Altenative Crops for the Costilla Valley in New Mexico Adoption, Application, Added Value of Product

2003 Annual Report for FW01-014

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2001: $10,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2003
Region: Western
State: New Mexico
Principal Investigator:
Teresa Young
NMSU Coop Ext

Altenative Crops for the Costilla Valley in New Mexico Adoption, Application, Added Value of Product


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 brute force of Mother Nature and the unbridled optimism of agricultural producers met in a clash of wills in this SARE-funded project in drought stricken northern New Mexico. Mother Nature’s stinginess with moisture has derailed the project for now, but the sustainable will of the project’s farmers may well prevail.

“The drought was so serious that our growers did not have water to irrigate at all,” says project coordinator Theresa Young, representing the Sangre de Cristo Agriculture Producers. “We did plant two fields with the hope that we could combine our water for specific fields. But no water came down the ditches at all.”

She and the project cooperators remain undaunted.

“We are still inspired to complete this project and hope Mother Nature collaborates in a more positive fashion in the coming year,” Young says in her annual report.

Technical advisor Del Jimenez, agriculture specialist with New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension, underscores the determination of the Sangre de Cristo Agriculture Producers.

“At this time our growers are planning for a more successful season and are keeping their fingers crossed that more snow and rain come into their area,” says Jimenez. “Thank you for understanding these growers’ dilemma and extending our contract to plant this spring,”

Rather than list any project results, which are summarized above, the balance of this report will discuss what the cooperators hope to accomplish when adequate moisture fills their irrigation ditches.

The Costilla Valley in northern Taos County in northern New Mexico is sparsely populated with limited growth and income opportunities. In 1994, in a loosely formed group, residents sought to put their ancestors’ lands back into agricultural production. With help from New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension and the New Mexico Department of Agriculture, the group began producing organic wheat, adding value by selling flour milled from the wheat, which has enabled them to stay on the land and make a living. The group, recently reorganized with new members added, is seeking alternative crops and methods of planting, land preparation and marketing.

To build on their success with organic wheat and flour, the Sangre de Cristo Agriculture Producers had hoped to add a legume crop to their rotations, with their technical advisors providing input on seed variety, land use issues, agricultural processes and marketing techniques and channels for their products. The producers planned to test five varieties of peas and beans, crops they believe can be stored, packaged and marketed without a large investment.

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.

When moisture allows production of the crops, the producers plan to let people know about the project and its results through the local farmers market, county fair, 4-H programs, agriculture workshops and newspaper articles. Already, the success of their organic wheat project has generated national publicity.

The following producers had hoped to participate in the project by preparing their land, caring for the crop, harvesting and supplying information requested by Teresa Young, the program leader:

Lupe Young
2612 North Highway 522
Questa, NM 87556

Eugene Young
2610 North Highway 522
Questa, NM 87556

Gonzalo Gallegos
P.O. Box 606
Questa, NM 87556

Leebert Santistevan
P.O. Box 725
Questa, NM 87556

Gilbert Santistevan
P.O. Box 725
Questa, NM 87556

David Cordova
P.O. Box 549
Garcia, CO 81134

Loren Cisneros
P.O. Box 704
Questa, NM 87556

Juan Cisneros
P.O. Box 704
Questa, NM 87556

Amos Martinez
P.O. Box 53
Cerro, NM 87519

Taos Pueblo Indian Reservation
Gilbert Suazo, Program Leader
P.O. Box 1846
Taos, NM 87571