Roger Gonzales, along with his mother, Carol Romero, and his sister, Cleo Gonzales, run Rancho Carmelo Organic Farms, LLC, a family farm resting on 67 picturesque acres on the eastern slope of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range in northern New Mexico. The farm overlooks the valleys of El Carmen and La Aguitas, two of the 17 rural village communities located in Mora County, New Mexico.
The farm started in October 2006 when it became home to a herd of 21 llamas and five alpacas. In 2012, Roger, Carol and Cleo began producing vegetables, specializing in gourmet greens. In 2013, they introduced hives of honey bees and a small diverse flock of AWA laying hens to the family farm. “We raise our laying hens in a sustainable and organic environment conducive to a healthy and productive life,” says Roger. At Rancho Carmelo Organic Farms, this means raising hens outdoors on pasture. Raising livestock in this manner has real benefits for the earth, animals, and people.
“Hens that live in a cage-free environment with real access to outdoor pasture are able to move freely, socialize, and engage in natural, health-promoting behaviors,” says Roger. Both their camelids (alpacas and llamas) and chickens produce nitrogen-rich manure and require minimal pasture, so they have limited environmental impact and create a restorative rather than diminishing effect on the land. “We strive to make efficient use of inputs, maintain excellent land stewardship practices, and produce high-quality commodities for our customers,” Roger explains. Certifying with AWA allows Roger, Carol and Cleo to verify that they are truly using the highest standards for animal welfare and sustainability to raise their pastured laying hens. “We felt that AWA certification was an independent validation of our commitment to good husbandry and farming standards,” says Roger.
In addition to their devotion to animal welfare and land stewardship, Rancho Carmelo Organic Farms’ mission is to provide families in their rural community with the opportunity to explore and learn the history, methods and values of a working family farm. In an effort to further the goals of maintaining the vitality of their rural community and the agricultural heritage of northern New Mexico, Roger is the President of Los de Mora Local Growers’ Cooperative, Inc., a producer-owned cooperative made up of 35 small family farms and ranches. In 2013, the Coop’s Board decided that all member farms selling eggs through the coop should have AWA certification. Selling eggs through the Cooperative allows the smaller producers to aggregate their products, so they can sell to larger accounts that no individual farm member could supply on their own. “Having AWA’s third-party certification allowed us to finalize two egg accounts that we wouldn’t have had without it,” says Roger. Eggs from the Coop are sold in AWA’s branded egg cartons, which each farm can customize with their own farm-specific information.
Roger is hopeful about the Cooperative’s future and its benefit to the Mora community. “Building on our strong reputation, we will continue to grow our business and our people to ensure long-term success,” he says.
Eggs from Rancho Carmelo Organic Farms’ AWA-certified laying hens are sold through the Los De Mora Local Growers’ Cooperative to local supermarkets, as well as direct to consumers. For more information, contact Roger at firstname.lastname@example.org or (575) 447-3846.