Freedom New Mexico: Robin Coffey Urvano Ordonez, second from left, talks with customers at the Portales farmers market Thursday. He sells watermelons, chilies, squash and jalapenos.
According to a recent U.S. Department of Agriculture report, farmers markets have been on the rise in popularity in the U.S. this year with markets having increased by 17 percent nationally and by 38 percent in New Mexico.
Despite this national and state increase, vendors from the local Clovis and Portales markets said, if anything, they’ve seen a decline in the market this year.
“I was looking at my records from the last two previous years and this year was down at least 30 percent from the last two years,” said local vendor Don Wiley. “I’ve talked to a lot of other local farmers who have the same story.”
Wiley said because of the drought this year, many farmers came to market late. He said he believes more people were coming to the market earlier in the year, but gave up on coming when they saw the lack of produce variety.
“From June through the end of July, there were only about three vendors at the market, and usually there’s 15 to 20,” Wiley said. “People don’t know that the produce is there now and that there’s a larger selection.”
Patrick Kircher, Roosevelt County Agricultural Extension Agent and a farmer’s market board member, said the Portales market has not increased in vendor numbers in more than two years, so shopper numbers have not increased much either.
“It’s a lot of work raising a garden and it takes a special breed of folks to want to do that,” Kircher said. “It ebbs and flows a lot; there’s times it’s up and times it’s down. We on the board have sat and discussed many times on how to increase numbers from a buyers standpoint and a vendors standpoint.”
Vendor Carlos Paiz said he believes the hot weather has had an impact on the decline in local market customers, but the customers that do attend buy generous portions.
“In the farmers market, you have to take many factors into consideration. When we first start selling in June, it’s got a lot to do with varieties and what people want,” Paiz said. “The main element is the weather. It did affect the market in a way, because we didn’t start early enough.”
Smokey Ball, a 20-year vendor of the Clovis and Portales markets, said this is the first year he has not been at the market as a vendor his crops have done so poorly.
“We’ve got a few but none of them are very productive,” Ball said of his crops. “We’re used to making a half-decent crop, and this year we didn’t make one. This is usually the time we’re quitting the market and here we are just starting.”
Ball said he might try to sell a few times at the Portales market but after the cost of gas and parking, he does not think he will break even.