Elephant Butte Inn and Spa

NM Centennial- It's all about the WAter, Pt. 2

The amount of irrigated acreage in southern New Mexico tripled to more than 100,000 acres, according to the Bureau of Reclamation (after construction of the Dam). 

Faced with repaying the federal government for the project, southern New Mexico and El Paso area farmers turned to crops that generated more revenue, such as pecans, not a native crop and cotton.

Pecan production nationwide began to grow in the 1920s, and the same occurred in New Mexico.  Before 1930, pecans in New Mexico were mostly gathered from small orchards, but in recent decades, pecans have become big business, with the state regularly ranking among the nation's top three producers.

The Stahmann family of Dona Ana County became the biggest pecan-growing family in the U.S. after switching from cotton and planting 4,000 acres of trees in the Mesilla Valley.

Pecan production statewide swelled from 8 million pounds in 1960 to 68 million pounds in 2009, placing New Mexico second in the nation behind only Georgia.

Cotton was the leading crop in New Mexico until 1967, but that changed.

Now, cotton and pecans are dwarfed in production these days by the state's crop king, hay, which topped 300,000 acres harvested in 2010, including 220,000 acres of alfalfa.

The hay goes to feed the more than 1.5 million cows and calves statewide, spread out in nearly 10,000 farms, ranches, feed lots and dairy lots.

More next week...this information was supplied by the Albuquerque Journal's "New Mexico, 100 years of Statehood" special Centennial edition.

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