Just when we thought that we had issues with growing our own peppers, we ran across this article from the Las Cruces Sun-News about the manpower vs. technology issues of the chile pepper cultivation out in New Mexico. Hey, at least we still pick our own peppers by hand. Granted that’s from like 12 plants or so…
Mechanized chile harvesting could ensure future of N.M. crop
By the Associated Press
12/25/2007 12:00:00 AM MST
LAKE ARTHUR, N.M. – A handful of farm laborers are busy at work on a warm day in mid-November, helping harvest 140 acres of Cecil Conklin’s red chile crop. But at this southeastern New Mexico farm, the workers aren’t stooped over hand-picking the peppers – they’re driving Conklin’s mechanical chile harvester as it plows through row after row of chile plants, methodically pulling off the peppers.
“The machine harvests about seven acres a day,” said Conklin, one of the first farmers in New Mexico to make the switch to mechanical harvesting more than a decade ago. “That’s about the same acreage that it took 40-50 workers to pick each day before we had the machine.
Mechanization “was forced on us – we couldn’t find the labor. Now, chile definitely has to be mechanically harvested in order for farmers to make money,” he said.
Increased market pressure from foreign chile imports, declining prices and lack of labor have made it tough for chile farmers to thrive. Using machines to harvest the state’s signature crop is the only way the $400 million chile industry can stay competitive, said Terry Crawford, professor of agriculture business and economics at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces.