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NMSU, organic commodity commission present second annual organic farm tours

LAS CRUCES - A great way to learn about farming techniques is to visit successful operations. With the increased interest in organic farming, an opportunity is being afforded for new and transitioning organic growers to visit farms and observe some of the methods of organic agriculture.



Dixon fruit grower Fred Martinez, left, shares his knowledge about organic fruit production at last year's organic integrated pest management farm walk. Participants in this year's organic farm tours will also have an opportunity to learn from those already farming organically. The walks are presented by New Mexico State University's College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences and the New Mexico Organic Commodity Commission. (NMSU Photo by Geraint Smith)

New Mexico State University's College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences and the New Mexico Organic Commodity Commission are presenting a series of five farm tours hosted by organic growers throughout New Mexico who produce a variety of crops.

"These farm walks are targeted at new or transitioning organic growers, or those thinking about converting to organic production. The aim is to provide them with an informal overview of approaches to pest management in organic systems, and perhaps more importantly, an opportunity to meet other growers and to learn from each other," said Tess Grasswitz, NMSU Extension urban/small farm integrated pest management specialist.

Grasswitz and Joanie Quinn, education and marketing coordinator with the organic commodity commission, will lead the free walks. Farm walks will be on the following dates:

•Sunday, Aug. 8, at Velarde, located near Dixon in northern New Mexico. Tim Martinez will host the tour at the farm his family has operated for many generations. Martinez is currently transitioning the farm from conventional to the organic production of stone fruit, apples and chile. There will be a lunch hosted by Tim Martinez beginning at 11:30 a.m.; the program begins at 12:30 p.m., with the walking tour from 1:30-4:30 p.m.

•Sunday, Aug. 22, at Ken Koger's farm in Edgewood from 2-5 p.m. Koger is a new organic producer of mixed vegetables. His small farm is just coming into production this year and includes some newly-planted habitat strips for beneficial species.

•Sunday, Aug. 29, at Jane and Steve Darland's farm in Monticello from 2-5 p.m. The couple have been certified organic growers for 10 years, mainly producing wine grapes for balsamic vinegar, and some mixed vegetables as well.

•Sunday, Sept. 12, at Colleen and Fred Hinker's farm in Santa Rosa from 2-5 p.m. The couple have been certified organic growers for more than 10 years. Most of their mid-sized farm's acreage is in alfalfa, with some mixed vegetables, fruit and chile. Fred Hinker is also a former commissioner of the New Mexico Organic Commodities Commission.

•Sunday, Sept. 19, at Pauline Pao's farm in Farmington, from 2-5 p.m. Poa's small farm produces mixed vegetables, with cover crops to help build the soil. It is just coming into production this season and should be certified organic next year.

"There is no charge for attending any of the farm walks, but we ask that you pre-register so that we know how many people to expect at each location," said Grasswitz ."Also, no refreshments will be provided, so participants will need to bring an adequate supply of water and remember to wear appropriate clothing."

The event is funded by a grant from the USDA/National Institute of Food and Agriculture through its Extension Integrated Pest Management Coordination and Support Program.

To participate in the farm walks, please register by calling Suzanne Depres at 505-865-7340. Directions to the farms will be given at registration.