The hemp plants at Chimayó Hemp Enterprises (CHE) this year come up to the chests of the farmers.
They have grown out of a partnership between the hemp farmers at CHE and a vegetable farmer, Anjel Ortiz, who has planted fields from Trampas to Chimayó under the business name Zitro Farms (Zitro is Ortiz spelled backwards).
“We’ve done a lot more this year with his help than we would have without him,” said Miguel Moreno, one of the lead farmers and a member of the Chimayó family that owns and runs the hemp farm.
The CHE farmers grew hemp for the first time last year, harvesting and selling about 300,000 grams, Moreno said.
After joining the team in April, Ortiz installed a drip irrigation system that allowed the farmers to water their plants more efficiently and implemented a high-intensity, high-yield farmer training program that cut down on CHE’s labor expenses.
The farmers are estimating they will harvest more than 1 million grams this time around––the average size of last year’s plants was about half the size of this year’s––and Moreno plans to bring samples to roughly 100 CBD stores throughout the Southwest.
Along with the hemp plants, Ortiz and the farmers at CHE have planted carrots, which Ortiz sells through the Ríos del Norte Farm and Ranch Co-op in Taos. Ortiz is building a greenhouse in which they will grow.
And he is helping to found a hemp breeding at CHE so that the farm can use its own genetics and seeds.
“With us it was definitely the most beneficial move for us to make, for CHE farms to partner with a local young partner and somebody as on it as Anjel,” Moreno said.
In the spring, Moreno ran into Ortiz at a mutual acquaintance’s house, and then again at the Dollar Store, and invited him to work at CHE.
“We started this friendship as a business relationship that has blossomed into a real positive friendship, and now he’s part of the family pretty much,” Moreno said. “He’s here so much I have to shoo him away.”
Moreno described Ortiz, who is teaching them different watering and growing methods, as experienced, compared to the farmers at CHE.
“As far as commercial agriculture goes, Anjel already has the whole game plan situated,” Moreno said.
Ortiz, who grew up in Dixon and Peñasco, said he is learning through the friendship about CBD, the differences between hemp and THC cannabis and “how to deal with a bunch of crazy Chimayosos.”
Working with a family business, he said, comes with its challenges: with family, it is easier to put off tasks and obligations until the next day, and then the next day.
“Well, tomorrow never comes, and so I’m trying to get everybody into that routine–– ‘You’re accountable for it, if you don’t want to do it, we’re going to find somebody else who is going to do it,’” he said. “So I’m like the hammer here.”
The training program he implemented follows farmer Don Bustos’ model. Interns work from 8 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday.
There are three interns at CHE, and usually one worker tends to one acre.
Moreno and Ortiz said they have prioritized hiring people struggling with illness or disabilities, to give them opportunities they might not otherwise have.
“Sometimes the most creative driven individuals aren’t necessarily the ones that had the best shot in life, but they’re the ones that just need a second shot,” Moreno said.
The partnership between CHE and Zitro Farms has also given rise to other partnerships, including one with Ray Lopez’s Wildflower Farms in Trampas, where Ortiz grows squash.
“We’re trying to utilize the community to the maximum of our ability,” Moreno said.