. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

(Teresa Lemon – Daily Press)

Oscar and Gloria Vasquez, right, of Malaga, have grown Eddy County’s first bale of cotton for the season. Also pictured are, from left, Alejandro Zubiate, Artesia Alfalfa Growers Association gin employee, Jesus Pando Sr., assistant gin manager, and Jesus Pando Jr., gin manager. The bale weighed in at 490 pounds and was ginned Oct. 22 at AAGA. AAGA is one of only two cotton gins remaining in New Mexico, the second being Mesa Farmers Cooperative in Vado. Oscar and his wife, Gloria, have been cotton farming in Eddy County since 1976. “We planted three acres of cotton in 1976 and hand picked them,” Oscar said. “It took us a month to hand pick those three bales of cotton, she and I, and now it takes about 10 minutes to pick three bales.” The Vasquezes now farm approximately 170 acres in Malaga, with this year being their 42nd consecutive year to produce a cotton crop. “Cotton farmers don’t retire,” Oscar said, “we just keep on growing cotton.”