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Where does your food come from?


I grew up in Oklahoma not liking pecans.

After moving to New Mexico, I had the chance to eat fresh pecans. By fresh, I mean they had been on a tree the day before. And I actually liked them. It was a lesson in the value of freshness, and of locally sourced food.

And when a lady made me a green chile-apple-pecan pie, made of all fresh New Mexico ingredients, well, I thought if I had to die, that might have been a pretty good day.

If you ask most Americans under 10, “Where does food come from?” you’re likely to receive an answer like this: “The grocery store.”

Or worse: “The drive-through at McDonalds.”

Unfortunately, you might get the same general answers if you ask a lot of Americans of many ages.

In New Mexico, the percentage of correct answers might be higher. As a geographically large, rural state, we have more residents connected in one way or another to farming, ranching and agriculture than in a lot of states.

We also have the benefit of being the nation’s top producer of that deliciously addictive crop: green chile, and the nation’s second producer of that international favorite: the pecan. We produce more than a third of all American pecans, and nearly two-thirds of American chile peppers.

Most New Mexicans don’t know, however, our state is a huge producer in a lot of other crops and agricultural products. Wisconsin earned its title as America’s Dairyland, I suppose, but did you know New Mexico is fourth in the nation in cheese production? And did you know what an impact all this has on our state’s economy and, directly or indirectly, your livelihood.

The New Mexico Department of Agriculture has released its most recent statistics. (These are for the year 2021; there’s a lag time on the numbers.) Our reporter Mike Cook wrote a summary you’ll find on Page 5. There’s a lot of interesting bits of information, but the numbers don’t tell the whole story -- the story of all the New Mexico farmers and ranchers who sweat and toil and freeze and bleed and, too often, go broke trying to serve and feed the rest of us.

Remember these neighbors when you’re out shopping.

Yes, you probably can find pecans made in Georgia and pistachios from California at the store. And they might even be cheaper. But they sure won’t taste better, and they sure won’t be helping out your fellow New Mexicans.