Writer: D'Lyn Ford
ALCALDE - New Mexicans can get on-the-ground training in growing increasingly profitable lines of medicinal herbs, such as lavender, echinacea and yerba mansa, at a special workshop Sept. 15 at New Mexico State University's Sustainable Agriculture Science Center at Alcalde.
The one-day workshop, sponsored by NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service, will focus on medicinal herb production in north-central New Mexico. The science center, located eight miles north of Espaņola, has more than 40 medicinal herb varieties under cultivation this season. The plants should be hitting their peak in mid-September.
"Many of these high-value specialty crops bring in much more money per acre than traditional crops, but they also require additional effort," said Charles Martin, an agricultural specialist at Alcalde. Specialty crops are well suited for small farms because they can bring greater financial returns per acre.
The event, which begins with registration at 8 a.m., is free and open to the public. The program is funded in part with a contribution from the Santa Fe-based McCune
Martin and Kathy Kleitz, an NMSU research specialist, will make presentations, along with several medicinal herb growers, processors and business leaders. The morning begins with a session on traditional uses of herbs, followed by short programs on propagating herbs, commercial echinacea production and organic herb research.
The review then turns to growing Chinese herbs and raising lavender in New Mexico.
A new lavender variety trial was added at Alcalde this year. "It's a species that is ideally suited to northern New Mexico's climate where we have hot, dry summers, cold winters and alkaline soils that are low in fertility," Martin said. "Lavender prefers all those conditions."
Following a noon luncheon, the speakers will discuss starting an herb business, and give demonstrations on oil distillation, soap making and wool dyeing from native plants.
Founded in 1952, the Alcalde facility has 60 acres under cultivation, said Steve Guldan, science center superintendent. Alcalde scientists' research deals with livestock, forage, fruit, vegetables and specialty crops.
If you want additional information or are an individual with a disability who is in need of an auxiliary aid or service to participate, please call Martin at (505) 852-4241 in advance.
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