Little farmers want more opportunity for South Valley

Posted at: 04/16/2014 10:23 PM
By: Caleb James, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Even in residential neighborhoods, many folks in the South Valley farm their land.  

But Bernalillo happens to be the only county in the state where folks aren't allowed to process the food they grow, and sell it.

One woman decided that's a big economic stumbling block, and it should change.

If she's successful it could be a game-changer for the "little guy."

"Why should people in Bernalillo not have access to making their own home-based goods?" said Dory Wegrzyn.

With a simple water-conserving irrigation system, Wegrzyn grows nearly everything on her little South Valley farm.

It's so little it's nestled in her backyard, on a quiet residential block.

"Living here you have more open space," she said. "The people are very friendly."

Wegrzyn has been farming her little plot and selling her produce -- but she can't sell what's called "value-added food" -- stuff in jars.

"Every county but Bernalillo has an ordinance where you can do home based processing," she said.

Only Bernalillo County says home-growers can't sell processed foods like jams and jellies -- so Wegrzyn teamed up with Bernalillo County commissioner Deb O'Malley.

"We really want to promote local agriculture," said O'Malley.

At next Tuesday's commission meeting, Wegrzyn's little idea will be up for discussion. She wants a change in the law that would allow home-growers -- with some rules of course -- to process and sell their foods.

"Why can't people can pickles and and what they call low sugar foods?" said O'Malley. "Why are our regulations more restrictive than the state's?"

Wegrzyn says she hopes soon, they won't be.

"It's a way to help the smaller person get a step up," she said.

Both women say the change could eventually see more little specialty farms popping up and making money.

O'Malley said Tuesday's discussion likely won't result in a final decision, but it will start the process to developing a new ordinance.