Storms leave trail of damage for Valencia County farmers

VALENCIA COUNTY, NM (KRQE) – It’s been a year many New Mexico farmers likely won’t forget, although they’d probably like to.

Dan Waring of KD Farms in Los Lunas is among many farmers devastated by flooding, wind and hail in Valencia County this weekend.

Waring said Saturday started off cheerfully at the opening day of the farm’s pumpkin patch. It ended with his family hiding in a bathroom during a hail storm and tornado warning around 6:30 p.m.

“Most of our pumpkin crop, all of our stuff in the field including our squash, our chilies, everything is completely destroyed,” Waring stated.

He said it took only about 10 minutes for hail, a few inches of rain and 80 mile-per-hour winds to damage most of his produce, likely cutting his season short.

“We try to stay open all the way until Christmas. I’m not sure at this point if we’ll be able to do that or not but we’re going to give it a shot. We do things such as pinto beans and red chili and that usually fares well and we can keep that for a while.”

Weather-wise, Friday night wasn’t much better — at least 120 pecan trees were uprooted near Belen in a strong storm that caused flooding across Valencia County.

“Some of the trees were already 12 years old and ready to harvest- it will really have an impact on the amount that we harvest this year,” Four Daughters Land and Cattle Company Owner Kathy Mechenbier said.

The flood water from a broken high line ditch washed out the access road for her family to reach the damaged areas, so assessing the total damage is a waiting game.

She said she’s grateful the whole orchard was not lost and counts her blessings as hundreds of people across Valencia County pick up the pieces.

“I think what’s very hard is knowing the devastation that it caused for us and the people beyond us because when the water came through our farm, it washed across I-25 and then it flooded the lower homes,” she stated.

Mechenbier hopes to salvage some of the damaged trees within the next couple of days.

Though part of their livelihood is gone, there is still hope in the tight-knit community that supports its farmers.

“We’re a small group that’s left here in New Mexico,” Waring said about the decreasing number of local farmers. “We’re less than one-tenth of what we were 50 years ago here and people need to continue to support us.”

KD Farms will still be open until everything is sold for the season.

Valencia County wasn’t the only area hit hard; McCall’s Pumpkin Patch in Moriarty- the largest pumpkin patch in the state- was closed Saturday and Sunday because of Friday’s storms but said it will honor pumpkin patch tickets bought this weekend to be used anytime.