Grant County Extension Connection

Episode 9: Red or Green? All About New Mexico Chile Production

April 15, 2020 Jessica Swapp Season 1 Episode 9
Grant County Extension Connection
Episode 9: Red or Green? All About New Mexico Chile Production
Show Notes Transcript

I was able to get some of the big names behind chile production to sit down and talk to me while we were at the 2020 New Mexico Chile Conference. Chile is such a unique crop that is mostly grown here in the southwest United States and most of that production comes from the driest part of New Mexico. Our state in known for that delicious chile, but did you know that you eat chile in several other food items? We discuss paprika peppers, chile peppers as well as some other popular crops. Ed and Tyler Curry with Curry Seed, Co., Ben Etcheverry with Mizkan America and Kent Welsh with Olam Spices and Vegetables sit down and visit with me all about chile! 

Jessica :   0:00
Welcome to the Extension Connection podcast. The Grant County Cooperative Extension Service is here to help connect you with research based information about economic development, energy and water, farm and ranch, yard and garden, natural resources, health and well being, and our very popular youth development program 4-H. I'm your host, Jessica Swapp, the 4-H and agriculture agent here in Grant County, New Mexico. We are part of New Mexico State University's College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Science and we are here to serve you. So let's get started.

Jessica :   0:50
Welcome back on today's episode. We're talking about one of my favorite foods in the entire world. Chile. It's a major agriculture commodity here in New Mexico, and I was asked to moderate the 2020 Annual Chile Conference held in Las Cruces, New Mexico, which is the home of New Mexico State University. NMSU is pretty much the mecca for all things chile and chile research. And if you have ever had a taste of New Mexico green chile, nothing else will ever compare. I was able to corner Ed Curry at the chile conference as well as a few others that I used to run around in the same circles with while I worked as a crop supervisor for a chile plant in Las Cruces before moving into extension, and we had a great visit. So without further ado, let's get down to business.  [Tractor starting sound effect]

Jessica :   1:49
Welcome to podcast today with me, I have Mr. Ed Curry and his son, Tyler Curry with Curry Seed and company out of Pierce, Arizona. We also were just joined by Ben Etcheverry with Mizkan America. So welcome to my podcast.  

Ed:   2:09
Glad to be here.

Jessica :   2:09
Very good. So, Ed, tell me about what you do with Curry Seed.

Ed:   2:14
We furnish about 90% of the green chili seed in the world as far as green chile. There's obviously there's a lot of the companies out there have a lot, but the core of the green chile seed comes from our breeding programs. We started with Mr Phil Villa, many years ago, and then I worked with Dr Ben V Alone, Texas A&M and then uh, Everett Wood, who was originally in Orange County, California, who was now in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. We have lost Phil since then, some years ago but I love what we do Jessica. We basically design,  we designed flavors, we design, we try to increase the yield. We try,  one of the things that brought us to where we are, as we were the first ones to stabilize the heat in pepper. That's the very number one things. We stabilize the heat. And so that at this industry some 30 years ago could spread to the North and the South. You know, those areas of the United States that the Southwest has always been known for chile Anaheim Chile around Anaheim, the Ortega company started, with Manuel Ortega right down the Ventura River where his first cannery was. So the Southwest California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado was very familiar with green chilie and they were used to a little heat, and they were used to some, you know, not always being consistent. But then, as it was to spread to the north and the east those areas, it had to be mild because once that person ate a hot chile they were done. So we brought in the first consistent variety that was mild, and then they actually started Border Foods, which then was bought out by Mizkan later is was the are really first big, them and Bueno Foods out of Albuquerque. Those two, were our first ones.

Jessica :   4:19
Yea and I got to know you through. I used to work for Olam Spices and Vegetables as their crops supervisor and some of our growers were using your varieties in their fields. So, and that's how I got to know you and also through Andy Wiles who was my boss at the time and so...

Ed:   4:39
And kind of the same thing there in the Paprika we were are somewhat known for the highest color chile in the world. And again, that has that heat has to be almost zero because you cannot separate the oleoresin and the heat, the oils, they just don't the capsicum oils  don't separate very well, so it's very important the paprikas are very, very, very mild.

Jessica :   5:03
How did you get started in this? What's your background?

Ed:   5:06
I was eight years old and we, my dad was growing chile. He started when I was, he started 1957, I was born in 1956. So now you know I'm 39 but, uh uh when I was about eight, when my dad was having trouble getting good chile seed. So we came over to June and Jim Lyttle and bought certified registered New Mexico, 6-4 seed. I knew then that it was important. I remember standing in the field with Jim Lyttle and the discussion between my father and Kenny McDaniel, who was his neighbor. And they were both really good chile growers. And they wanted good seed. That struck in my head at eight years old. Now, fast forward, I started farming myself in all actually my freshman year in high school, my FFA project with seven acres of chile. I kept moving along with that, and, uh, by the way, love agriculture. I love agriculture.

Jessica :   6:12
Me too!

Ed:   6:12
Being outside, you know, that's that's the funnest. But it's where life is, you know. Um, but I took that and I had two breeders in front of me at a very young age I had Phil Villa who was the Ortega breeder. And then I had Everette Wood who was with Cal Compact at the time, which is now Olam, as you know, and, uh and I followed them two men is a very young boy, eighth grade, in fact. And then after I got out of high school, interestingly enough, a professor right here at NMSU encouraged me to just follow them. He said. Son, you got the best chile instructor in the world, your dad follow him and then follow those breeders, and that's what I did. And, uh, this last year was in 2018 that fall I was elected chairman of the the International Pepper Conference, which is a big honor. Um, I'm really excited about that. So we will host the International Pepper Conference at our farm September 28, 29th and 30th of 2020 this yea,r this fall.

Jessica :   7:21
That's cool.

Ed:   7:21
And so we're pretty excited about that and then, then the next day we'll go to the University Marriott there at the University of Arizona and have our abstract day with the talks from, from, from the different ones that apply to to talk on the different subjects about capsicum,  annuums and pepper and heat and food quality and canning quality and all those good things. And actually, it'll include bell peppers, jalapenos. It is the Pepper Conference is the largest scientific organization for the study of Pepper. It was founded in the 1970 Dr. Ben V Alone, who is still quite active in his eighties is him and Stephanie Walker and Jeff Silvertooth and Randy Norton, all from different universities. And Jeff and Randy from University of Arizona, Ben from retired from Texas A&M and the fellow that took his place, Kevin Crosby's also helping me and then Stephanie Walker from New Mexico State. So I have a lot of help in it, but we're really looking forward to that. And it ought to be. We hope you know, our title of this. This year's theme is, is from science to the field. Dino Cervantes from Cervantes Corporation a while ago just told me, he says, kind of neat. It's come full circle, and that is to get it back to the farm. And I'm honored to bring it back to the farm. And we're gonna be the first time this conference has ever been held at the farm. Maybe in 2018 there was 37 countries represented, so we'll see how many we can get. We're shooting for more, but we'll see.

Jessica :   8:55
Yeah, well, hopefully can help out with that.  

Ed:   8:57
Absolutely!  

Jessica :   9:00
And Tyler, how did you get involved? Did you have to? Just kidding!

Tyler:   9:07
I was born into it, just happened to love it. Yeah. So I kept doing it too. So I think I'm third generation on the chile side and must be fourth or fifth generation in agriculture.

Jessica :   9:17
And what do you do there?  

Tyler:   9:19
I mostly manage the farm, I take care of the kind of the day to day operations. 

Jessica :   9:23
Because he's getting old!  [laughter]

Ed:   0:00
That's the truth.   

Jessica :   9:29
And what is the typical day look like for you?

Tyler:   9:32
Oh, a lot of tractor work, management, people working around the weather. Stuff like that. It's is fun, we love it.

Jessica :   9:41
Yeah. Yeah. And did you did you have any schooling? Any ag schooling or...

Tyler:   9:46
No, not a lot specifically for that. So I was just born into it. I did it ever since I was little. You don't realize it till you get older. That is not just chores, that it is actually really is pretty neat. What we get to do. So when I got older then you really start legitimately enjoy it. For the love of it.

Ed:   10:03
This one,  he had a born love for being outside and being in the field with me.

Jessica :   10:09
That's cool.  And that doesn't happen. You know as much anymore. You know, we you know, I grew up on a cattle ranch and everything, but you see more and more where our youth and are going out and they're, they're doing something else. They don't go back, to their roots and working on the family farm or the family ranch, and we're seeing a lot of those types of businesses, you know, going away. So I'm glad to hear that. You guys still have that family lineage going.  

Tyler:   10:38
Yeah there's a big shortage of farm kids. I think that want to stay in it.  

Jessica :   10:42
Yeah.

Tyler:   10:43
That's for sure. We're lucky. We're very lucky.

Jessica :   10:44
Yeah, and it's hard work, but it's rewarding work.  

Tyler:   10:48
That's right.

Jessica :   10:48
Yes, Yes. And also, here I have Ben Etcheverry with Mizkan America. And back in the day, we kind of would have been foes.  

Ben:   10:58
Yeah?

Jessica :   10:59
If when I was working at Olam and you're if you're at Mizkan I don't know if we could have been friends back then.  

Ben:   11:05
There's always room for friends.  

Jessica :   11:08
Always room for friends.  So what do you do at Mizkan?

Tyler:   11:10
I'm a crop consultant in their Ag department.

Jessica :   11:12
Okay, so you go around and look at fields?

Ben:   11:15
Go around look at fields, help diagnose virus, disease. Uh, do fertilizer recommendation stuff like that.

Jessica :   11:23
Cool. What's the biggest threat to the chile crop? What virus is the biggest?

Ben:   11:29
Verticillium wilt.

Jessica :   11:30
I was going to say Phytophthora, but we'll go with that.

Ben:   11:34
Vert will get us before anything.  

Jessica :   11:37
Very good. Very good. Um, and, uh, do you have, do you have a lot of growers that you work with? 

Ben:   11:45
We have a pretty stable relationship. I really can't tell you how many. 

Jessica :   11:49
Yeah, Yeah. Tell me about a typical day. What do you do in a typical day?

Tyler:   11:54
Um, drive around a lot.

Jessica :   11:56
Yeah. I understand that.

Tyler:   12:00
We have quite a bit of, quite a few acres and our goal between the other agronomist and myself is to see every acre that we that we contract once a week. And that's how we help, help with the quality to our facility. It's we kind of see ourselves first line of quality control. If we can see something in the field and stop it from occurring or get a handle on it before it gets to the plant, that's the first step in making good quality chile.  

Jessica :   12:29
Right. Right.  

Ben:   12:31
So my average day is I get up about 4:30-5 for o'clock, talk to my boss, see if there were any quality issues at the plant yesterday. And if there was, I'll  go straight to the farm and stand on the harvest trailer and see what's going on. See if it's as big deal as we think it is, or if we could just clean it up and move on. Then from there we just go on about our day. Go look at some other fields before it gets too hot and go inside. Just do some office work.  

Jessica :   13:01
Uh huh. Uh huh. I lived that life. I understand. Very good. So we're going to go back to you, Mister Ed, And you were telling me about your ag farm tours that you do for youth around your community.

Ed:   13:19
Okay. Yes, ma'am. Every year we, uh, we do a farm. Um, day the for FFA kids. What's typically the first Friday in November, sometimes the second depending on this year, the national FFA convention changed, so we had to move it to the eighth, but, uh, I don't know if that's if that's gonna consist or not. The main point is, is we try to educate kids with a with a a passion for agriculture. We teach him basic, genetics basic agronomy  we try to, we even let him judge chile. And then at the end of the day, we give them a test. We also do food safety and that, that somebody didn't mention and recently the local dairy has been bringing some cattle over, and we let him judge a few cows as well and but the main ideas so that these kids can go away with an understanding of possibly a different job option. Possibly a different career place is our idea, but, yeah, we we have a lot of fun. We give sweepstakes award. You know, the high individuals in each bracket. It's a lot of fun, and kids really enjoy it, they look forward to it.  

Jessica :   14:41
Yeah!  

Ed:   14:42
We welcome you to bring yeah, other FFA chapters around or science classes. It don't have to be totally FFA.

Jessica :   14:49
Right right?! So anybody can pretty much attend just get you in touch with Ed.

Ed:   14:55
Let me say it this way Jessica. When you love something as much as I love it, it's been my life. It's been my living. We created new varieties of Chile through the help of God, and I always put that in there. The inspiration is important in this, and it's not just how smart we are. It's inspiration. And so I want to share that passion, and I want I would like to offer the young people a new opportunity and kids today in today's world, most of them have never been on a real working farm. They really don't understand what Tyler does they don't understand that at all. So we like to give 'em you know, on opportunity to think and quite honestly, we send quite a few kids from our area here to  New Mexico State. You have a good group of our kids.

Jessica :   15:47
We have a very good ag school here at New Mexico State University, the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. is very good. I have a degree from there as well, so I'm a product of that program. Um So if you were gonna speak out to the to the youth, that might be listening or any parents out there If they're thinking about a, you know a career in agriculture, what advice would you give them?

Ed:   16:13
Seek your passion. That's the first thing. Go after what you love And if you really love it, you know, some of the most fun people I've seen in life is some folks that grew up in town that in big cities, sometimes that have a passion. Uh, Ryan Herbon  great example grew up in Southern California in the big city area. And yet he's out here developing mechanical thinners and developed his own company. Graduated NMSU great success story! Humble human being.

Jessica :   16:48
He's a hometown guy for me, too. He lives in Silver City.  

Ed:   16:52
He grew up right in the heart of of, uh, off that, you know. 

Jessica :   16:58
Well,cool. All right, well, I think that's the end of my questions. You guys have anything you want to add?

Ed:   17:07
Ben and I  work together a lot. And the fun of that is he's on the end of producing or  canning chile. He's he's on that final consumer end. I'm on the end of developing flavors and varieties that'll work for that. So when we get together, we have a lot of fun, as you  know I did with Andy, you know, on the paprika side. And it's fun! You know, some of my best days are when we crawl out of the field and it's dark and we're tired, thirsty and everything else. 

Ben:   17:44
We are just silly at that point.

Ed:   17:44
But we're still finding, look at this one, you know. And this year, my my danged old, hips, just wore out and man it was all I could do. Ben was helping me out, but we still done it and and you know, some people have made the comment to me ah this getting old stuff, you know, I said, No, it's not. It's wonderful. You know, the knowledge that have I've learned through the years is just getting funner and funner and funner, you know, and that's probably poor English. But that's the truth. If I got a crawl to do this, I'm gonna do it because I love it. And it's working with him (Ben) working with Tyler, you know? That's what makes it fun. Life is fun! You know, these people, you know that look a life sad. Holy cow man there is, life is a joy! There's a lot of good here, huh? We're gonna make a difference.  

Ben:   18:37
Something kind of cool for me. Last year I had what I call my Moses moment. I was over at  Ed's, lets backup... I've been looking at chile for 10 years now, and I would go over to Ed's and all. Everything would just look the same. It all looks like chile. It looks like a little bit wider, chile, a little skinnier chile, little fatter chile, uh, a little longer chile. And I was standing out there in that field listening to a podcast, looking through some plants, some single row  selections, and I looked up and all of a sudden everything had a name. It had a shape and it had a size and had a purpose. I looked at 'em like a kindergarten teacher. Looks at all our kids. She can see. She can see she's been with him long enough. She can see the individual characteristics coming out. And it took me 10 years to do that.  

Jessica :   19:32
Uh uh.  

Ben:   19:33
That that's a big deal is 10 years. I sat there for 10 years, just stuck it out, stuck it out, stuck it out. And then finally I learned. That's a big deal to me is just the amount of time you put into something.  

Jessica :   19:50
Yeah.  

Ed:   19:50
And that is what I mean. Ben has been a great student. He loves to come. I enjoy it, when the young ones come. I was the young guy not too many years ago. Following...

Jessica :   20:01
Just a few years ago. 

Ed:   20:01
Yeah, just a few hiccups ago. I was the young one and I was following Phil Villa and Everett Wood, Ben V Alone. I was following these guys and and to Ben's point, sometimes it takes years to put certain ideas together. That's why I see a lot of this is just plain inspiration from heaven. Just keep working, but you cannot get it without hard work, you keep working. Keep putting ideas together. I do better. I'm verbose as you can tell.  know. I do better working with somebody I love. Tyler and I were in the field a long time in the  machetes and that's a particular variety we're working. And I do better. If I have somebody with me, I can bounce it off. When Ben's with me I bounce stuff off of him.  

Ben:   20:49
Our favorite game is called, what if?  [laughter] I'm dead serious. you know, being with  somebody you can talk about, you can talk about a million things, but when you have something in common and you share a common  lingo with someone and you become so technical, you start playing. You know what if we cross this with this, that would work. What would you think if we did this with this? That might work. You know, I think it's out of that questioning each other, forcing each other to think about your idea and trying to reconcile that idea, in some sort of fashion. That's how you make progress. You can challenge each other. You don't have to agree all the time. You can hold the position. You could not hold position, but as long as you're working towards a positive goal, you can do anything you want together.

Jessica :   21:41
And so you you kind of have ah different perspective in terms of you're kind of directly tied to the consumer because you're probably selling, um, you know, product out to other plants that are then producing other things. And what are you hearing from consumers that they're really, really pushing for these days?

Tyler:   22:02
Consumers are pushing for more, call it Hispanic foods. Demographics are changing their looking for organic. They're looking for certified stuff. We're so we're in such a great place as a society right now that we are able to choose our food instead of just making sure that we have food. And so we're starting to get into a lot more designer type, organic, whole foods, pesticide free, any sort of marketing campaign you name it. So those are the big challenges from the marketing side of customers and shelf space and stuff is just getting those demands in a  timely manner.

Ed:   22:44
The gene re-combination thing that he's talking about of when we decide to choose parents. That's something Phil, Everett, Ben. It's always been a lot of fun,  learning is half the art of pepper breeding is figuring out the parents and, and when you make a cross old adage, it's a crapshoot. You don't know if it's gonna be good or bad. You don't know, and it takes several years. And what we do is the 10 years that Ben talked about learning. I've got one variety, really high nutrition chile that we're really excited. But it's got higher luteins and zeaxanthin, than spinach, or at least equal. And you know everybody's looking for that healthy super food we have it in pepper.  So imagine a super food salsa. But the whole point is, is the recombination of genes. You never know where that's gonna go, so you have to do a lot of crosses. Look at a lot of numbers, and it takes a lot of time. I've been working on that 25. This is, this will be the 26th or seventh year on that cross, so I grew old doing it. But you know, it's just getting fun. It's fun. Last year we released a new variety Ben helped me get it out and called Machete and Machete made a difference of almost 50% more yield. How many times is a new variety come out that yields 50% more. Most of the time, it's 10% or or or a small percentage, you know, but but not like this.

Jessica :   24:17
And I just thought of this. So for people who were possibly tuning in and here we are talking about, you know, chile we're here in New Mexico, that's not something that's common all over the United States. But if you've ever had, uh, this type of chile down here, you can't ever get enough once you have some. Yeah. You definitely can't do without. Um so, um, what do you think is different about, um growing chilleversus growing something like corn or soybean or or something like that?  

Ed:   24:55
Oh, my goodness! what a good question. Chile that the best way I can tell it, I had a friend, Steve Waugh Marker. Steve was a farmer in Oxnard, California Very successful, long since passed away. Good grief,  Steve's been gone 30 something years now.  But Steve was the fuel man for Ortega. In his older years, his sons were running the farm and he did it more as a pastime than anything. And, uh, Steve had farmed strawberries, cauliflower, broccoli, lettuce right on down the line. And he always told me that I was a young man and he said,  Ed chile is the hardest crop there is to get from front planting, to a harvested crop and be successful at it. It's so susceptible to many diseases there's there's hand labor issues. There's harvest issues of weather issues, disease issues. It's just susceptible to so many things. Chile is a very challenging, challenging crop, and I love the challenge. If you ask me about rate, you know, race cars or something like that, I would say lettuce is the race car of vegetables 70 days from the time you plant it,  till you harvest it.  Boom boom! I love growing lettuce as well. But chile it's the long run crop, its not the race car. It's the long run challenge. It's a just a, a beautifully intriguing crop. One thing I love to tell,  is genetically chile is the most diverse set of genes out there in the vegetable world. Most people don't know that.

Jessica :   26:38
I didn't know that.

Ed:   26:39
Yeah, it's very, very diverse and that's why like here even at NMSU, there hasn't been a huge success gene shooting it. Taking it to a different level molecularly. It's very, very difficult because the genetics are so diverse and if you look. Almost every country in the world has its own pepper of some kind, with the exception of the Antarctica and North Pole. Those very, very cold areas don't obviously but the Europe's, the Asia's, South America's. The rest of the world's continents all have their own pepper, and each one of them have a whole. You know, they got a unique gene, to them and so so it's It's very, very, very diverse. That's what that's what's neat. You know, for a small operator like myself to be where we are in this thing, it's because it is diverse and it's very challenging. And each area of chile has its own niche, and that's very important to understand. I mean, if I started here several years ago, Tyler and I went to Taiwan [inaudible] the south end. Then you have to be invited. It's It's a United Nations things that Asian vegetable research and development center. It's it's it's, it's a lock-down compound, guarded, and there they keep all the things ready they try to keep. I think they had 2200 different cultivars of Pepper there, There's, I think, total, there's some 7800 or something known but at the ABRDC they had 7 or 2200 So it is so diverse. It is so fun. You picked... You know, I can talk forever about chile.  

Jessica :   28:30
Yeah [laughter] 

Ben:   28:30
You (Ed) and I are a big hit at parties. [Laughter]

Jessica :   28:33
People just love to talk about chile.

Ben:   28:36
Honestly, that's all we know.

Jessica :   28:38
Yeah, Yeah. Whenever I worked at Olam, uh, people would always ask me a lot of stuff about chile all the time that they did actually want to know. So, uh, it was fun. That was a fun experience to work there and gain that, that education and everything served me well.

Ben:   28:55
And 40 minutes later into our talk about cellular genetics. Somebody's trying to chew their arm off to get away. [laughter]It's fascinating because it's never ending. That was, That's a really great part. It doesn't quit, because you're always looking for the new variety. You're always looking for that next gene to pop out. So it just keeps never just keeps on going.

Jessica :   29:20
Thank you guys for being on my podcast today.  

All :   29:27
Thank you, thanks for having us!

Jessica :   29:27
You just heard Ed talking about the upcoming international Pepper Conference that is going to be held in Arizona this year. The conference will be held September 28 through 30th in Tucson, Arizona, in conjunction with the University of Arizona. As part of the program, there will be field tours at Ed Curry's Farm. So you don't want to miss that. Next. I'm going to be speaking with a former colleague of mine, Mr. Kent Welsh, with Olam Spices and Vegetables. He is one smart guy doing a lot of research that benefits all of us as consumers, I hope you'll enjoy. [tractor starting sound effect] 

Jessica :   30:06
I was able to snag another interview. Um, here from the 2020 New Mexico Chile Conference. I have an old colleague of mine, Mr Kent Welsh, he works for Olam Spices and Vegetables. So welcome to my podcast.

Kent:   30:22
Thank you very much. Thanks for asking me. 

Jessica :   30:24
Yeah. So let's let's hear a little bit about you where you grew up, your education background and what you do for Olam.

Kent:   30:33
Okay. Well, I grew up in Utah originally. How I got interested in in horticulture actually was when my father was on a sabbatical at Iowa State University. When I was in still in high school, Uh, I walked past a farm that said horticulture farm and I  said, well, that sounds interesting. And so when I went off to college. That's where I I knew from the beginning that's what I wanted to to get my degrees in and first bachelor's and then went on to Michigan State for my master's and PhD, all in horticulture. But at Michigan State I specialized in what's called plant tissue culture. Or you maybe heard the term cloning, which is basically what I do even at Olam.

Jessica :   31:27
Interesting! Even I did not realize that that's really what you were doing at Olam, is cloning.  

Kent:   31:33
Right. 

Jessica :   31:34
Yeah, or you know, some sort of variation of that I suppose.  

Kent:   31:37
Yeah, well a tissue cultures is uh, a specialized way of propagating material. Um, not just for cloning, but in our case, it is, uh, we want to produce multiple copies of selected plants that have better characteristics. And we've done that on onions. We've done that on garlic, and mostly what I do now is at least as far as that aspect is is on garlic. And, uh, garlic itself is a clone. We plant cloves. What we call garlic seed is actually cloves from the bulb that we use for planting. And over time, those vegetated parts that plants can become infected with viruses. So in the laboratory, we can actually go through a process where we take a very small piece of tissue out of the out of a clove called a meristem. Grow that into a defined medium and eliminate garden the viruses. So by limiting viruses in garlic, we get, uh, up to 25% more yield per  acre, and that's really the driving. That's why, that's why I have a job, because that saves lots of money. Because then we can grow, obtain the same amount of product from less acres, reduces the carbon our carbon footprint, amount of water, we have to use, pesticides, number of trips that the equipment has to run through the field and so on. That's really why I have a job.

Jessica :   33:13
So you're working to, um, you know, really reduce. Um, you know the impact and really, really think of the environment when you're when you're working on all these things in your lab.

Kent:   33:26
That's a good portion of it. I mean, obviously, is the money saving opportunities for the company as well. 

Jessica :   33:32
Sure.  

Jessica :   33:33
Because they can get more yield per acre.  So that means that that there's a cost savings to them and it makes our profit, allows us to sell our product dehydrated garlic, you know at a profit.

Jessica :   33:48
And I know you because I worked at the Olam plant here and Las Cruces and you're out in Hanford. So that's a little, that's a little bit of distance between us. But I spent some time working in your lab with you, and you were teaching me to inoculate some plants and it was it was probably way over my head, but I sure had fun doing it.

Kent:   34:13
Well, I mean, the other thing that I do, I spend most of my time on garlic. But I've been working for quite a few years now in peppers, whether you chilie, paprika, bell peppers, whatever you type of peppers that you think of, there are various diseases that cause problems, one of which is called phytophthora capsici,  is the soil born organism, and once you get that on the ground, it never goes away. So now how do you manage and still be able to grow a pepper crop? So I've been working for a number of years, developing a resistance to trying to develop varieties of paprika that are resistant to have to phytophthora  and, uh, we've been able to least move down road somewhat on that. I'm continuing to work on it and just been over 20 years now and then we're also working on another disease called bacterial leaf spot.   

Jessica :   35:12
Um hm.

Kent:   35:13
And that is a problem where it's more humid and actually, the sources of resistance of that I can't really tell, tell you where they came from because I got the material that we used as a source of resistance from researcher in Florida. And they had bred the resistance into bell pepper, which obviously also has the same kind of problem. So yeah, uh, so we've, we've been working on that for a number of years also are making some progress towards having varieties that would be resistant to that disease as well.

Jessica :   35:48
And what's your official title at Olam?

Kent:   35:52
My boss says I can call myself whatever I want. [laughter] Sometimes I do, but officially my title is, is senior agronomist. And I think they came up with that because they didn't know what else to call me. [laughter] It was probably more accurate, to be senior horticulturist, because I'm not really I don't consider myself to be an agronomist, but because I worked mainly in the laboratory on garlic and, then do the disease breeding work in the laboratory, well, in the greenhouse, and in the laboratory. But I've worked closely here with the our researchers here in Las Cruces, New Mexico because that's where we're currently growing our paprika varieties in New Mexico and Texas.

Jessica :   36:43
So you work with, um, some of the folks through NMSU. 

Kent:   36:48
Correct. One of the people that has been very helpful here at New Mexico State University has been Stephanie Walker. We've had actually a long term relationship were close working relationship, obviously, you know, she works for the university and we're a separate company. But you have to have the collaborative effort between research between industry and universities. We, as a company, even though Olam as a  company is a large company, we just have a very small group of people working on our particular crops. And so, by taking advantage of what has been done at universities is is very, very helpful.

Jessica :   37:35
And so you came in to the chile conference. What have you gained so far from being here at the New Mexico Chile Conference?

Kent:   37:44
Well, one of the presentations that I thought was very interesting this morning was actually on some work being done to develop two were moved forward with developing varieties of any kind of peppers that are resistant to phytophthora  But looking down at the molecular level where you're identifying what they call markers that would be closely associated or or on the gene that controls those resistances is so that instead of having to to do a disease screen in the greenhouse, we can take a little bit of plant leaf tissue extracted DNA. Use the necessary primers and determine whether the individual plants have the genes that we're looking for. It saves a lot of time. You could move forward more rapidly, and  be more accurate. So I thought that presentation this morning was was very good.

Jessica :   38:38
Yeah. How many years have you been coming to the chile conference?

Kent:   38:43
I can't even remember. Probably in the range around ten.  

Jessica :   38:48
Yeah?  

Kent:   38:49
Yeah, on an annual basis, come every year.  

Jessica :   38:51
Uh Huh.

Kent:   38:53
Besides coming to the conference, I think one of the best thing is about the conference besides the presentations is the interaction with the other people that you meet here including people who are, in a way, our competitors, either for variety development or perhaps even the type of products that they're, they're producing. But knowing who they are interacting with them, I think, is very useful plus of people at the university. And it allows me also to have time to spend collaborating with with the people that we have here own company location here in Las Cruces.

Jessica :   39:29
Yes. Yes, I totally agree with that. Um, and if you were you talking to someone that has no knowledge of agriculture, um, they have no idea where their food comes from, and all they see is the things on TV and what they read on Facebook and all these things what would be your advice for them? 

Kent:   39:57
Well, I think you have to get educated and not just looking at what you find on social media. Pay attention to where your food comes from. Um, I think there's a lot of false information. Uh, well, you know, as a I have some of my own personal beliefs. It is concerning where our food comes from and how it's being processed. I think our conventional farming practices, uh, down on a sustainable basis are very effective at producing the huge amounts of food that are necessary to feed the people, not just here in the United States but around the world. So I would say to them, you need to get you know don't just pay attention to you know what's on social media. Go to conferences like this listen to people that are making  presentations and then make an informed decision. As to you know,  if you want to eat organic food, that's fine. Our food that's produced in an organic manner. That's fine. But food that produced a conventional manner is also safe and nutritious. Not everyone would agree with that. But if farmers don't necessarily over apply pesticides or fertilizers, that's expensive. It costs them a lot of money. They have to make money too. So, they're very judicious. Plus, our products are tested in our own facility. I know in our dehydrated products. After the product is dehydrated, it goes into what they call a seven day hold. In that seven day hold, is then tested for human pathogens, things that would make people sick. It's also testified for pesticide residues, So if there are things that that would be a problem. That for our customers who are buying it from us or for people who buy their products. Obviously, we don't want to have that as a problem. We don't want to make people sick. That's not our objective,

Jessica :   42:14
Right! 

Kent:   42:15
We're selling...

Jessica :   42:16
You would be out of a job at that point too.   

Kent:   42:19
We're selling food ingredients.  

Jessica :   42:21
Yes. 

Kent:   42:21
And we want them to be safe  and we don't know because we have to test for all of those things. Obviously, even the cost of having to recall product is very, very expensive. Puts our, us in a bad light as not being as careful as a company as we should be. So we test everything, everything, before it goes out the door.

Jessica :   42:43
Yeah. Yeah. And, um, I know some people saying, you know, I'm just thinking of chile  today because we're here at the chile conference. But, um, like, oh, you know, I don't know. I don't eat chile. It's too hot for me, or you know, this and that. But what they don't know is that actually, you know, the paprika pepper when it's dehydrated, it is in a a lot of different things including  mayonnaise, of all things, very, very tiny, tiny little pieces. But in mayonnaise, of all things.

Kent:   43:17
Right, well, I'm in and paprika as we sell to our customers because our customers have specifications, that we have to meet as to the level of color and the product that we're selling to them, and also to what's called pungency because we really don't want pungency in paprika. , It's a coloring agent. Not not meant as a necessary as a spice it is the color of the foods that we people don't necessarily realize, until you, go to buy, say a package of hot dogs you turn over the back of the package and read the ingredients. And it says oleo resin extraction of paprika. It's there to color the lunch hot dogs, so that it would make it palatable for you to eat.  

Kent:   44:04
Yeah. 

Kent:   44:05
And the same thing with with a lot of other products. I know I've gone to the past in schools and made presentations to grade school children, and I asked them how many of you like onions? And and I say raise your hands. Well, none of them want to eat onions. And then I say, well, how many of you like ketchup? And everybody raises their hand. And I said, well, it says right here it has onion, dehydrated onion in the ketchup.  They don't know that. I mean, it's not...  

Jessica :   44:34
It's not common knowledge. 

Kent:   44:35
It's not like you're really tasting onion, But is there as part of the of the recipe for making, making  ketchup and so many of the foods that we eat with without the spices that we add, or the ingredients that our company sells would not really be very, very palatable.

Jessica :   44:55
Yeah, Yeah. And, um, for any youth that might be out there listening that are, possibly interested in a career in agriculture, what advice would you have for them?

Jessica :   45:08
Well, we need people who are interested in working in agriculture. My mother says aren't you a  manager? I said yes, but sometimes I have to do everything, including some some days as I said, my title is, my title is general of general labor. [laughter] But, you know, being able to get out, I don't just work in a laboratory, I get out into the field. I travel to various locations to look at our crops that are being grown. We need people who are interested in in those kinds of activities. Who don't just want to sit in an office. You know, we've recently hired some very, very good people of new graduates out of college, but we need to attract more and more people who understand or can gain an understanding of where the food comes from. And what impact they could make on helping to develop and grow and produce nutritious, healthy um, vegetables or other kinds of crops that we consume on a daily basis.

Jessica :   46:20
I completely agree. Um, so that kind of wraps up my questions for you today. Did you have anything else you wanted to share?

Kent:   46:28
No, but I thank you very much for for asking me. I guess I would say I worked for a short time with with, uh, with Jessica and found her to be a wonderful person. And and now that she has a new occupation, is also doing very well in that, that, that occupation as well. And I'm sure she will continue to do so in the future.

Jessica :   46:53
Thank you. Thank you for being on my podcast.  

Kent:   46:56
All right. Thank you.  

Jessica :   46:58
Wow. What a great episode today. I wanted to wrap things up by going into some statistics on what chile means to the New Mexico economy. First off, New Mexico ranks number one in the United States for chile production, producing 53.4% of the total production in the United States. In 2019, New Mexico produced 63,000 tons of both fresh and processed chile. So chile is one of the major commodities that we produce in the state. It is all mostly grown in the southwest portion of New Mexico, where conditions are perfect for the production of chile. The two counties in New Mexico that produced the most chile are Luna and Dona Ana County. Luna County, just south of us here in Grant County, produces 29,000 out of the 63,000 tons all by themselves. So there is a snapshot of the chile pepper industry here in New Mexico. I know we have a lot of different listeners out there from all over the world. So if you would like to ask questions about chile or have any comments, feel free to reach out.

Jessica :   48:02
Thanks everyone for listening. If you enjoy this podcast, don't forget to hit the subscribe button on Apple podcast, Stitcher, Google play, or whatever app you're using to listen to this podcast. Want more information? You can visit us at our website, grantextension.nmsu.edu follow us on Facebook at NMSU, Grant County, CES, Snapchat at Grant County NM 4-H, shoot us an email at [email protected] or give us a call, (575) 388-1559.        

Jessica :   0:00
New Mexico State University is an equal opportunity, affirmative action employer and educator. NMSU and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. 

Jessica :   0:00
  Hooky with Sloane by Bird Creek

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