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Las Cruces Farmers Market-2011

Las Cruces snags honor as nation's top farmers market

Santa Fe garners few votes in online contest

By Staci Matlock for the Santa Fe New Mexican

The Las Cruces Farmers Market was voted the most popular large farmers market in the nation in an online contest sponsored by the nonprofit American Farmland Trust.

That makes Miguel Gallegos, operations manager of the Santa Fe Farmers Market, pretty sad. "The same thing happened last year," he said. "We pushed (the contest) on Twitter, email blast and even had a link on our website. Still, we can't twist people's arms."

With only 41 votes, the Santa Fe Farmers Market didn't even make it into the top 20 for large farmers markets, which have 56 or more vendors. The popular Saturday and Tuesday farmers market has 156 registered members and 105 vendors.

Top farmers markets are named in four categories: Large, medium, small and boutique.

Las Cruces, in the heart of New Mexico's southern large farm region, earned 5,025 votes, beating out markets in Texas, Georgia, Alabama, Washington and Connecticut. It placed ninth in the contest last year. The market is celebrating its 40th anniversary.

Winners of the annual contest receive a hefty marketing boost. Las Cruces will be featured in Epicurious.com, and will receive 5,000 postcards and 500 special tote bags, among other prizes.

Gallegos said one problem is that the customer base at the Santa Fe Farmers Market is older people, many of whom may not use computers or pay attention to Twitter.  Market managers didn't buy a print ad because they were trying to save money. "Next year, maybe I'll need to do a print ad and see if that makes a difference," he said.

American Farmland Trust is a nonprofit national organization founded in 1980 by growers to protect farmland. The group raises awareness of the loss of agricultural lands and promotes environmentally sustainable farm practices.

The annual contest's goal is to spread the organization's mantra — "No Farms, No Food." Participants could vote for as many farmers markets as they wanted, but could vote for each only once.

According to the trust and the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service, New Mexico loses 35 acres of farmland a day.

Many farmers markets in New Mexico started as a loose consortium of growers selling their wares from the back of pickup trucks. The Santa Fe Farmers Market officially began that way in the 1960s, according to the organization's website.

Courtesy, The Santa Fe New Mexican. All Rights Reserved. (c) 2011.