ALBUQUERQUE, NM – Several individuals and businesses were recognized at the 2020 New Mexico Organic Farming Conference (NMOFC) Feb. 21-22 in Albuquerque. The Southwest’s largest organic agricultural gathering provided the opportunity for over 360 attendees to gain valuable knowledge on topics including watershed, soil health, organic farming, wholesale markets, how to support the next generation of farmers and ranchers and much more.
Following is a list of award recipients:
The Organic Farmer of the Year Award: Ron and Gayle Ice
Ron and Gayle Ice have been farming organically in Alcalde, New Mexico for 30 years, periodically selling their vegetables at the Santa Fe Farmers Market and Los Alamos Market. After suffering a recent stroke, Ron began teaching Gayle how to care for the farm with the help of their daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren as well as volunteers from the community. This year, the couple’s crop yielded a much larger amount of vegetables and fruits than expected, forcing them to find new ways to harvest their crop. A large amount of dried goods from Ron and Gayle’s farm have been donated to Kitchen Angels, an organization that provides free and nutritious meals to homebound individuals facing life-challenging conditions.
Friend of Organic Agriculture Award: Aroma Coffee, Taos Roasters and Red Rock Roasters
Three New Mexico coffee roasting companies received the Friend of Organic Agriculture Award: Howard Stone (founder and chief executive officer of Aroma Coffee in Santa Fe), Nancy Hoyer (production roaster at Taos Roasters) and the Langer family (founders of Red Rock Roasters in Albuquerque). NMOFC organizers appreciate the roasting companies’ consistent dedication to producing fresh, organic coffee products.
Educator of the Year Award: Dr. Stephanie Walker
Dr. Stephanie Walker has served as the Extension Vegetable Specialist in the Extension Plant Sciences Department at New Mexico State University (NMSU) since 2004, providing training and assistance in vegetable production throughout the state. Walker’s research at NMSU primarily focuses on breeding chile peppers for enhanced yield and quality. In addition to her work as a vegetable specialist at NMSU, Walker has also served as a Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Professional Development Coordinator for New Mexico since 2004.
Good Earth Steward Award: Patchwork Farms, the Pope family
The Pope family began Patchwork Farms 20 years ago in the Estancia Valley. What originally began as a modest 20-acre hay farm has now grown into a 600-acre operation. Patchwork Farms yields a variety of produce including organic hay, corn, beans, popcorn, wheat and natural beef. The Pope family stewards its land in many ways, one of which involves naturally improving soil quality.
Young Farmer of the Year Award: Casey Holland
Casey Holland was born in Albuquerque and raised in Deming. She attended the University of New Mexico, where she studied psychology and sociology, never expecting that she would one day become a farmer. After meeting justice food organizers with the Southwest Organizing Project’s Feed the Hood Project, Holland discovered a passion for growing food and became inspired by the idea that doing so can help heal communities. This passion motivated Holland to manage Chispas Farm in the South Valley where she currently operates, growing over 120 varieties of fruits and vegetables while also producing eggs and milk.
Alongside conference facilitator Sage Faulkner, the conference was organized through a collaboration between the New Mexico Department of Agriculture’s Organic Program, the New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service, the New Mexico Farm & Livestock Bureau and Walking Trout Farm.