Drought changing the game for NM farmers

Posted at: 04/19/2013 8:46 PM
Updated at: 04/20/2013 7:32 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

New Mexico farmers are getting creative in this third straight springtime of severe drought – they have to be, if they want to survive.

The John Deere tractor at Skarsgard Farms is about the only thing on the place that isn’t organic. Monte Skarsgard has chiles and eggplants and tomatoes sprouting in a greenhouse that’s as hot and humid inside as a Louisiana lunchtime. Outside, in the dry New Mexico April chill, radishes are coming up after about four weeks in the ground. Irrigation hoses and drip-lines are everywhere.

“One of the biggest things for us is conservation,” Skarsgard said. “We do that through our drip irrigation so we’re not using the acequias, we’re not flooding our fields. We’re doing everything with drip irrigation, delivering the water directly to the plants’ roots and not just trying to flood the entire field.”

The irrigation ditch that supplies the farm has a couple of feet of water in it, but the conservancy district has warned farmers that  in a month, or six weeks, it could be as dry as a bone.

Skarsgard keeps the lid on some crops all the time – greenhouses keep the produce coming 52 weeks a year. Nothing fancy – plastic and steel.

“Plastic lasts for about 4 years and steel tubes can last 20 or 30 years,” Skarsgard said. “ We’ve had snow on ‘em, we’ve had 60 mile-an-hour wind – knock on wood!”

Okay – as long as it’s organic wood. And maybe, with any luck at all, one of these years rain will be back in style again.