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Farm tours for beginning organic farmers planned for August, September

New Mexico

A great way to learn about farming techniques is to visit successful operations. With the increased interest in organic farming, an opportunity is available for new and transitioning organic growers to visit farms and observe some of the methods of organic agriculture.

New Mexico State University College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences and the New Mexico Organic Commodity Commission are presenting a series of seven farm tours that are being hosted by organic producers of a variety of crops throughout New Mexico.

"These farm walks are targeted at new or transitioning organic growers, or those thinking about converting to organic production. The aim is to provide them with an informal overview of approaches to pest management in organic systems, and perhaps more importantly, an opportunity to meet other growers and to learn from each other," said Tess Grasswitz, NMSU Extension urban/small farm integrated pest management specialist.

Grasswitz and Joanie Quinn, education and marketing coordinator with the organic commodity commission, will lead the free walks that will be from 2 to 5 p.m. on the scheduled days. Walk dates will be:

--Tuesday, Aug. 11, at Cider Mill Farms, Mountain Park near Tularosa. The farm is owned by Barbara Hawn and Trenton Wann, recipients of the 2009 Good Earth Award for organic farming. They produce tree and cane fruit, such as raspberries and blackberries, and mixed vegetables.

--Friday, Aug. 21, at fruit producer Fred Martinez's farm in Dixon. Martinez is currently transitioning his apple, peach, apricot and cherry orchards to organic production.

--Friday, Aug. 28, at East Mountain Organics in Tijeras. Owners Tomas and Christine Apodaca are producing mixed vegetables organically.

--Friday, Sept. 4, at Kelley James operation in Hobbs. James is a certified organic producer of hay, dairy pasture and pinto beans.

--Thursday, Sept. 10, at Ronnie Franzoy's farm in Hatch. Franzoy produces pecans, chile, onions, alfalfa and cotton. He is currently considering transitioning to organic production.

--Friday, Sept. 11, at Del Valle Pecans in Las Cruces. The orchard is owned by 2008 Organic Farmer of the Year Sally Harper.

--Sunday, Sept. 27, at the No Cattle Company in San Juan, Mimbres Valley. The farm owned by 2006 Organic Farmers of the Year Sharlene Grunerud and Michael Alexander was the first farm to be certified organic by the New Mexico Organic Commodity Commission in 1991. They currently produce apples, apricots, peaches and pears, as well as nursery seedlings and mixed vegetables. This tour will be from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

"There is no charge for attending any of the farm walks, but we ask that you pre-register so that we know how many people to expect at each location," said Grasswitz. "Also, no refreshments will be provided so participants will need to bring an adequate supply of water and don't forget to wear appropriate clothing."

The event is funded by a grant from the USDA Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service under its Extension Integrated Pest Management Coordination and Support program.

To participate in the farm walks please register by calling Suzanne Despres at 505-865-7340. Directions to the farms will be given after pre-registration.

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