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Hatch chile growers anticipate good harvest even in drought

Hatch chile growers anticipate good harvest even in drought

POSTED: Wednesday, July 17, 2013 - 9:20pm

UPDATED: Wednesday, July 17, 2013 - 9:21pm

The New Mexico town of Hatch has made a name for itself because of the spicy green and the savory red chile that keeps people coming back for more.

In recent years the drought has affected area farmers but the chile crops still manage to thrive.

"They buy it because they're hooked on it," said Gilbert Pino of Gilly's Hatch Valley Chile Company. "You don't even have to be a salesperson because chile sells itself."

Over the years, Hatch has grown in popularity and lures in chile addicts from all over the world.

"I get people from Canada and I get people from France and England," Pino said.

While the chile remains of the upmost quality year after year, chile growers have taken different measures to make sure they can still have an August harvest.

During the drought, farmers have felt the impact of trying to keep their crops flourishing.

"We have some fields that are up to average and some that are way down," said Jimmy Lytle of Solar Farms & Hatch Chile Express.

Lyltle has spent his life growing chile in the Hatch Valley and most recently has had to rely on pumps to water his fields.

His water bill has nearly doubled in recent years.

"In 2011, my water bill was about $5,000 to $6,000 and last year it ran me over $50,000," Lytle said.

His crop, like countless others, was affected by the minimal water allotment from the Rio Grande.

This year his allotment of water from the river was only three inches and he said a normal allotment is three to four feet.

On top of that, the irrigation season was shortened and started considerably later.

"What little bit of water we got, didn't make any difference when we got it," Lylte said.

Lytle said groundwater from pumps also contains higher salt levels that hurt the plant and produce a smaller yield.

But even with the poor conditions, Lytle and Pino expect a good season and a pretty decent sized crop.

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