Early Winter 2022: Canopy

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FACES OF FOOD

GROWING THE SOIL OF SOUTHERN NEW MEXICO

By Shahid Mustafa · Photos by Tabitha Rossman

Left: Pecan trees at Rio Gro in Mesquite. Right: Josh Bowman holding a soil sample.

According to the 2019 New Mexico Agriculture Statistics Bulletin, the state ranked first in the US for sales of pecans as well as yield per acre. This included 45,000 acres of pecan trees that produced 33.3 percent of the national crop. Although Georgia’s net production has surpassed New Mexico’s for the past couple of years, pecans remain one of New Mexico’s leading crops. As anyone who lives in or has traveled through the region knows, most of this production takes place in Doña Ana County. Based in Mesquite, Josh Bowman and his business partner, Wyatt Flory, of Rio Gro LLC, are among the pecan growers in the region. They’re also crop nutrition and soil health consultants who have been working with chile, onion, and pecan farmers in southern New 56

edible New Mexico | EARLY WINTER 2022

Mexico since 2018. Today they estimate that their products and systems are in use across more than 10,000 acres of New Mexico farmland, with around 3,000 acres strictly implementing their program. Rio Gro integrates regenerative agriculture into its 120-acre pecan orchard in Mesquite, practices loosely defined as helping to sequester carbon, improve soil quality, reduce erosion and runoff, and generally promote more sustainable growing. When asked why he emphasizes the term “regenerative agriculture,” Bowman says that he’d previously used the term “sustainable agriculture,” but has come to realize that “it’s about more than just sustaining because it truly is doing something new.”


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