LAS CRUCES, N.M. — The arrival of fall means it’s transition time in the Hatch area where chile farmers have begun harvesting red pods.
That’s following a green-chile harvest that was so-so for some farmers whose crops picked up disease following persistent rain.
The harvest of green chile wound down for the most part around the end of September, the Las Cruces Sun-News reported.
That harvest started strong in early August with near-perfect weather conditions. However, rain then covered the area for days.
Some growers also saw hail fall on their crops.
A Sept. 29 U.S. Department of Agriculture report that as of the end of last week hadn’t been updated because of the partial government shutdown said 82 percent of the crop was in good condition.
Farmer Oscar Ramos said 26 of his 30 acres of chile were hurt by the rains, shrinking his total yield.
Some of the peppers from a field near Garfield had blotches, and farmer Jerry Franzoy said about 4 percent of the crop was ruined. “This was one of our worst fields.”
Still, Franzoy said other areas saw less damage. The quality of the chile crop in the Las Uvas Valley, southwest of Hatch, was especially good, he said.
Franzoy also said a labor shortage affected him this year.
A later-than-usual completion to the onion harvest cut into the beginning of the chile harvest, and there weren’t enough workers.
Franzoy said that meant his farm wasn’t able to harvest as much green chile as desired before the chile turned red.
Legislative change is needed to allow for more harvesters, Franzoy said. “If the government doesn’t do something quick, we’re going to be in trouble.”