Albuquerque Residential Composting Program

A fair question to ask is why should I care about composting? Does it even really make a difference? The best way to answer that is through the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Food Recovery Hierarchy. The schematic highlights the ways to divert potential food waste from the landfill, ranked from most preferred to least preferred. Composting is the last step to divert organic waste from joining the trash pile. Organic waste in landfills produces a significant amount more of the greenhouse gas methane than it does when it is properly composted. The EPA reports that in 2014, Americans recovered over 23 MILLION TONS of municipal solid waste through composting. Composted waste gets turned into a nutrient-rich input that can be used to build soil health.


The EPA Food Recovery Hierarchy highlights the most effective ways to reduce food waste.

The idea of a city wide composting program is not new. Large, urban cities such as Seattle and San Francisco have implemented mandatory composting initiatives that are run alongside their existing solid waste programs. Organic waste is sorted into its own bin and set out next to the trash and recycling bins once a week to be picked up by the city. The material is then taken to an industrial sized composting facility to be broken down into rich and healthy compost. This compost is used to fortify the soil to grow more produce.


The cycle that is created when organic waste is diverted from the landfill.

In the San Francisco model, residents are charged an average fee of $15.00 per month that covers all three waste containers. The city reports that San Francisco’s zero waste program is funded solely from revenue generated through refuse rates charged to customers. The compost, once complete, is also available to be purchased to be used for residential gardens. It is difficult to compare the cost of the models used by cities because of the wide array of approaches to implementing these programs.


EarthShare shows San Francisco’s organic waste, recycling, and landfill waste bins that are put out for weekly pickup.

How do we adopt a program like this in Albuquerque? The city has made large strides in creating a more sustainable approach to waste management through its Integrated Waste Management Plan created in 2011. This plan outlines short and long term goals to divert waste from landfills, focusing mainly on recycling. The city was able to sign a 12 year agreement with Friedman Recycling to handle city wide recycling. Following this same model, a similar partnership with local companies like Soilutions, based in the South Valley, could make city wide composting a reality. Diane Wikler, the Marketing Manager and Public Information Officer for the Albuquerque Solid Waste Management Department, says that a curbside composting program may be considered down the road but is not currently in the goals for the upcoming Integrated Waste Management Plan. She says that currently, the city encourages residents to create their own compost at home if possible. Residents are also able to take their green waste to three convenience center locations, and two annual green waste collections are offered for yard waste in the fall and spring.


Bay City Refuse shows what materials can go into a composting bin. These are based on industrial composting practices, and differ slightly from backyard composting. recommendations.

Many cities have successfully implemented pilot programs to test the feasibility of a larger program. Often this means voluntary participation in a controlled area. This will test different strategies for collection and participation, and will help determine a pricing structure. San Francisco started with pilot programs in a variety of neighborhoods to successfully test the program in diverse populations. The pilot was successful and also gave information on the most effective types of bins and alternative collection vehicles. Boulder performed an initial pilot of 400 households followed by an expanded pilot of 2,400 households, both of which showed how successful the program could be. Four years after the initial pilot the city was able to offer curbside compostable collections to the entire city. In Albuquerque, potential grant funding from organizations like the Keep Albuquerque Beautiful Initiative, part of the non-profit organization Keep America Beautiful and an affiliate of the Solid Waste Management Department, could help create a pilot program. This would be a big step towards diverting waste from the landfill and creating a more sustainable city.


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Wide spread hunger in New Mexico — what you can do to help

At least 124,980 children in New Mexico are at risk of hunger right now. This is just one of the unsettling facts that surround the food insecurity epidemic happening currently in our state.  Feeding America’s May 2017 “Map the Meal Gap Report” states that 25% of New Mexican children are at risk of hunger. This year’s report makes our state 2nd among all states for childhood hunger. The 2014 New Mexico Hunger Study states that 70,000 hungry New Mexicans seek food assistance every week, among them are children, adults, seniors, rural and urban communities. Map the Meal Gap also confirms that in

Feeding America

New Mexico, food insecure individuals now face, on average, a food budget shortfall of $16.50 per person each week, up from $16.14 last year. For a family of four, this represents an additional $66 a week or $264 a month necessary to meet their needs. If these statistics made you feel upset or uncomfortable, you are not alone. Instead of delving further into the specifics of our food insecurity, I would like instead to highlight some of the organizations and programs that are doing their part to ease the burden of food insecurity New Mexico.




One program doing great things to combat hunger in our state is the Women, Infant, and Children Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program. WIC FMNP is offered at participating New Mexico farmers’ markets between July 1st and Nov 15th of the current market season. Qualified clients of this program receive $25 worth of checks that can be used to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at New Mexico Farmers’ Markets. Checks come in $5 increments and no change can be given.


54% of the patients decreased their BMI during the course of the 4-month program. Image credit: NMFMA

The Fruit & Vegetable Prescription Program (FVRx) is a federal program running in Española, NM in partnership with El Centro Family health and Wholesome Wave Foundation. The FVRx connects federally qualified health clinics and their patients who suffer from diet related illness such as obesity. Diabetes, and hypertension with “prescriptions” or incentives that are used to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at their local farmers’ markets. I find this especially interesting, because it addresses a couple issues at once, dealing with health concerns in a more holistic way, by offering whole foods as a remedy, the local farming economy also gets stimulated and local farmers are being supported, this program to me is a fantastic example of the triple bottom line being applied in a real-life situation.

Another awesome example of an organization making whole, healthy foods accessible to more new Mexicans is the “Healthy Here” Mobile Farmers Market run by Bernalillo County. The “Healthy Here” Mobile Farmers Market provides Albuquerque’s international district and South Valley with healthy, affordable, organically grown fruits and vegetables, and educational resources for how to prepare seasonal produce in easy, cost-effective ways. The educational proponent that this organization offers is key in keeping fresh healthy foods in demand, as well as relatable in underserved communities.

ECHO food bank is located and in operation throughout the northern half of New Mexico, The Economic Council Helping Others Inc. provides resources and education to individuals and families of New Mexico. ECHO has many programs in place aiming to improve the lives of New Mexico, one of these programs is the ECHO food bank.


Farmington, NM Food Bank. Image from: ECHO Inc.

Road Runner Healthy Food Center in an amazing program, aimed at creating self-sufficiency and striving to end hunger in New Mexico. The Healthy Food Center is a medical referral food pantry providing folks experiencing food insecurity or chronic illness. Their focus is distributing fresh fruits and vegetables, while offering healthy alternatives to every day choices. The Healthy Foods center also has a demonstration kitchen for on-site cooking activities and education.

Agri-Cultura is a local farmer owned cooperative, specializing in sustainably grown produce. One of the projects coming out of Agri-Cultura is called La Cosecha. La Cosecha is a community supported agriculture project comprised of over nine different local farms, with emphasis on providing fresh produce to low income families in the South Valley. La Cosecha provides it members with weekly shares of produce, such as locally and sustainably produced fresh fruits and vegetables.

La Semilla is a Food Center and non-profit corporation in the Paso Del Norte region of southern New Mexico, and El Paso Texas. Their mission is to build a healthy, self-reliant, fair, and sustainable food system. La Semilla is currently running four programs. They have a community farm; an Edible Education program that works with local schools to implement on-site school gardens, and trains teachers to incorporate cooking and gardening into their lesson plans; Farm Fresh Mobile Markets,  a mobile farmers’ market program that aims to connect farmers to local farmers’ markets and other venues in which to sell their produce; and the Food Planning and Policy Council, which advocates for local food and farm policy that addresses the triple bottom line.

Although confronting hunger and food insecurity may seem like a daunting task, don’t let that paralyze you, or stop you from getting involved with the many programs happening all around us. This is an opportunity for us to make sure that everyone in New Mexico gets the food they deserve. Understanding that there is no shortage of programs or organizations to get involved with, hopefully serves as an invitation for you to take part in ending hunger in New Mexico.


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Exploring a Farmers’ Market

A farmers’ market is an epitome of a neighborhood grocery store, with vendors selling fruit, vegetables, meats, cheeses and baked goods. The vibrant colors and aromas that linger through a farmers’ market are indicators of what you might encounter. Not only are there fresh produce and goodies, but one can easily spot a major difference: the PRICE. Yes, items that you would typically buy at a conventional store are often more expensive, if you buy them at a farmers’ market. This shouldn’t stop you from exploring a market though! Local vendors are proud of their produce, as it takes time and hard work to grow.

Image1_Downtown Growers' Market

Downtown Growers’ Market, Albuquerque. Image credit: Downtown Growers’ Market

Though you might be initially discouraged by the prices, there are always options to support farmers and vendors and stay within a comfortable price range. Focusing on seasonal items and creating a budget can help prioritize your spending. Supporting local farmers doesn’t mean you have to spend more than you originally planned; it is about prioritizing essential needs for that grocery item, dinner recipe, or experience in which you feel proud buying.

Creating a list is a great way of knowing what you need. If you have a budget, I highly advise you pick out a few items you think are worth buying locally. For example, I find myself buying tomatoes, onions and mushrooms, weekly food items that I consistently use. A farmers’ market is not your conventional grocery store like Wal-Mart where there are “Always Low Prices.” It can be overwhelming especially when buying your produce at a farmers’ market, because prices can fluctuate seasonally. Those tomatoes at a little over a $1.00 per pound at a conventional grocery will make you think twice when they’re in the $2.00 to $3.00-dollar range at the farmers’ market. Yeah, you could have had double the tomatoes!

We have fixated on everything needing to be as cheap as possible, but the different practices and methods that conventional and organic growers use in part cause the prices to differ. The cost of conventional food doesn’t reflect certain externalities, like the cost to the environment. Also consider the time and education requirements it takes: organic growers spend more time cultivating soil health and manually tending to their crops than do conventional growers. Local producers may also offer heritage or traditional varieties of produce that are not available in grocery stores. Although not all local producers grow organically, most small and mid-scale farmers tend to sell their produce at “organic prices” at a farmers’ market.

The table below shows the most popular vegetables that people buy, ranked from highest consumption to lowest. It shows prices and the difference between conventional and organic cost. It also indicates the season in which you would find the vegetable in a farmers’ market in northern and central New Mexico.

Rank Vegetable Season in Northern NM Unit Organic (Average Cost) ($) Conven- tional (Average Cost) ($) Cost Difference
1 Potatoes (Russet) Jan-Mar & Oct-Dec 3 lb bag 2.51 1.00 1.51
2 Tomatoes Jul-Oct per pound 2.47 1.29 1.18
3 Onions Year Round per pound 1.26 0.84 0.42
4 Carrots Jan-Feb & July-Dec 1 lb. bag 1.26 0.78 0.48
5 Lettuce Year Round each 1.70 1.21 0.49
6 Broccoli Jun & Sept -Nov per bunch 2.47 2.38 0.09
7 Salad Mix Year Round 1 lb. bag 4.84 1.46 3.38
8 Bell Peppers Jul-Oct each 1.36 0.75 0.61
9 Celery Mar-Sept each 1.80 1.17 0.63
10 Cucumbers Jul-Oct each 1.36 0.67 0.69
11 Corn Jul-Oct each ND 0.69 NA
12 Garlic Jan-Mar & July-Dec each 1.02 0.28 0.74
13 Mushrooms (White) Year Round 8 oz. package 2.60 1.79 0.81
14 Sweet Potatoes Oct-Jan per pound 1.54 0.96 0.58
15 Spinach (flat, baby type) Year Round 1 lb. package 5.00 3.29 1.71
16 Cabbage June-Dec per pound 0.87 0.51 0.36
17 Green Beans Feb-Oct per pound 2.67 1.62 1.05
18 Cauliflower Sept-Oct each 2.68 2.59 0.09
19 Green Onions Year Round per bunch 0.88 0.93 -0.05
20 Asparagus May-June per pound 3.63 2.35 1.28

Now that you have a general understanding of the price comparison, creating a list becomes essential when prioritizing items for which there are high demand in your household. Knowing your budget makes it easier to buy what you need. Not only knowing what produce you consume the most is helpful but also what recipes you’ll be making that week is also helpful. Meal planning allows you to identify items that you’ll need in advance, making it easier to prioritize where you’ll purchase food items. For example, if I want to make Smothered Burritos one day and Green Chile Cheese Burgers another, I know that I need lettuce, tomatoes and green chile – all of which can be bought at a farmers’ market. Prepping in advance gives you the opportunity to make some purchases at a farmers’ market weekly. Knowing what you need in advance will allow you stick to a budget and support local producers at your farmers’ market.

No matter if you have a budget or not, you will be exploring! Often times farmers’ markets have regular vendors, but sometimes the layout varies. A great opportunity, which you can’t do at a conventional grocery store, is to TALK to the grower. You are face to face with the person that grew or made the item you’re buying, so ask questions, get to know their story, methods and philosophy, and why they charge what they charge! And hopefully you will be drawn in to supporting vendors at your local farmers’ market – with or without a budget.


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Two Simple Steps to Move Towards a Plant-based Diet

When someone thinks about sustainability, the first things that come to mind may be buying local, switching to CFL or LED light bulbs, recycling, and the list goes on. But not a lot of people think about what they’re eating. One of the most effective ways to become more sustainable is to become plant-based. It’s more effective than any other kind of vegetarian diet, and is much less carbon intensive than a completely “local” omnivorous diet. According to National Geographic,  “One of the easiest ways to slim your water footprint is to eat less meat and dairy.” I know that “going vegan” can sound intimidating, because having a plant-based diet means avoiding all animals products, like dairy, meat, fish, gelatin, honey, and others. But it isn’t as hard as it seems. Here are two easy steps to get you closer to a vegan diet.

Step one is to start eating whole foods and to familiarize yourself with ingredients in processed foods. Focus on learning new recipes and reading the ingredient lists on foods you usually buy. Start cooking at home as much as you can. There are vegan healthy recipes you can follow, or enjoy some more comfort food recipes (my personal favorite). Feeling more comfortable with making your own food will help you avoid animal products that can be hidden in processed foods. Do not worry about cutting out all animal products now; just start just making your own food as best you can. Buying processed foods is also okay: just read the labels and avoid certain ingredients if you want to ensure that you’re buying plant-based foods. And don’t worry, you don’t need to be perfect right away! Step one can take some time getting used to, and you don’t need to go cold turkey (pun intended)!


Some delicious vegan comfort food recipes from Serious Eats.

If you feel like you might not have time to prepare your own food every day, try food prepping. Make all of your food for the week on one day in about two or three hours. Make large batches and store them in the fridge or freezer. This simple practice makes eating at home a lot more efficient. If you have restrictions on what kinds of food you can access (you live in a dorm room, have limited access to grocery stores, etc.), do the best you can to select a wide variety of whole, plant-based foods. Cost may also seem to be an issue, but many substitutes for meat (beans, tofu, quinoa, etc.) are cheaper and a lot more sustainable. Change takes time.


Here are a few more vegan recipes compiled by a magazine based in Philly.

For the second step, focus on switching some animal products to vegan substitutes. The easiest switch is probably from cow’s milk to a plant milk. Coconut milk is the most sustainable because it uses the least pesticides, least water, and produces the smallest amount of greenhouse gases out of a variety of other milks. There are also now vegan cheese, ice cream, and yogurt from a variety of companies that can be found in most large grocery stores. There are lot of different kinds of vegan “meats” and other “dairy” products like butter and cream cheese. All of these substitutes have smaller footprints than their counterparts because animal products take a lot more resources (energy, water, land) to produce.


Going vegan can be a lot more efficient and use a lot less resources compared to an omnivorous diet. Image credit:

A recent study shows that people are more motivated to change their diets to plant-based if it means that they will be helping, instead of hurting, people and the earth around them. Going plant-based, or even vegetarian or pescatarian, all help in terms of sustainability for the future. A plant-based diet cuts your carbon footprint in half. It also slows deforestation and overfishing. A vegan uses one tenth of the water in their diet than an omnivore does, mainly because all of the grains that are used to feed animals go straight to people. Going plant-based has so many benefits and is now easier than ever to do. There are so many substitutes and resources available, more than there ever were before. Going vegan is one of the most sustainable things someone can accomplish, so why not give it a shot?


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Sustainable Food for UNM Students

Eating on campus can be a sustainable adventure that educates and creates healthy habits that last a lifetime. Colleges all over the US are working towards connecting students to their local foodshed and to fresh food, by buying locally and lowering their waste.

At first glance, it may not look like UNM as an institution is thinking a lot about sustainable food – but that is not the case. There is a long way to go to reach a visibly and wholly sustainable experience on campus but creating that will start with an acknowledgement of our current accomplishments.


Sustainability written in metal above the plate receptacle in La Posada. Photo by author.

Chartwells, the parent company to UNM Food, has numerous sustainability initiatives . These initiatives include “providing fair trade options” and “encouraging local spending.” Head Chef Hassan Abassary and Director of Operations Karen Lombardi are both devoted to sustainability and work toward Chartwells’ stated objectives.

In a presentation to my sustainability class, Chef Hassan proudly listed – off the top of his head – some of the of current successes in the La Posada dining hall:

  • Pinto beans served often at the “Red or Green?” station are grown in the Four Corners region and sourced through La Montanita Co-Op Distribution Center;
  • Tamales, enchiladas, tortillas, and sopapillas are purchased locally from Bueno Foods;
  • The pork served is hormone free and bought from Kyzer farm, a New Mexican family farm;
  • Meat is not the focal point of each meal station;
  • La Posada makes deals with local farmers to buy as much of their lowest cost misshapen produce as possible to avoid waste in the fields;
  • La Posada composts kitchen scraps and food waste through Soilutions.

Head Chef Hassan clearly loves to cook. At a UNM Food student associate reception he personally cooked each person’s dinner, smiling and describing the diverse ways to combine the available ingredients. With such a personality in the kitchen, it is no wonder that Chartwells does a good job of serving a range of vegetables in new and fun ways in the dining hall. I am surprised by big, juicy Portobello mushrooms, a lime and feta lentil dish, and the variety of  kale-based dishes that are not only healthy, but delicious. These dishes make sustainable diet choices easy by putting local and fresh food front and center in delicious plant-based meal options.

Other initiatives at La Posada are advertised on the walls in large framed pictures captioned “cage-free eggs” and “rBGH free dairy.” As these practices become the norm for food service providers, UNM Food can make a bigger difference if it pursues other methods of increasing sustainability.


Signage for sustainable commitments, a step in the right direction. Photo by author.

Some failures in perception come mainly from a lack of upkeeping the advertising and more signage near food. And although “sustainability” is in big metal letters above the dishwashing station, the wall with statistics about accomplishments has not been updated since August 2017. Being sustainable is one thing, but letting people know, and making people think more critically about it, is an even better option.

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Things are looking promising for the sustainability of eating on campus for UNM students. Karen praises Chef Hassan for his dedication to taking measurements of all the diverted food waste through donations, composting, and suggested portion sizes. She believes that with some recent staff additions, it is now likely that the statistics on the wall will be updated and Hassan will have more time to develop new sustainable solutions in the dining hall.

While the management staff of La Posada feel that more edible plants in and around La Posada would be great; indoor plants also offer a passive way to regulate temperature and clean the air. The columns in La Posada provide a good space to grow vine plants. There is also talk of an herb garden inside.


Colorado State University features a “plant column” in their LEED Platinum pavilion. Photo by author.

Local fruit and nut trees could be planted around the outside of La Posada, including some of the plants found here.

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A dining hall that feeds thousands presents an opportunity to affect thousands. By shifting our current setup, we can further connect people to their food and invite them to think about the possibilities of how we can affect our communities through our everyday choices – starting with what we eat.


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Vermicomposting in New Mexico

What is vermicomposting? It is composting using worms, Specifically with Eisenia fetida, the most common type of red worm. These worms are favored because they are sturdy and tend to stay near the surface, helping to quickly process food waste. When worms eat your waste, they produce casts (poop) mixed with other decayed organic matter. This compost contains eight times the microorganisms than the food consumed, five times more nitrogen, seven times more phosphorus, and eleven times more potassium than typical soil. It’s also rich in humic acid, which balances pH in the soil.

Why vermicompost? It can be done indoor or outdoor, large scale or small scale, and the compost is very nutrient rich. Most people prefer to vermicompost because it can be done with a small bin indoors used to get rid of kitchen scraps. The vermicompost process is also much quicker than traditional methods. If the bin is kept properly, there will be no odor. Plus, composting is good for the environment. Instead of throwing away food scraps you can turn them into valuable fertilizer for plants and gardens.

How to get started. Mary Appelhof, author of Worms Eat my Garbage, recommends to calculate how much food waste your family produces in a week and then “plan on one square foot of surface for each pound of food waste per week.” You can buy a plastic bin or a stacked configuration to use for the worms, or more preferably build a wooden one.


Get started. Photo by author.

The bin will need holes for ventilation or one big hole covered with mesh.

Picture 2

A mesh screen insert. Photo by author.

For substrate it is recommended to use some sort of natural material like mushroom compost. You can get as simple as using wet shredded newspaper or even leaves. I would not recommend leaves because of all the bugs that can be introduced to your bin from them, but if the bin is outside it might not matter. Also add a bit of grit, such as a handful of sand.


Prepare the bedding. Photo by author.

You will need about 1,000 worms, which is about a pound. If that’s not enough for the bin size that is fine, they will quickly populate to fill the space.

Lastly, add your scraps preferably in small pieces, as worms will consume smaller bits faster.


Add your food waste. Photo by author.

What can I feed my worms? They can be fed any organic material except the following:

  • Spicy food
  • Acidic/citrus foods
  • Oily food/Oil
  • Potato peels
  • Animal products: Meat, Milk, eggs (rinsed egg shells are okay)
  • No animal feces

Pros and Cons on Vermicompost


  • Easy to manage
  • Can be done indoors
  • Creates great highly nutrient rich compost quickly


  • Limited on how much you can compost
  • Limited on what you can compost
  • Can smell if done indoors (shouldn’t happen)
  • May attract bugs

How to maintain your bin: Every six weeks you will need to sort the worms from the dirt and add new bedding. You can sort them by shining a bright light over the bin and gradually skimming the top layers of dirt away. The worms will keep migrating to the bottom until you remove most of the finished compost.

How to use your compost: Use to fertilize plants. There is no way to use too much compost and it won’t harm the plants.

How to use compost to improve desert soil: According to the Sandoval County Master Gardeners, adding compost to desert soil will “allow for aggregation and water retention in sandy soil.” Adding compost reduces the alkalinity of the soil to a more neutral pH, but not permanently. Make holes in your soil with garden tools and then add the compost [and worms, if desired]. Then water and add mulch to your space all year around which will keep your soil moist. You can also add a cover crop for additional nutrients and to break up compacted ground.



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Futuristic Farming


Population Clock. Image: US Census

The Earth is home to more and more people every day, and as more people are born more resources are used. Currently the population of the world is roughly 7.5 billion people, growing at such a rate that alternative and futuristic advances in farming may be necessary. New Mexico’s population growth may be stagnant, but our state’s water use is growing. About 80% of New Mexico’s water goes to agriculture, and with the incorporation of a few new and different farming methods, people and ecosystems in the state could greatly benefit. 

The first advancement in farming technology that could be expanded in New Mexico — particularly, in Albuquerque — is indoor growing. Indoor growing systems could be modeled after Irving Fain’s Bowery company, an indoor vertical farm. The other method is greenhouse production, modeled after Matthew Stong’s Preferred Produce operation, which utilizes a hydroponic system to reduce overall water use.

An arid city such as Albuquerque could benefit greatly from a large-scale indoor growing operation. The Bowery company has an indoor space with vertical growing stacks going five levels high. The plants are protected indoors, allowing for 4-season growing and are grown using LED light fixtures. The veggies, herbs and greens such as arugula or basil are watered by an adaptive hydroponic system. Albuquerque could adopt a similar system that would best fit and benefit our community. With grant money or funding from the state it would be possible to build a technical facility similar to Bowery and their system to produce greens and veggies for the city. Local farmers or specialists can operate and manage such a facility to help reduce water use.


Five-level vertical growing stack at Bowery. Image:

According to Bowery, they are able to save 95% of the normal water used for the plants. This will not reduce the overall agricultural use of water by 95% but will hopefully spark an agricultural practice that can flourish into the future. According to Irving Fain, the CEO of Bowery, the measurement system that tracks plant water use, growth, and other indicators is the most advantageous part of indoor growing. The wattage requirement in Bowery is 32 watts per square foot and varies depending on the stage of growth the plants are in. Another advantage Albuquerque has is the use of the sun and solar power to cut cost of energy and overall to help reduce our footprint. Because of their efficient practices, Bowery is able to keep cost of products — such as 5-ounce container of greens — at a reasonable price of $3.99, helping the community eat at an affordable and sustainable price for years to come.


A few of Bowery’s products. Image:


Matthew Stong working in his greenhouse. Image: Deming Headlight

Another important method to implement into New Mexico is a greenhouse hydroponic system. Matthew Stong has a PhD in agriculture and bio-systems engineering, and is the owner of Preferred Produce in Deming, New Mexico. His company has developed a business model that produces a livable wage and addresses water availability issues in New Mexico. By creating this new type of 4-season farming operation, former field hands are now able to work in the greenhouse growing high value crops for a livable wage. The culture and system of agriculture that is created here needs to be replicated and adopted by more farmers, as it could add to the general economy by having better wages and more jobs for a better future. Additionally, the hydroponic system cycles water three times — allowing for a significantly less water used in growing food. Some of food grown by Preferred Produce includes romaine and other greens, tomatoes, and various small veggies and fruits.

Preferred Produce

Fresh greens from Preferred Produce. Image: Albuquerque Journal

Both of these methods practiced by Bowery and Preferred Produce could greatly benefit New Mexico and help reduce the amount of water that is currently used in agriculture. Another great aspect of these methods is that they can bring a new and young generation to farming to keep the culture and life alive.



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