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Why There Aren’t Mountains Of Locally Grown Organic Veggies

Why There Aren’t Mountains Of Locally Grown Organic Veggies

There were only 182 acres of U.S. Department of Agriculture certified organic cropland in New Mexico last year.

Sales of organically grown agricultural products in New Mexico soared by 40 percent in 2016, but the state’s organic industry remains minuscule.

And if you’re looking to find mountains of locally grown organic veggies in the state, you wont find them.

That’s because there were only 182 acres of U.S. Department of Agriculture certified organic cropland in the state last year. That acreage produced $2 million worth of veggies, according to the U.S. DA’s 2016 survey of organic farming that was released Wednesday.

The total value of organic agricultural products sold by New Mexico’s farmers last years was $45 million, up from $32.1 million in 2015.

Nationally, sales of organic products surged by 23 percent in 2016, to $7.6 billion from $6.2 billion the previous year. New Mexico’s sales represent 0.6 percent of all organic sales.

California was the nation’s biggest organic producer, accounting for $2.9 billion in sales, or 39 percent of all U.S. sales.

So why won’t you find mountains of locally grown certified organic veggies in New Mexico?

Because the state’s three largest largest organic products are hay and cattle.

Hay accounted for $5.8 million in the state’s organic sales last year, while cattle accounted for $3.1 million.

There were 75 certified organic farms in the state in 2016 for a total of 94,143 acres. Of that acreage, 30,480 acres were for cropland and 63,663 were pastureland.

All crops in the state – including veggies, grains, fruits and nuts – accounted for $9.3 million of the state’s organic sales last year.

Here are some stats from the USDA’s survey:

Crop                    Acreage        Production             Value

Garlic                 4 acres          22,800 pounds      $49,918

Bell peppers     10 acres       44,300 pounds       $27,512

Lettuce               3 acres        26,700 pounds       $28,688

Squash              10 acres       94,700 pounds       $60,938

Tomatoes         8 acres        NA                              $75,168

Berries             20 acres       NA                             $143,393

Pecans             71 acres        129,741 pounds       $427,085

Apples             38 acres       686,135 pounds      $234,982

* Other veggies 113 acres  749,100 pounds      $1.5 million

* A broad category that includes all vegetables. Many producers don’t report their acreage by specific vegetables.

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

Latest posts by Dennis Domrzalski (see all)