Local Agriculture: Continuing the Tradition

Photo by Kateri

Respect, gratitude, and awe are all true emotions that have been evoked among nations throughout the world in regards to one volatile, unpredictable, yet vital resource: water. The culture that has been developed throughout New Mexico is no exception. In fact, it used to be that its existence depended upon the consistent flow of water through the great Rio Grande River basin, specifically acequias, to sustain life within the arid desert. It is because of this extreme climate that agriculture in New Mexico is so unique.

In this beautiful state, we are fortunate to live among some of the oldest agricultural lands in the United States. Many families, including my own, depended on the land they had to survive. Today, 45% of New Mexico’s farmers are above 60 years of age, and only about 4% of New Mexico’s farmers are under the age of 35. Somewhere along the line, farming became undesirable, possibly unrealistic, as an occupation. This is something that happened within my own family, and ever since I was a little girl my grandpa has asked his grandchildren, “¿Puedes trabajar en la granja para mí hoy?” – “Are you going to farm for me today?”

Until recently, I had never taken seriously this question my grandpa had jokingly asked us kids. But today, I think this is a question we must ask ourselves. Who is farming for us today? Who will farm for them in the future? This is something I have taken to heart, and so I have made it my goal to continue the tradition that had previously been in my family for generations. To accomplish this, I have been taking every possible opportunity I can to learn from experienced farmers the tricks of the trade. Here are some steps I’ve come up with to help give you a jump start on your own garden:

Prepare your space. The preparation that takes place before the actual growing season is often considered the most important process. The readiness of the future growing area could possibly determine the success of your garden. To prepare this space, all weeds (or plants that will go to seed and spread) must be removed. It is also important to find a way to efficiently irrigate before planting. For smaller areas, you will need to turn the soil over approximately a shovel’s-length deep. You can accomplish this either by using a shovel, garden spade, or a garden fork.

In the early spring months before planting, it is also recommended that you add amendments to improve the quality of your soil. Amendments are organic materials added to soil to improve its physical properties and to provide a good environment for germinating seeds and growing roots. Some examples of amendments you can use in your own soil include compost, manure, wood chips or grass clippings. (Note: Make sure amendments are dry or aged; young amendments may have too much nitrogen for the roots of young plants.)

Planting. Albuquerque’s growing season typically begins sometime between April and May and continues through October. The table below lists plants commonly grown and their appropriate planting times. Spring and summer are not the only opportunities to have a garden; August is a great time to start planning for a fall garden.

Table 1. Crop Planting Times

(Note: The plants labeled as Tender Vegetables are less likely to germinate directly in the ground from seed; transplanting may be necessary)

Harvesting. There is not a precise number of days to predict when vegetables can be harvested, but there are indicators given by plants that will determine their ripeness.

Table 2. Harvest Ready Indicators

Growers’ Markets. Whether you are looking to sell your vegetables or to buy some fresh produce, growers’ markets are a great way to celebrate local food in New Mexico. Check out these growers’ markets in the Albuquerque area:

Image credit: New Mexico Farmers' Marketing Association

ABQ Uptown Growers’ Market
Schedule: Saturdays and Tuesdays, 7am-12pm
Market Season: June 21st-October 29th                             

Albuquerque Downtown Market
Schedule: Saturdays, 7am-12pm
Market Season: May 28th-October 29th

Albuquerque Nob Hill Growers’ Market
Schedule: Thursdays, 3pm-6:30pm
Market Season: May 26th-November 3rd

Los Ranchos (winter) Growers’ Market
Schedule: 2nd Saturday of each month, 10am-12pm
Market Season: December-April

Los Ranchos (summer) Growers’ Market
Schedule: Saturdays, 7am-11am
Market Season: May 7th-November 12th

Albuquerque Northeast Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market
Schedule: Tuesdays, 3pm-7pm
Market Season: May 24th-October 25th

Posted by Kateri

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