The Sangre De Cristo Agricultural Producers is a group of growers in
Taos County, located in Northern New Mexico that has been able to find a lucrative niche market by producing organic wheat that is grinded into
baking flour for the sale to Santa Fe and Taos area bakers.
The growers plant their wheat crops on limited acreage of land that
has been handed down fiom generation to generation within families over the years. In 1995 a group fiom within the community got together and became the founding fathers of the Sangre De Cristo Agricultural Producers. With the help of New Mexico State University’s Cooperative Extension Service and the New Mexico Department of Agriculture the growers were able to organize and put their abandon land back into production growing hay and grain crops. Most of the water comes fiom Acequias (Irrigation Ditches).
In 2001 The Sangre De Cristo Agricultural Producers received a grant
from Western SARE to look at alternative legumes crops that could be
alternated with the wheat that is being grown annually on these small pieces of land, therefore taking out the same nutrients annually.
The group with the help of the Cooperative Extension Service, and the
Rural Agricultural Improvement and Public Affairs Project (RAIPAP)
looked at several types of legumes that might meet the needs of improving soil nutrients, soil structure, and soil conditions. The crops we looked at were favabeans (1 variety), pinto beans (2 varieties), and field peas (2 varieties).
1. Identify and plant legume crops that we can interchange with wheat to improve soil nutrients, soil structure and soil condition
2. Identify, demonstrate and apply alternative methods for preparing land to cut the high cost in our area
3. Promote legume crops that can be processed
to add value and sell into niches markets that parallel those of Sangre de Cristo Agricultural Producers organic wheat markets
The seed for the peas was planted in late April and early May on
several small acreages that had been in wheat production and utilizing early run off from the mountains for irrigation. Land was plowed then disked in early April in preparation for the seeding of the crop that was planted between April 25 and May 08. There was 40 acres of land that received theplow and 80 acres that received only the disking. The criteria for plowing were determined on the amount of trash on top of the soil.
Because of the water accumulation in the soil we did not apply a pre irrigation before planting. An application of water was applied after
planting was finished on each field.
Seed rate for planting was 100 lbs. acre in 7" rows at the depth of 3/4 inch. Nine days after the first irrigation the plants started to emerge from the soil and germination was excellent. The plants stayed in good condition throughout June and July. Irrigation of the crop was approximately every two weeks and biomass production was very satisfactory covering the whole field. Water for irrigation was brought in through the Asequia system.
Insect and disease damage was at a minimum this year and the plants
were healthy throughout the growing season. We were worried because
early in the spring there was an outbreak of the cutter worm that devastated all vegetation in the area.
Since our communities are small in Northern New Mexico, they were
invited to pick the peas green for their household. There was no charge for the picking and the community seemed very pleased with this arrangement.
In August the plants started changing from green to yellow and the
seeds inside the pods turned hard. A Massey Ferguson 310 combine was put into the fields to harvest the seed were it will be used for livestock feed this winter and some seed saved for planting again next year in fields needing a cover crop or a green manure crop. The vines in the fields will be grazed this fall and winter with cattle owned by each producer.
The beans were in relatively good condition throughout June and we
were hoping the monsoons would be able to carry our crop through until
harvest. This did not happen because the monsoons did not come into New Mexico, and by the end of July the crop had deteriorated and did not recover. It was at that time we made the decision that cattle were to be put into the fields to harvest the crop for forage.
Educational & Outreach Activities
Our growers within the wheat program have all had a great interest in
evaluating the growing of legumes and we have all kept abreast of positive and negative events that have happened on each field. The Cooperative Extension Service (NMSU-CES) and the Rural Agricultural Improvement and Public Affairs Project (RAIPAP-CES) has assisted us on our annual fields day held in early October for the public to address the issues of our plantings and to discuss our crops success and failures. Our program was one of the feature articles in the ACWS magazine July issue.
The growers have also participated in annual field trips to other
growing areas to discuss with other growers techniques and procedures of producing organic crops.
Although we did not have the success we expected from growing
legumes on our land, it has not been completely negative.
1. Our lands have rested from the continued use of wheat production.
2. We have introduced the use of growing legumes on our soils.
3. Neighbors and other producers in the area have been able to see
another legume crop besides alfalfa being planted.
4. Our soils have benefited from a change of cultivars planted.
5. We have been able to keep a cover crop on our land.
6. Livestock have benefited from these plantings.
The money received from SARE has gone completely to buying seed
and materials. The growers did not expect to have the difficulties with water that we encountered or the crop failures that incurred. So the group came to a consensus to purchase seed and each producer would absorb the other cost for planting, maintenance and harvesting. We have planted 320 acres into legumes and have managed our lands in a proper manor by being able to keep them covered and our topsoils in place.
By having two organic crops targeted at niche markets, the producers believe they can better sustain themselves economically, at the same time improving their farming techniques and the quality of the land by introducing crop rotations.