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Hatch chile farmers facing “one of the worst seasons they’ve seen” due to ongoing heat wave

GARFIELD, New Mexico (KVIA) -- While the smell of roasting green chile is a staple in southern New Mexico in August, farmers say many customers are going to have to wait a little longer this year.

"It's unprecedented. It is very strange to be standing here in August, and not be harvesting," says Tiffany Lightenberg, the chief operating officer for the Hatch Chile Store in Garfield, NM, just a few miles north of Hatch. "We're in a harvest gap."

ABC-7 took a tour of some of Hatch Chile Store's crops, and while they look healthy and green from a distance, it's a different story once you get up close, according to Lightenberg.

"This is something you'd typically see at the end of a season," said Lightenberg as she held a pair of dried out chile pepper pods.

"These pods have just been so negatively affected by the heat," she added.

The Hatch Chile Store says the peppers typically fare well in 90 degree heat during the day, and 60 and low 70 degree temperatures during the night.

However, the nearly 50 days of tripe-digit temperatures in southern New Mexico have been catastrophic for the chiles.

"The peppers experienced blossom end-rot where the tip burned, and that's what caused the loss of so many plants," says Lightenberg.

The Hatch Chile Store estimates the extreme heat could end up costing several hundred thousand dollars in losses for smaller farms, and millions lost for the entire Hatch Valley.

However, while the yields will be smaller this year, not all is lost.

"The good thing is, the weather is starting to get cooler, and we still have a long growing season. Typically some of the prettiest and best-quality chile will come off in September and even early October," says Lighhtenberg.

"It's not done for the season, it's just delayed," she adds.

Article Topic Follows: New Mexico

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Jason McNabb

Reporter/Multimedia Journalist & GMEP Weekends co-anchor


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