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New Mexico farmers thankful for extra moisture

July 21, 2019

RAMAH, N.M. (AP) — Parts of western New Mexico are benefiting from the extra moisture received over the winter and spring as a result of a favorable weather pattern.

The Gallup Independent reports Ramah Lake was almost filled to capacity, allowing local farmers to irrigate with water from the lake. This marks a turnaround from 2014, when extreme drought left the lake completely dry.

The unpredictable weather, drought, the high alkalinity in the mountain soil and the challenges of growing crops at higher elevations make it difficult to earn a living with farming at Ramah and surrounding areas.

Dean Bond, 81, was using his tractor on a recent afternoon to till the soil on his field in Ramah in preparation for planting what would be only his second crop in recent years.

“The water situation is pretty good this year,” Bond said, adding that other local farmers are doing the same. “Last year, I didn’t grow anything because of the drought. In the fall, I planted for the first time in five years.”

He was able get 1,200 bales of hay, and now he’s hoping to to plant oats.

“There’s different feed stores that sell them, but this time of year is hard to find them. I’m a little late,” he said.

Storms at the beginning of the year delivered enough snow to bring snowpack in the Zuni Mountains back to 99% of normal by mid-February, according to National Weather Service records.

The pattern continued with a wet spring.

In the Chuska Mountains, snowpack was at an average normal in early February, when hydrologists with the Navajo Nation reported more than 2 feet (0.61 meters) of snow.

The summer has not seen much moisture yet though.

The latest federal drought maps show abnormally dry and moderate drought conditions continue to linger over parts of northwestern New Mexico and northeastern Arizona, which includes much of the Navajo Nation.

Gerald Henke, who farms in the Candy Kitchen area, depends on rain for irrigation this time of the year. He said he has not planted anything yet this season.

“It appears the monsoon is a bit a late in developing this year,” he said. “But I’m hopeful it will normalize. Weather has always been unpredictable and a challenge for farmers and ranchers (in the Southwest).”

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Information from: Gallup Independent, http://www.gallupindependent.com

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