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NMSU Extension connects farmers to fresh food market opportunities

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service is facilitating the connection of Middle Rio Grande Valley farmers to fresh food market opportunities in the Albuquerque area.


While about 80 percent of the food consumed in the greater Albuquerque metropolitan area is coming from outside of New Mexico, according to the New Mexico Department of Agriculture, the demand for fresh, safe, nutritious, locally grown food is surging.

In response, the number of established farmers' markets in the area has increased by 42 percent, from 12 in 2006 to 17 in 2011, with the number of vendors increased by 56 percent, from 248 in 2006 to 387 in 2011, according to the New Mexico Farmers' Market Association.

Individual shoppers, schools, restaurants, wholesalers and other institutions are increasingly turning to local producers to meet this demand. Research conducted by the New Mexico Farmers' Marketing Association in the Albuquerque metro area found that 70 percent of consumers would buy locally grown food if available.

"While the number and activity level of established farmers' markets in the Albuquerque area continues to increase to meet the growing demand for local food, more can be done to bridge the gap between New Mexico producers and the consumers," said Michael Patrick, NMSU Extension Community Resource and Economic Development specialist.

Producers from Bernalillo, Sandoval, Torrance, Valencia and Socorro counties, because of their proximity to Albuquerque, are in a unique position to meet the growing demand for locally grown food.

NMSU's Cooperative Extension agents from these counties are coordinating workshops for the producers to learn about the multimillion-dollar local food market opportunities.

"During the programs a panel of buyers, including representatives from farmers' markets, schools, restaurants, wholesalers and local grocery stores, will discuss the demand for locally grown food," Patrick said. "Also, Extension horticulture specialists will speak on the production and cultural practices of growing high-value fruits and vegetables, offering their expert insight into tapping the market."

Three workshops will be held the first week of March from 6-8:30 p.m. at each location:

Monday, March 4, at the Bernalillo County Cooperative Extension Service office, 1510 Menaul Blvd. NW, Albuquerque;

Tuesday, March 5, at the Moriarty Civic Center, 202 Broadway, Moriarty;

Wednesday, March 6, at the Valencia County Cooperative Extension Service office, 404 Courthouse Road, Los Lunas.

For more information about the project visit http://aces.nmsu.edu/localfood/. Register for the Bernalillo County meeting at http://rsvp.nmsu.edu/rsvp/localfood1.