QUINOA and hemp were two crops farmers in the San Luis Valley had moved into over the past few years, but the 2021 crop report from Rio Grande Water Conservation’s Subdistrict 1 shows the market has fallen out for those two particular crops.
Potatoes are the top crop annually, followed by barley and alfalfa in Subdistrict 1, which has approximately 310 farms and is the biggest land subdivision in the San Luis Valley with 3,000 water wells.
The subdistrict serves as a bellwether for acreage crop production as farm managers work with the Rio Grande Water Conservation District on conservation measures to restore the troubled unconfined aquifer of the Upper Rio Grande Basin.
THE crop report from Subdistrict 1 gives an understanding of what’s grown in the San Luis Valley, and the importance of the Valley’s key agricultural products of potatoes, barley and alfalfa. Collectively the cash crops in the subdistrict are valued at approximately $400 million, with key farm contracts tied to Walmart, Safeway, and Coors.
Farmers planted only 746 acres of quinoa in 2021, compared to 3,739 acres in 2021. With a saturated market for quinoa, the crop became less lucrative in 2021.
Likewise, only 703 acres of hemp was grown in 2021 compared to 2,812 acres in 2020. “Hemp has been on the downside, which is a little bit unfortunate because that’s a crop that uses less water, but another crop that became saturated,” said Marisa Fricke, Subdistrict 1 Program Manager for the Rio Grande Water Conservation District.