Farming in the New Age of Drought

“Record rainfall in September brought most us nearly up to ‘normal’ annual precipitation levels, greened up the rangeland, but the rain came so hard and fast that much of it ran off,” reads part of the introduction to the upcoming New Mexico Organic Farming Conference.

“Acequias were damaged and fields were buried in sediment.  And we’re still desperately short of water in the rivers and dams.  Without good snowpack this winter, we face exceptional irrigation shortages in 2014.”

The above words set the tone for the 2014 conference,  which is scheduled for the weekend of February 14-15 at the Marriott Pyramid North hotel in Albuquerque.

Organized by Farm to Table, the New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service and the New Mexico Department of Agriculture (NMDA), this year’s edition of a now much-anticipated event will bring together experts, researchers, farmers, and exhibiters in both theoretical and practical sessions.

Filled with numerous workshops, the conference holds relevance not only for New Mexicans, but also for farmers, ranchers, food activists and the broader public from across the West, the U.S.-Mexico borderlands and beyond.

“This is the largest and most diverse agricultural conference held in New Mexico,” said Joanie Quinn, conference co-organizer and NMDA’s  organic commodity adviser. “The information that is presented is vital to any producers. Most of those attending the conference are not organic certified.”

The topics on the conference schedule explore many dimensions of  farming in a drought era, including soil salinity, water rights, climate change and water scarcity, drip irrigation, organic orchard management in dry times, and much, much more.

Conference organizers pose the question: “Is it drought, or is this the new normal?”

Dr. Margaret Hiza Redsteer, research scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey, is the planned keynote speaker.  Of Crow tribal descent, Dr. Hiza Redsteer currently works on the Navajo Nation, where she does geological mapping, studies climate change and land use history and assesses drought impacts, among other tasks.  She is a contributing author to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The report will be unveiled in different stages this year, according to the IPCC’s website.

Conference organizers have lined up a roster of other speakers with diverse farming and ranching backgrounds. The scheduled presenters include Jeff Witte, NMDA director; Tom Dean, New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service department head for nine southwestern counties;  Gary Paul Naban, acclaimed author, food activist and Arizona farmer;  and Helen Atthowe, organic agriculture consultant, grower and farm systems analyst with experience in several states.

Sponsors and other benefactors of the 2014 conference include the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market Institute, Silver City Food Co-op, the New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau, Bueno Foods, Los Poblanos Inn and Organic Farm, and many others.

For more information interested persons can call Le Adams at 505-473-1004 (ext.10) or Joanie Quinn at 505-889-9921

The full conference program can be accessed at:

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