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The New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum (NMFRHM) pays tribute to women making a difference in New Mexico agriculture with a current, rotating wall display in the central corridor of the Museum’s main building.
The exhibit is called “Her Land: Women in Agriculture” and the new, featured exemplar is Fita Witte of Las Cruces, the museum said in a news release.
“Museums typically focus on the stories of our ancestors and their incredible accomplishments,” NMFRHM Executive Director Heather Reed said. “We often forget to look around to see that history is unfolding right in front of us within our communities and our state. ’Her Land’ spotlights the amazing feats and contributions of modern-day women and showcases the young women working on the future of agriculture. This ongoing project will rotate every few months and will allow us to record history in real time for generations to come.”
The museum created the exhibit in 2021. Previous honorees were Felicia Thal of northeastern New Mexico and Sophia Moreno of La Union, New Mexico.
Witte was raised on a ranch in central New Mexico that has been in her family for seven generations, NMFRHM said. Her father was a farmer, rancher and Chimayo weaver. Her mother came from a prominent Hispanic family whose ancestors founded the city of Albuquerque. Her husband, Jerry, was raised on a ranch in north-central New Mexico that belonged to his family for five generations. Jerry and Fita ranched in Lamy, New Mexico, and in Arizona until Jerry’s father retired in 1974 and the couple moved back to Rowe Mesa and ran the Witte Ranch. They now live in Las Cruces, the museum said.
The Wittes raised two sons who continue to work in agriculture. Jon Witte lives in Clint, Texas, where he raised cattle, cotton, and pecans. Jeff Witte is secretary of the New Mexico Department of Agriculture and lives in Las Cruces where he raises miniature Hereford cattle.
“Mom is an amazing role model,” Jeff Witte told the Bulletin. “Both she and my dad have always committed 110 percent to whatever they do, and they always get involved to support the industry and their community. Mom grew up in a small community and yet had an impact across our great nation. She is an inspiration to many, including her family. We are very proud of her.”
Fita Witte is active in many organizations that support agriculture, NMFRHM said.
“if we don't tell our story, no one else is gonna tell it for us, and who knows our story better than we do,” Fita said.
Fita Witte is a member of the Roadrunner CowBelles and served as president of New Mexico CowBelles and as its state cook-off chair. She has been a member of the American National CattleWomen since 1962 and served as its president in 2008. Fita was named Outstanding CattleWoman of the Year by the organization in 2015.
“Fita is a tireless supporter of the beef industry and agriculture in general,” NMFRHM said. “After she and her husband retired from the ranch, she remains active in the CowBelles association and continues to promote agriculture.”
Fita Witte would like to see women who are involved in agriculture become mentors for younger women looking for an active role in the farming and ranching industries, the museum said. She also hopes to see more emphasis on agriculture in the classroom.
For women in agriculture, “I think the sky's the limit,” Fita said.
The 47-acre Farm and Ranch Museum is located at 4100 Dripping Springs Road. It “brings to life the 4,000-year history of growing food and fiber in this region,” the museum said.
Museum hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Saturday.
Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for senior citizens over age 60, $3 for children ages 4-17, $2 for active U.S. military and veterans and free for children ages 3 and young, Museum Friends members and New Mexico senior citizens on Wednesdays.
Call the museum at 575-522-4100. Visit www.nmfarmandranchmuseum.org.