foods, in Roswell, and Tucumcari Mountain Cheese in Tucumcari.
Specialty foods from New Mexico are sold worldwide, and chile is the most distinctive. New Mexico leads the nation in planted acreage and as a percent of the U.S. total. The state is second to California in chile production. The estimated value of the crop was $44.5 million in 2017. Luna and Doña Ana Counties lead the state in chile production.
Pecans, pistachios, and peanuts are grown and processed here and shipped all over the globe. New Mexico ranks second behind Georgia in pecan production, with 92 million pounds produced in 2017. Peanuts are also grown here and 26.6 million pounds were produced in 2017.
New Mexico is in the top three producing states for pistachios along with California and Arizona. The production of pistachios for the three states combined is 99.99% for the nation. Pistachio farms in New Mexico can primarily be found in Otero County.
New Mexico’s sunbaked soils and chilly high-desert nights provide fertile ground for a wide variety of varietals. Wine grapes were first planted in New Mexico in 1629, just south of modern-day Socorro, by Spanish missionaries. By the time New Mexico finally became a U.S. territory in 1853, vineyards were planted throughout the state. In 1977 the first small commercial winery opened its doors in La Union. The winery, La Viña, now holds the title of the longest continuously operating vineyard in the state.
Today more than 40 wineries produce tens of thousands of gallons of wine 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 many more are 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.
Follow the Ale Trail to find microbreweries and events.
Organic food sales in the U.S. have grown exponentially over the years, and New Mexico is positioned for strong growth in this area in coming years. There are currently over 150 certified organic farms across the state. The New Mexico Department of Agriculture provides organic certification and assists farmers in selling their product and provides a variety of training to the industry.
Source: USDA Organic Integrity Database
There are several organizations in the state that assist farms and value-added agriculture businesses: