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NMSU hosts free farmers' market workshop in Abiquiu

ABIQUIU, N.M. -- How does a grower take advantage of direct marketing at a farmers' market? That question and many more will be answered at a free workshop from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, March 13, at Rio Arriba Rural Event Center, 122A state Road 554, Abiquiu.

The event is sponsored by the New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service, the New Mexico Farmers' Market Association and Farm to Table.

"With 58 farmers' markets now in New Mexico, there is more demand than ever for locally grown food. Gross sales have been on the rise, but in many cases farmers can use some outside assistance to help make their operations more profitable. These workshops connect farmers to new ideas and good resources for working into the future," said Denise Miller, executive director of the New Mexico Farmers' Marketing Association.

With the increased opportunities to market their produce through farmers' markets, growers can get help from NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service to increase their profits through the sale of high-value crops and value-added products.

"Farmers' markets are a growing direct-marketing arena where the business transaction occurs between the grower and the consumer. Through these workshops we want to help producers reduce their risk and increase their profits," said Michael Patrick, NMSU Extension community resource and economic development specialist and coordinator of the program, which is funded by a Western Center for Risk Management Education grant.

Growers attending the workshop will learn from NMSU Extension specialists Stephanie Walker and Ron Walser about specialty crops such as broccoli, cauliflower, culinary herbs, berries, specialty melons and potatoes. Roberta Rios, former Rio Arriba County Extension home economist, and Jan Matteson, Northern New Mexico College commercial kitchen director, will show attendees how to create value-added products, such as jams and jellies, as well as discuss regulations for producing products in home kitchens and commercial kitchens.

The business side of direct marketing - producing for profit by selecting specialty crops and products, evaluating costs and returns, developing a business plan, and merchandizing and marketing - will be presented by Patrick.

The program will also feature presentations on the following topics:

?Acequia research update, presented by Steven Gulden, Sustainable Agriculture Science Center at Alcalde superintendent;

?Grass-fed meat, presented by Sage Faulkner of Los Ojos ranchers; and

?Cheese making, presented by Margaret Campos of Comida de Campos.

While the workshop is free, registration before March 10 would be appreciated. To register, call the Rio Arriba County Extension office at (505) 685-4523. Lunch will be a pot luck affair, so please coordinate contributions with Sabra Moore at (505) 685-4842.