Rancher’s Forum Supports Local Farmers, Land Conservation and Modern Farming Techniques   

February 24 and 25 held many things in store for farmers, ranchers and anyone interested in learning how to boost the local economy by becoming a self-sustaining community through the production of food. The 4th Rancher’s Forum, Hosted by the Taos County Economic Development Corporation and the New Mexico Acequia Association, had a number of key note speakers including: Senator Carlos Cisneros, Representative Roberto Gonzales, Congressman Ben Ray Lujan, USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, Ed Avalos and Rio Arriba County Commissioner Felipe Martinez.

Each speaker addressed the audience and presented issues New Mexican farmers and ranchers are facing today and how the support of local food production will boost the economy, promote health and preserve culture.

The forum provided workshops, which offered information on composting techniques, animal farm operations, farming strategies used during drought and how to efficiently use natural resources. Demonstrations were also provided as attendees viewed and learned how a traditional matanza is done, which was performed in a newly-designed, state-of-the-art mobile matanza unit, as well as how to cook meals with local produce. Additionally, guests were informed about many of the programs the USDA offered, which assist to integrate local food into a mass market as well as assist in keeping farmers in business through regulation education. Commissioner Martinez also addressed how ranchers are now battling to keep grazing rights on federal lands, touching down on how Rio Arriba County is now involved in a lawsuit concerning the issue.

“These types of workshops are great resources for our communities,” said County Commissioner Felipe Martinez. “If we continue to be proactive when it comes to these types of issues, it will not only benefit today’s farmers and ranchers, but will be beneficial for our future generations that will carry this noble profession and tradition forward.”

According to David Trujillo, Rio Arriba County Assistant Manager, having Ed Avalos of the USDA, present at the forum was vital to making New Mexico farming and ranching issues have a platform in Washington DC. “I was very happy to see one of our native New Mexicans return to address our concerns and offer support on this issue,” said Trujillo. "I believe that conveying our concerns to someone who can inform us of the programs that USDA offers as well as offer us a personal voice in Washington DC, will reinforce the progress towards developing our economic development through the agricultural venue.”

-Erika Martinez, February 2012