WSARE State Development Program for NM (2022-2024)

Progress report for WNM22-001

Project Type: PDP State Program
Funds awarded in 2021: $90,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2024
Host Institution Award ID: G258-22-W8618
Grant Recipient: New Mexico State University
Region: Western
State: New Mexico
State Coordinators:
Dr. Stephanie Walker
New Mexico State University
Omololu John Idowu
New Mexico State University
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Project Information


The New Mexico State Development Program will provide training in sustainable agriculture concepts geared towards production in our arid environment, information on new crops to expand markets and economic opportunity, and engage community participants towards enriching the quality of life for New Mexicans. The training will be provided through the annual NM Sustainable Agriculture Conference that will be a two day event and include hands-on field exercises for in-person participants.

Project Objectives:

The objective of this project is to present training modules in key sustainable agriculture topics critical for agricultural professionals in New Mexico including:

  • Measuring and building healthy soil in arid climates / field demonstrations in taking soil samples, measuring soil quality, cover crop options, and soil amendment options.
  • Options for maximizing irrigation efficiency in arid land agriculture / field overview of the JFG drip irrigation system.
  • Integrated pest management limiting chemical inputs / field tour of weed identification, how to diagnose diseases and disorders in the field.
  • Alternative crops to expand marketing opportunities for local producers / field tour of underutilized and heat tolerant vegetables in production at the JFG.

The NM Sustainable Agriculture Conference was first initiated in 2004 with support from the New Mexico WSARE PDP program. The conference initially rotated throughout New Mexico to partner with different county Extension offices, then settled into Valencia County for several years. For the next three years, the NM WSARE Advisory Committee plans to hold the annual conference at the recently completed Las Cruces Convention Center. This complex is adjacent to both the New Mexico State University main campus and convenient lodging for the benefit of participants traveling to Las Cruces to attend the training. The Convention Center also neighbors the Jose Fernandez Garden (JFG) where field demonstrations will be presented to compliment conference presentations. 


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Daniel Bloedel (Educator and Researcher)
  • Charlene Carr (Educator and Researcher)
  • Danise Coon (Educator and Researcher)
  • John Garlisch (Educator)
  • Dr. Rajan Ghimire (Educator and Researcher)
  • Katie Goetz (Educator)
  • Vince Hernandez (Researcher)
  • Dr. Brian Schutte (Educator and Researcher)


Educational approach:

The NM Sustainable Conference will be presented in a hybrid form with formal conference presentations being supplemented with hands-on training activities taking place in the neighboring JFG field. The conveniently located JFG maintains mixed trials of underutilized and heat tolerant vegetables, but was also established utilizing best production practices for sustainability in the arid, desert climate. The conferences will take place in early summer each year and will be two-day events to allow for the field training component.

Education & Outreach Initiatives

NM Sustainable Agriculture Summit

This event was designed to bring together agricultural professionals from around the state to discuss challenges to sustainable agriculture in NM, learn about WSARE and NM projects supported by this program, and identify priority areas for future projects.


ON March 30, 2023, the western region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension New Mexico State Program (WSARE) coordinated a summit in Santa Fe, NM at the Cooperative Extension office (3229 Rodeo Road, Santa Fe, NM 87507). Participants were welcomed to the summit by Jeff Witte, New Mexico Dept. of Agriculture, Director and NM Secretary of Agriculture, and Jenna Meeks, Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Professional Development Program, Coordinator.  Steve Kadas, previously with the New Mexico Association of Conservation Districts Program Manager, and currently a Soil Health Specialist with Soil Health LLC, provided the opening address discussing key sustainable agriculture concerns in NM.

Invited panelists included past WSARE grant recipients and individuals who submitted proposals including:

  • Cristóbal Valencia, Northern New Mexico Stockman’s Assoc., Researcher/Anthropologist; Carlos Salazar, Producer Representative Northern New Mexico Stockman's Association; Donald Martinez, Rio Arriba County Agricultural Extension Agent
    WSARE PROJECT: The Future of Livestock Grazing on New Mexico's National Forests
  • Brian Schutte, New Mexico State Univ. Dept. of Entomology, Plant Pathology, and Weed Science, Professor
    WSARE PROJECT: On-farm investigation of stale seedbeds with biofumigation for improved management of weeds and soil-borne disease
  • Eva Stricker, Univ. of New Mexico, Biology Dept., Assistant Professor and Director of the Quivira Coalition's Carbon Ranch Initiative
    WSARE PROJECT: Compost-derived microbial dispersal in rangelands
  • Marcy Ward, New Mexico State Univ., Dept. of Animal Sciences and Natural Resources, Extension Livestock Specialist
    WSARE PROJECT: Evaluation of water and feed intake of purebred cattle in confinement and on arid rangelands, and its implications on selection principles
  • Charles Havlik, New Mexico State Univ., Los Lunas Ag. Science Center, Senior Research Specialist
    WSARE PROJECT: Initiation of a New Mexico Participatory Vegetable Breeding Program

Following the panel discussion, participants brainstormed critical sustainable agriculture project needs for producers in NM, focusing on research and training needs not previously emphasized in past funding.

Outcomes and impacts:

Topics that participants identified as critical but underfunded include:

Irrigation/Water Use Efficiency: Farmers in NM can increase their irrigation efficiency by adopting modern techniques and technologies developed for arid regions. For instance, implementing precision drip irrigation can significantly reduce wasted water by delivering water directly to the root zone and minimizing loss due to evaporation. Incorporating soil moisture sensor and weather-based irrigation controllers empowers farmers to synchronize irrigation schedules with actual crop needs and current weather to prevent overwatering. In addition, the investigation of drought tolerant crops and implementing crop rotation strategies that work in concert with water availability will also support long-term water conservation efforts. Financial support for education programs, incentives, and research are needed to support farmers in transitioning to more efficient irrigation practices.

Farm Economics, Direct Markets, Direct Sales: Providing training in alternative market venues for producers in NM was cited as a critical need. These venues are increasing in importance, but many producers need training in navigating these methods.

Non-traditional production: Urban Agriculture, Greenhouses/Container Farming, Perennial/Agriforestry production systems are increasing in importance for local food production. Additional research and training in these areas was cited as a critical need in NM.

Pest management: Producers face significant challenges in protecting their crops and livestock from competing pests. In particular, keeping wildlife separate from livestock and production fields, keeping troublesome birds out of production acreage, and bindweed/deep rooted perennial weed management without herbicides were cited as critical needs in NM.

Labor aids, Technology Adaptation: Routinely used by larger operations, smaller-scale farmers and ranchers need access to advanced technology to deal with increasing production challenges and enhance their productivity and efficiency. To bridge the technology gap, technologies in mechanical harvest, robotics, and artificial intelligence need to be affordable, accessible, and producers need to be trained in their use.

Generational Transfer and Access to Land: Access to land is a serious impediment to producers wishing to begin a career in crop and livestock production. The high cost of land, inheritance practices, bureaucratic complexities and navigating legal requirements discourage both beginners and those wishing to continue established, family operations. Addressing these challenges is critical to support the next generation of producers and was cited as a priority for production sustainability in NM.

New Mexico Agriculture Sustainability Workshop

The objective of this project is to present training modules in key sustainable agriculture topics critical for agricultural professionals in New Mexico including:
-Measuring and building healthy soil in arid climates / field demonstrations in taking soil samples, measuring soil quality, cover crop options, and soil amendment options.
-Options for maximizing irrigation efficiency in arid land agriculture / field overview of drip irrigation systems.
-Integrated pest management limiting chemical inputs / field tour of weed identification, how to diagnose diseases and disorders in the field.
-Alternative crops to expand marketing opportunities for local producers / field tour of underutilized and heat tolerant vegetables in production.


The 2023 NM Agriculture Sustainability Workshop was held at the Los Ranchos Agri-Nature Center in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, near Albuquerque, NM, May 17-18, 2023. 

Conference presenters and presentations included:

Leslie Beck - Extension Weeds Specialist, Extension Plant Sciences, NMSU
-Weeds Walk (field)
-OMRI Approved Herbicides (inside)

Gabriella Coughlin - Soil Lab Manager, Agronomist,  Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District
-Interpreting Soil Analysis (inside)
-Soil Pit Analysis (field)

Steve Glass – Chair on the Board of Supervisors for the Ciudad Soil and Water Conservation District
-Ciudad Soil and Water Conservation District (inside)

Casey Holland - Head Farmer, Chispas Farms
-Alternative Marketing Options (inside)

Joanie King – Extension Entomology Specialist, Extension Plant Sciences, NMSU
-Insect Walk (field)
-Insect Pest Management: Aphids, Squash Bugs, Grasshoppers, Beet Leafhoppers (inside)

James MacDonald - Professor Animal Science, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
-Incorporating /Animal Husbandry and Crop Production (inside)

Joshua O’Halloran - Agricultural Program Manager, Larry P. Abraham Agri-Nature Center
-Farm Tour with Beekeeping Demo (field)

Delia Pastran-Garcia - Engineer, Natural Resources Conservation Service, USDA
-Irrigation Demonstration (field)

Kelvin Shenk - Farm Manager, Rio Grande Community Farm
-Tools, Implements & Small Equipment (field)

Blair Stringam - Professor, Plant & Environmental Sciences, NMSU
-Irrigation Systems for Small Farms (inside)

Joran Viers - Horticultural Consultant, ISA Board Certified Master Arborist
-Fruit Tree/Bush Options for New Mexico (inside)
-Fruit Tree/Bush Management (field)

Jaime Welles - Executive Director, Rio Grande Community Farm
-Farm Tour / Farm Incubator (field)


Outcomes and impacts:

Based on pre- and post- evaluations, workshop participants reported an increased level of understanding in topics presented as follows:

Sustainable Agriculture Concerns in NM = 38%

Understanding of the Rio Grande Community Farm = 68%

Animal Husbandry and Crop Production = 53%

Cuidad Soil and Water Conservation District = 68%

Interpretation of Soil Analysis = 46%

Irrigation Systems for Small Farms = 61%

Beekeeping in New Mexico = 36%

Weeds in New Mexico = 25%

Insects and Insect Issues in New Mexico = 36%

Alternative Marketing Options = 43%

OMRI Approved Herbicides = 47%

Fruit Tree and Bush Options and Management in New Mexico = 33%



Educational & Outreach Activities

12 Consultations
2 On-farm demonstrations
16 Webinars / talks / presentations
2 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

18 Extension
8 Researchers
10 Nonprofit
8 Agency
6 Ag service providers (other or unspecified)
20 Farmers/ranchers

Learning Outcomes

23 Participants gained or increased knowledge, skills and/or attitudes about sustainable agriculture topics, practices, strategies, approaches
8 Ag professionals intend to use knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness learned

Project Outcomes

2 Grants received that built upon this project
4 New working collaborations
4 Agricultural service provider participants who used knowledge and skills learned through this project (or incorporated project materials) in their educational activities, services, information products and/or tools for farmers
6 Farmers reached through participant's programs

Face of SARE

Face of SARE:

The WSARE New Mexico State Program is promoted in several ways including:

-Advisory Committee members widely share information on upcoming events with their internal connections and their client database. 

-Press releases are prepared by NMSU Communications and shared widely with media outlets for each event coordinated.

-The WSARE NM State Program maintains a website to archive program events.

-Program events are shared on social media including New Mexico State University's 'Desert Blooms'.

25 Farmers received information about SARE grant programs and information resources
20 Ag professionals received information about SARE grant programs and information resources

Information Products

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.