A family that has been raising a variety of crops in the Artesia area for generations is featured in the “Meet the Producers” exhibit at the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces.
“Meet the Producers” is a wall exhibit in the Museum’s Horse & Cattle Barn that changes every few months to feature individuals and families in New Mexico who produce food and fiber.
The Mayberry family operates in the Pecos Valley near Artesia where they have grown many crops through the years, including cotton, wheat, oats, cucumbers, chile, cantaloupe, bell peppers, onions, and alfalfa. Today most of their production, including alfalfa, wheat silage, and corn silage is sold to the local dairy market. Bob and Sandra believe farming is a family affair and that there are few occupations today where family is so engaged with the daily work of making a living.
Bob and Sandra met while attending New Mexico State University. Sandra studied marketing and Bob, economics. They married in 1985 and began farming and raising their family. Bob followed his father and grandfathers into the business of agriculture.
Farm life has changed a great deal over the years. Strong labor was the original key to growing crops, and many hours were spent irrigating, weeding, and harvesting by hand. It took long hours and strong muscles to get the work done. Today technology has changed the focus of the farmers’ efforts. The Mayberrys use genetic engineering, target-based pesticides, crop consultants for plant nutrition and pest control, and GPS equipment for precise planting and harvesting.
In 2015, there were 315,000 dairy cows in New Mexico. Each cow produces approximately 24, 245 pounds of milk per year. In order to feed all of these animals, farmers in New Mexico produced 1,091,000 tons of hay and more than 2,000,000 tons of corn silage in 2015.
Alfalfa is a perennial plant, which means it does not need to be replanted each year. It is crucial for the dairy industry. The Mayberrys begin cutting their alfalfa hay in early May and continue cutting about every 28 days until frost in the fall. The hay is allowed to dry in the field for three to four days, and then it is baled at night when the humidity is high enough to hold the leaves on the stem. The leaves have higher nutritional value than the stem, so they work to capture as much leafy material in the bale as possible.
The large number of dairy cattle in need of forage and the water efficiency of center pivot sprinkler irrigation have combined to make silage a profitable crop in the Pecos Valley where the Mayberrys live. Corn silage is an annual crop planted in the spring, then harvested in the fall when the plants are 10 to 12 feet tall and the corn kernels have matured and are starting to dry. Harvest time is critical, as the forage need to be at 65% to 70% moisture and then packed tightly in a silo or pit to ensure a proper anaerobic fermentation process during storage. Silage can also be made from other grain crops like wheat and sorghum.
The 47-acre Museum is located at 4100 Dripping Springs Road in Las Cruces and is part of the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs. It’s open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, call (575) 522-4100.