Courtesy photo Marijuana plants ready for harvest were seized by DEA agents Friday north of Tucumcari.
By Thomas Garcia: Freedom New Mexico
Federal drug officials, along with 25 soldiers from the New Mexico National Guard, raided a San Miguel County ranch on Friday and found 1,500 pounds of marijuana.
The pot was valued at $2 milllion to $3 million, officials said.
The ranch owner, along with many local law enforcement agencies, said they were not aware of the bust orchestrated by the Drug Enforcement Administration.
About 350 marijuana plants were ready for harvesting when authorities moved in, DEA spokesman Edward Knoth of Albuquerque said.
Knoth said officials were air lifted at 7:30 a.m. Friday by helicopters to the scene of the pot farm about 20 miles north of Tucumcari.
“It was an all-day operation,” Knoth said. “We were on scene at 7:30 a.m. and did not leave that area till 5 p.m. that evening.”
Knoth said the agency owed a lot of thanks to the National Guard for aiding them in the remote operation.
“We could not have gotten to that area or removed the marijuana from that area as efficiently without their support,” Knoth said.
Knoth said this investigation has been ongoing for two months.
The National Guard’s helicopter moved the marijuana in three loads, Knoth said. He said the site’s remote location and overgrowth nearby made extraction of the pot harder.
“We had to move the pot about one kilometer away from the actual site to find a clear area for pick-up,” Knoth said.
Knoth said no arrests have been made in connection with the operation.
Quay County Sheriff’s Office was contacted by the DEA on Thursday and told helicopters would be used as part of the drug eradication.
“They did that in case we were contacted by locals about the helicopters,” Sheriff Joe Schallert said.
Schallert said county officials did receive some calls about the helicopters on Friday.
The area where the DEA located the marijuana farm is located on the T-4 ranch, owned by Yetta Bidegain and managed by her son Phillip H. Bidegain.
Yetta said neither she nor her family was contacted directly by any federal agency about the operation that had been discovered on her property.
“I was thinking ‘you got to be kidding me,'” said Yetta Bidegain. “I thought they had to be mistaken, especially with how dry the conditions have been around here.”
Yetta said her grandson Scott Bidegain saw the helicopters flying around the ranch on Friday and flagged one of them down to talk.
She said the area in which the farm was located is very remote and hard to get to. She said that area of the ranch is rarely visited because of the rough terrain.
“You cannot get to that area by vehicle or by horse,” Yetta said. “You have to walk to get there. We do not raise cattle around there because it is too rough a country.”
KOB-TV-Albuquerque reported that people were living in caves tending to the marijuana plants while they grew.
The people living in the caves had running spring water and propane stoves and grill, according to an interview with Knoth, which aired on KOB-TV.
Yetta said neither she nor her family have been to the location where the marijuana was found. She said she had not noticed anyone living in that area.