The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.

Farming has been a part of New Mexico as far back as 2,500 years ago beginning with the Mogollon people who grew corn, squash and beans. Throughout history, American Indians, Spanish explorers and Anglo pioneers all played key roles in shaping what you see in our state’s agriculture today.

The 2012 Census of Agriculture continues to paint a picture of diversity in New Mexico Agriculture, where 97 percent of the farms are family-owned. The number of farms increased 18 percent from the previous census to 24,721, and minority farms similarly rose. American Indian operated farms jumped from 4,493 to 5,202, and Hispanic-operated farms jumped from 6,475 to 9,377.

In addition, the recent release of 2012 Census of Agriculture American Indian Reservations publication provides reservation level data for 6 New Mexico American Indian reservations. Data on the Navajo Nation, Pueblo de Cochiti, Pueblo of Isleta, Pueblo of Jemez, Pueblo of Santo Domingo, and Pueblo of Zuni show that these reservations produced over $95 million in agriculture commodities and continue to grow crops such as traditional corn and other vegetables.

Celebrating the rich culture and diversity of New Mexico agriculture is highly anticipated this time of year as we mark the height of chili pepper harvest in September and kick off the annual State Fair in Albuquerque. While green chile roasting has been common in New Mexico for quite some time, increasingly, green chile is being shipped fresh to other parts of the country for roasting. According to the Ag Census, New Mexico ranks first in chile pepper acreage in the nation with 9,577 acres. Doña Ana, Luna and Sierra counties all ranked in the top four counties in the nation in chile acreage. Doña Ana County also ranks as the top county in pecan acreage with 28,729 acres.

History has also shown that over the years our state has endured numerous dry periods and the 2012 Census of Agriculture was able to capture the impact of an ongoing drought. Decline in cattle inventories was significant (170,000 head) compared to the 2007 inventories. Further impacts included increased farm expenses, such as livestock feed and farm inputs, causing the average net cash income per farm to drop from $17,558 in 2007 to $9,501 in 2012.

To learn more about New Mexico farming and ranching, from our traditional agriculture practices to more innovative and newer ones, visit the 2012 Census of Agriculture results.