Drought hurts New Mexico farmer's organic transition

Posted at: 04/20/2013 7:34 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

The prolonged drought squeezing New Mexico dry has changed the game for our state’s farmers. Many are downsizing and looking for alternative crops.

In Bosque Farms, one man is starting to blaze a trail for a whole new kind of dairy farming that really isn’t new at all.

Mike De Smet’s grandfather started the family dairy farm back in 1949. Now De Smet would like to take it back another century or so – before pasteurization.

That’s the heating up of milk to kill bacteria.

The trouble is that “good” bacteria, beneficial to humans, get killed off along with the “bad” germs that make us sick.

Interest in raw milk is growing steadily, and even though it’s illegal to sell it in Albuquerque, it’s okay in much of the rest of the state.

“We’re going to put in a little retail store,” De Smet said. “They can buy raw milk or our pasteurized whole milk. Santa Fe and Taos will also be able to sell it retail, put our raw milk on the shelves.”

De Smet’s Dairy isn’t up and running yet. His cows are on a another organic farm right now, but he expects they’ll be grazing in Bosque Farms next month.

De Smet says he will be ready, even though the outlook for irrigation water this summer is slim to none.

“We’ve been planting a lot of drought-tolerant grasses, orchard grasses, perennial rye, broom grass,” De Smet said. “We’re trying to extend the growing season as far as we possibly can for the cows to be able to graze. We’re also looking into radishes and turnips.”

When De Smet’s cows do get to Bosque Farms, they will not be penned up in feedlots and fed bales of alfalfa.

They’ll be wandering in one-acre sections of his pastures, grazing and fertilizing as they go – grass-fed free-range dairy cattle.

De Smet’s grandfather might be confused by the methods, but he would be proud of his grandson’s ambition.