Viable Growers’ Markets in Rural New Mexico

Nestled in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of northern New Mexico is the small town of Las Vegas and the short distance of 78 miles away is Taos. These vibrant, small communities are situated in and around some of the most historically and ecologically rich farmland in our state. Both towns host seasonal growers’ markets that promote and uphold the importance of local food and local foodsheds. The question remains, however, just how viable and successful are these working models of rural markets?

If you’ve ever attended the Taos or Las Vegas markets, you will know that they provide a mechanism through which local growers and vendors can sell their products and through which members of these small communities gain access to local, healthy foods. The Taos Farmers’ Market draws its vendors from eight surrounding counties, including Rio Arriba, Taos County, Colfax, Sandoval, Los Alamos, Santa Fe, Mora, and San Miguel, and also allows vendors to participate who are from Costilla County, Colorado. The Las Vegas Market is a tri-county market that incorporates San Miguel, Guadalupe, and Mora Counties. Both Markets offer a selection of products ranging from locally raised organic produce to value-added products made by local vendors.

The Taos Market will begin its 2012 season on Saturday, May 12th from 8am-1pm in the Town Hall Parking lot. The season will run until October 27th. If previous years give any indication as to the viability of this market, I’m sure it will be another successful season for them. The Taos market attracts a large crowd and plays an integral role in Taos’ local foodshed and community.

The Las Vegas Growers Market begins its 2012 season on Saturday, May 5th from 7am until noon (or sell out). As is the case with the Taos Market, the Las Vegas Market also encourages their vendors to use organic methods of cultivation and requires all value-added foods to be produced in a certified kitchen. The Las Vegas Market, though generally smaller than the Taos market, is home to a variety of wonderful products and sells local, healthy, and sustainable foods.

Martha Fielding, a vendor at the Taos market who has participated for the past six seasons, spoke regarding the viability of the Taos markets. Fielding said,

“Taos Farmers’ Market provides a venue for local growers to sell directly to consumers. As such it helps keep food dollars local and strengthens the ability of these vendors to make ends meet. I believe markets are an excellent form of investment at the lowest denominator, so to speak, much like Head Start for schools. Think of it metaphorically in terms of farming itself: modest investments in improving the soil mean far less costly intervention with artificial fertilizers, insecticides, weedicides, etc, and far better yields of nutritious crops.”

When asked what her vision for the Taos market was, Martha said she hopes it will become a “foundation stone of the local economy and a vibrant community-wide participatory and developmental venue.”

Daniel Hern, President of the Tri-county Farmers’ Market that operates in Las Vegas shared his insight into the health and viability of that market. Hern reports that last season the Las Vegas Market generated $65,000. However, he adds that farmers are not required to share how much money they make in a season, thus making this figure not entirely accurate. As for the number of vendors that participate in this market, Daniel said, “When I started ten years ago the Market had on average 10 vendors. Now we have on average around 20 vendors and at peak season we get as many as 40 vendors.”

Essentially, both markets represent an unyielding dedication to the promotion of our local foodshed, and embody a set of sustainable values regarding small-scale agriculture that seeks to cultivate and support local economies. I strongly encourage you to visit either of these markets and witness the unique experiences they have to offer. If we are to continue in our efforts toward a more sustainable world, working models such as these provide abundant knowledge as to the methods and practices in place that are responsible for  success. Farmers’ markets are but a small component of the sustainable life style however, they serve as an excellent foray in our quest for local, healthy, and sustainable food.

Image credit: Taos Farmers Market 2010

Posted by Cody

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