Surely you’ve seen the bumper sticker that says: “Next time you criticize a farmer, don’t do it with your mouth full.”
Those are words of wisdom and we’re reminded today and Wednesday as the 21st annual New Mexico Ag Expo comes to Portales.
This year’s expo is dedicated to the late Frankye King, who gave her heart and soul to agriculture and was one of the driving forces behind this annual event.
King knew ag, having grown up on a family farm, and she embodied the intrepid spirit of those who work the land — often in conditions that would drive weaker souls to helpless despair.
She threw herself into her myriad volunteer projects, one of which was to help deliver the Ag Expo’s message to the community.
Hard times will be the focus of this year’s expo, which organizers expect will draw 100 vendors to the event. Karl Terry, executive director of the Roosevelt County Chamber of Commerce, expects half of the vendors to be from nearby.
The theme of this year’s seminars? The d-word: drought.
The region has suffered in the past four years, culminating in the driest year on record in 2011. Expo seminars will focus on how those who will seek to stay on the farm can receive help that will enable them to keep providing food for the rest of us.
Weather and many other factors have played havoc on Roosevelt and Curry counties’ shrinking — but still significant — dairy industry. Milk prices have forced many dairies to close in the past year. Many others remain and the region derives huge benefit from the products that flow from them.
New Mexico is a farm-friendly state. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Land of Enchantment’s farm count increased from 18,000 in 2000 to 23,000 in 2011.
That’s the good news. An unsettling element of that data, though, is that total farm acreage in New Mexico decreased from 44.9 million acres in 2000 to 43.3 million in 2011.
Does that diminish the impact of farms on our region, or lessen the need to support local producers? Indeed, it only heightens both aspects, but none more so than the support we must demonstrate to our neighbors who feed us.
The Roosevelt County Fairgrounds gates have swung open to the vendors who are here to market their products. It’s our turn to listen, learn and enjoy the fruits of their labor.