New Mexico has over 5,500 farms that grow directly about 50 edible crops (and endless varieties). Santa Cruz Farms in Española, for instance, grows 76 crop varieties of 3.5 acres. Chispas Farms grows 50 varieties of garlic for sale and over 300 to save the cultivars! The number of both truck market farms and crop varieties planted has continued to grow over the last decade. Top commercial crops for the mass market are: pecans, onions, greenhouse nursery crops, chile (see Boxes) and winter wheat (286,000 acres). Peanuts (about 10,000 acres), potatoes (about 5,500 acres), sweet corn and dry beans (about 7.500 acres) are important in specific agro-ecoregions. There are many farms growing apples (over 900 totaling over 2,000 acres), and over 1,000 acres each of grapes, pistachios, pumpkins, rye and watermelons. Most of the top crops are exported.
Given this mass-market production and local market diversity, New Mexico could eat well (in season) perhaps 50% or more of its edibles from foodshed farms. The exact amount will depend on crop-specific assessments to see what import crops can be most easily substituted and the willingness of farmers to grow the crops.
The typical New Mexico farmer is nearly 60 years old and may not be eager to redesign his or her business. Nevertheless, with good farmland decreasing, an unknown number of these farms and farmers will need to change crops to fulfill the dream.
How can government, private investors and nonprofits help increase farm gate profits and direct edible crops into local markets? A good example was the State Memorial to bring fresh, local foods to schools. The Farm to School program requires farmers to carry a one million dollar insurance policy, to harvest less than 24 hours before delivery, package in three-pound increments, and label each box with the farmer’s name and the package’s destination. Despite this extra insurance and work, this exclusive market segment stabilizes and reduces financial risk to the crop farmer, who knows in advance how much will be bought and at what price. Institutional markets help farmers switch to a new agrarian economy.