Back to the Land’s Roots

Today there are over 500 different Native American tribes. One thing they all have in common is sharing a deep reverence for the wellbeing of the environment and humanity. I learned more about indigenous people’s culture through independent research and a phone interview with an expert, Ryan Dennison. Ryan is from the Navajo Diné tribe, which he describes as having traditions deeply intertwined with nature. Ryan is an activist for environmental justice and indigenous rights, and has an extensive background working with FoodCorps and AmeriCorps. His main focus is helping to feed students of all ages living in poverty stricken communities.

The first thing Ryan talked about was traditional and ancestral foods. Ancestral foods are the original crops grown by indigenous people, such as varieties of corn, beans, and squash. Many indigenous tribes refer to these crops as “The Three Sisters”.  Ryan believes the decline of ancestral crops is due to western interventions and pollution. Luckily, he believes these crops will make a resurgence as people start living more harmoniously with nature. One sign of progress is the growing practice of foraging, which Ryan sees as being symbolic of the return of ancestral lifeways. Foraging involves collecting natural resources to use as food, medicine, and crafting materials. Indigenous people foraged for many different plants, but one of the most important to the Navajo is the yucca. Yucca root can be used to make soaps and shampoos,  and its fibers can be used to craft many useful items such as rope and shoes. Some varieties also produce edible fruits and flowers during spring and summer.

Another topic Ryan and I discussed is the diet and food traditions of indigenous people. The diet of most tribes was once plant-based and seasonal. Meat was consumed, but in moderation and mostly during the winter when plant foods were scarce. The Diné and other tribes sing prayers during all food-related endeavors, and pray when planting and harvesting crops, when foraging, and when processing wild game. Indigenous people also believe moderation of how much food one consumes for a meal is important. A portion of food is measured by the handful, and on a regular basis, one must eat 1-2 portions of food for each of the three daily meals.

Lastly Ryan told me how Western influence has impacted the health and food traditions of indigenous people. Ever since European settlers arrived in the Americas they have forced indigenous people to leave their homelands, which ultimately destroyed their villages along with the ancestral crops. Settlers also over-hunted wild game that indigenous people once depended on, and introduced Western food practices such as raising livestock. The results have lead to a situation where many indigenous communities now live in poverty, have declining health outcomes, increased dependency on western policy, and – worst of all – a weakened connection to nature. Now it’s more affordable to eat processed foods rather than fresh produce.

Another way in which Western influence has affected indigenous ways of life is through the establishment of wildlife refuges. Wildlife refuges are good for protecting local wildlife and plants, however they have stripped away indigenous people’s rights to live off the land for the sake of their livelihood and cultural values.

If human civilization is to become more sustainable, it is crucial for us to reconnect with the natural world. I believe people could learn how to do this from the practices and traditions of Native American tribes. Imagine what we could accomplish by revisiting ancient wisdom with modern technology. Maybe we could incorporate indigenous planting practices, such as multi-cropping, into organic farming. Or we can make stronger medicines by safely enhancing the potency of medicinal plants used for many generations. I believe it is time for humanity to go back to its roots in order to move further into the future.

-Posted by Jonathan P.

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Tabla de Los Santos

Many restaurants line Santa Fe’s downtown area, where locals and tourists gather for pleasant dining experiences. There are few that source locally and organically, like Tabla de Los Santos, a contemporary restaurant. Of the nearly six hundred restaurants in Santa Fe, Tabla ranks in the top ten according to Trip Advisor. “Farm to table” restaurants are the future of the restaurant industry; consumer demand now valuing the “slow food” movement.

I used to work in a hotel near Tabla de Los Santos, and was often encouraged to recommend the restaurant to my guests. As a college student, their prices dissuaded me from ever trying the food (I am used to a $3 bean burrito as my go-to meal). I stubbornly went on my way, recommending restaurants at which I could afford to eat. The owners of the restaurant would occasionally become annoyed at my disregard for their business (and now, looking back, it is comical to say the least…sorry, Julie!).

One day I caught word that Tabla is a farm to table restaurant and that they source locally and organically as much as possible. I quickly stopped being cheap, and splurged on a Christmas style breakfast burrito. Beyond full and $15 later, I was impressed. The food is incredible. Not only that, but farm to tables are the types of restaurants I want my dollar supporting. I was amazed that I had never paid this restaurant any mind, even though I’d lived in Santa Fe most of my life. I was also surprised that Tabla de Los Santos does not necessarily capitalize on their efforts to be a sustainable business. Keep in mind that I’m imagining large banners with “FARM TO TABLE – EAT HERE!” written on them, and someone with a bullhorn shouting that Tabla is a sustainable business. Anyway, now a loyal customer, I’ve decided to share why it is amazing that Tabla differentiates themselves by being a farm to table restaurant.


Christmas-style breakfast burrito. Photo credit: Selina


Farm to table is a movement that values the concept of slow food and eating locally and organically. This boosts the local economy as well as increases the quality of food we consume. Alice Waters is the chef primarily responsible for the creation of this movement. In pursuit of good quality food for her Berkeley-based restaurant Chez Panisse in the 1970s, she ended up identifying and building a network of the best local and organic producers in the Bay Area. It was initially not an intentional act, but it resulted in food with the best taste and encouraged consumer demand for farm to table cuisine.

There are many benefits to this system. Marissa Iacono at the University of New Hampshire eloquently states, “If you buy from a farm locally instead of going to your grocery store you help the economy of your local community by putting money into the hands of local farmers instead of chain retailers. The quality of the food you buy locally could easily out compete produce purchased at your grocery store from a vendor whose main goal is quantity not quality.” By making the decision to buy from the little guys who are producing quality foods, the consumer makes a statement. Not only is the person buying locally and organically demonstrating that they value quality, but they also are underscoring that the conventional system is not producing food that they want to eat. In doing so, individuals are supporting the slow food movement. Iacono goes on to mention, “restaurants as well can benefit from farms in their area while also supporting their local economy.” She adds, “This provides their guests with a menu that will vary season to season.” This is exactly what Tabla does, as a farm to table restaurant.

tabla 2

A table in Tabla de Los Santos. Photo credit: Selina


Tabla de Los Santos has been around for a couple of decades, but came under new ownership in 2013. Clay Bordan grew the farm-to-table model at Tabla de Los Santos when he became the owner of the restaurant. Upon talking to Clay, I gathered some insight as to how complicated and diverse his producers actually are. He noted that they source within New Mexico as much as possible for needed ingredients, but they also support small producers in other states. There are numerous producers that Clay buys from, all in order to provide the best quality of food. He says, “Tabla sources from Santa Fe for its goat cheese, Tucumcari for its feta, a large part of our produce from Romero Farms, and our beef is on a regional buying program from farms in Las Lunas to Clovis. We arrange a lot of specialty products through the local farmers’ market and put New Mexico products first, but we also find interesting items outside the state as well – for example, our organic stone ground grits are from War Eagle Mill in Arkansas.”

cobb salad

Cobb Salad at Tabla. Photo credit: Zack Dadood

Clearly this sounds like a great deal of work and attention to details. So why do it? Why put in so much effort for ingredients in larger dishes? Clay mentions, “As the chef/owner of Tabla it is my job to create and innovate using not just locally sourced farms, artisans and businesses but from these businesses that share the same view of food as I do.” These values coincide with being organic, free of chemicals, and having humanely raised animals. Aside from the meat and potatoes of their sourcing (pun intended), he even makes an effort to buy spices, jams, cheeses, and other items from artisans to enhance his dishes. In doing so, Tabla can “showcase the maker’s passion for their products and in return we can share their passion and help support those businesses so that we both thrive.” Supporting small businesses is also a crucial piece of this slow food system.

If you happen to be dining in Santa Fe, check out a farm-to-table restaurant, like Tabla de Los Santos. A restaurant that embodies the slow food movement. A restaurant that values great quality of food and supports the local economy.

-Posted by Selina

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Food Insecurity in New Mexico

In the state of New Mexico, many people suffer from food insecurity—lacking access to affordable, nutritious food. According to a study done by Feeding America, 358,770 people – or 17.2% of New Mexico’s population – are food insecure, although in some counties it is as high as 25%. Recently, Americans’ health has been getting worse; today obesity rates among adults are 28.8% in New Mexico, and 42% nationwide. Food insecurity is clearly a factor in that people who don’t have access to affordable and healthy food tend to buy cheaper food that is high in calories and low in nutrients.

New Mexico’s level of food insecurity comes as no surprise because our state also has a very high poverty rate— 20.4%. Because the victims of food insecurity tend to be part of underserved communities, they may not have the resources to better their situation, so it is up to the governments and nonprofit organizations to create programs to help people gain access to healthier food. One such program is the Double Up Food Bucks Program (DUFB). The program is nationwide in select states, including New Mexico. This program gives SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program) users double the amount that they spend on their EBT (electronic benefits transfer) card for New Mexico-grown produce. For example, if a family uses $10 off of their EBT card, the participating seller will match the $10, but the Double Up money can be used only on local, New Mexico-grown fresh fruits and vegetables.

New Mexico’s EBT incentive program started in 2010 at 17 farmers’ markets, and was funded by the New Mexico Human Services Department. By 2015 the New Mexico Farmers’ Marketing Association (NMFMA) received federal and state funding to expand the program to include more than 30 markets, and partnered with Fair Food Network to introduce the Double Up Food Bucks Program.

One of the markets to support the program is the Rail Yards Market, located in the Barelas neighborhood of Albuquerque, just to the south of Downtown. This area of Albuquerque is home to many low-income families that may not get access to fresh produce without Double Up Food Bucks. The Rail Yards Market, which happens every Sunday from May-October, reduces food insecurity in the heart of downtown Albuquerque – an area that happens to have a poor selection of grocery stores.

The Double-Up Food Bucks Program participants have a mandatory end-of-the-year survey for both the user and participating vendors. I was able to see the data that the NMFMA received from the 2016 survey when I spoke to the Rail Yards’ Manager Alaska Piper. The data speaks volumes for the benefits of the program. According to the survey, more customers now attend the farmers’ market: 62% of market vendors felt that they had new, regular customers buying their products because of the program, and 60% of SNAP customers surveyed were repeat DUFB customers at a farmers’ market. Not only is Double Up good for the markets that offer it, it is beneficial for the low-income people and families who use it. This is highlighted by the fact that of the customers who were surveyed, 70% said they tried a new kind of fruit or vegetable for the first time because of the program, and 86% felt that the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables that they buy and eat had increased because of the program.

As well as helping low-income households gain access to healthier and more affordable food, the Double Up Food Bucks Program also stimulates the local economy. Because it can only be spent on fresh fruits and vegetables, it acts as an incentive for people to come to farmers’ markets, which in turn brings more business to local farmers, and other local vendors at the market as well. The program is a vital part of the economic and social prosperity of the community, and more programs like it would create a more sustainable America.

-Posted by Justin

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Living with Nature

Permaculture. Now to some this means absolutely nothing, to some it is a kind of pastoral ideal that may or may not exist anymore, but to others, it is their way of life. Now for the readers in the former category, I hope that by the end of this you’ll come out having learned a little more and appreciating the simplicity of a permaculture-based life.

Now, to say that permaculture in itself is simple would be to completely undermine the system and almost ridicule it. The network of conservation techniques that are employed by a permaculture setup is so interconnected and complex that it requires intensive planning and design. David Holmgren does a wonderful job in explaining the principles and design of permaculture and demonstrates why planning is so essential.

Permaculture can be defined as “the development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient.” The systems are meant to minimize waste by recycling the materials as new inputs through sustainable methods. By using these valuable resources over again, the system makes its way to becoming self-sufficient.

For example, gray water can be used on different beds that are growing crops or in a greenhouse if there is one available. Composting organic material that comes from table scraps or food preparation allows for soil nutrients to be replenished. The design of a permaculture house itself often utilizes natural materials and green architecture techniques (i.e. clay, straw, earth) and is designed with the layout of the land in mind. Mother Earth News and Deep Green Permaculture are just two of the many sites that contain useful information on different setups and methods to make your lifestyle more self-sufficient.

Permaculture considers all aspects that can (and everything will) play a role in the design and function of agricultural land and other production spaces (e.g., greenhouses), the built environment, water resources, and renewable energy sources. This all sounds like hardcore planning to get started, and it is, but once it gets going, the system can basically be self-maintaining. The water cycle will feed the crops; the crops will replenish nutrients in the ground; and the sun will bring life, electricity through use of solar panels, and help cook meals using a solar oven. The initial energy input can be offset by the little energy necessary to maintain the system, if done correctly and efficiently the first time.

I had the opportunity to visit a New Mexico location where permaculture is done correctly. The Ampersand Sustainable Learning Center is quite the marvel, as the whole place was designed with sustainability in mind. Amanda, who runs the property along with her husband Andy, designed the plot to maximize both water and energy resources.

Living off grid is not easy. Amanda and Andy’s home has a greenhouse attached to the south-facing wall, so that it will get the most amount of sun throughout the day. The heat generated by the greenhouse can be released into the home to keep the house warm (as they don’t have a heater). The house is built into a hill (for thermal mass) and the steep slopes below are contoured to direct rain water to crops plots and fruit trees. Berms are used to help slow and spread the water so that it doesn’t run off and instead sinks into the garden plots.

Just by looking at the location of their veggie plots and fruit trees and watching the sun’s rays travel over them, one can see the ingenuity of the design. The sun travels over the east-facing hillslope throughout the majority of the day, provide the maximum amount of sunlight to hit the plants. To protect the plots from the cold and the wind, Amanda uses straw as an insulator and has a barrier of sticks set up to reduce the chilling effect of the wind. She explained not to use a barrier that completely blocks the wind because then the wind will travel around it even more strongly, possibly blowing down more plants. Instead, use one that allows some wind to travel through so that it will reduce the wind strength and not redirect it entirely. The wind breaker that Amanda used was sticks that were placed inches apart.

Though Amanda and Andy are living a permaculture lifestyle, they aren’t completely self-sufficient as they still frequent the grocery store to obtain some foods. Amanda’s permaculture classes help sustain their livlihood. It just goes to show that in today’s day and age, it is hard to live a subsistence lifestyle, however, one can get extremely close with very little.

-Posted by Martin

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The only test you don’t need to study for: How to test your soil’s health

For anyone who has a desire to grow fruits, vegetables, and flowers, a critical detail that is often overlooked is soil health. Healthy soil has better potential for carbon sequestration, capturing carbon dioxide and storing it in organic matter. Additionally, healthy soil better retains water. With a higher water retention rate, soil will better feed that water to plant roots. Every type of soil is different and some plants will grow better in certain types of soil compared to others. In this blog post, you will learn ways to test soil health. It is key to first test the soil to show what needs to be done to amend and optimize soil health. Four tests that can aid in getting baseline results include: The Squeeze Test, The Percolation Test, The Worm Test, and The pH Test.

The Squeeze Test

The Squeeze Test is a simple test that will show you what type of soil you have. If you have kids or simply like getting dirty, this will be a fun test – and it only requires a digging device and your hand. You will be looking for soil particle size.

First using your digging device, dig a small sample of the soil at about 8 inches deep. Place the sample in your hand, add water, and (here comes the best part!) play with it. While playing with it ask yourself a few questions: How much grit does it have? Are you able to form it into a ball? The amount of grit will determine an indication of texture. Another indication of texture is the ability to form the sample into a ball. A final part of this test will be to pinch out a ribbon of the sample.

The three most common soil textures are: Sandy Soil, Loamy Soil, and Clay Soil. Sandy Soil will feel gritty and break apart easily in your hand. The Loamy Soil will feel smooth, hold its shape for a short length of time and then break apart, and is mostly loam. Finally, Clay Soil will hold together in a ball and not break if dropped. The Squeeze Test is an easy, fun test to show what type of texture your growing medium is.

The Percolation Test

A Percolation Test is a test that will show your soil’s water absorption rate. This is another simple test where you will need a digging device, a bucket or two filled with water, a timing device and a wooden stake at least 16 inches long. Generally, sandy soil will absorb more water when compared to soil with a high concentration of clay.

First, dig a hole one foot deep and one foot across. Next, put the stake into the hole and make sure it is straight. After inserting the stake, pour water into the hole. You should fill the hole up to the top. Allow for the water to drain through the hole which could take a few hours. An ideal result will be a water absorption rate of 1-2 inches per hour. If it drains faster that means the soil is more sandy, and if slower it means there is more clay.

The Worm Test

The next test, The Worm Test, is as easy as the previous two tests. All you have to do is dig a hole. Within the area you wish to test find some damp soil and dig a 1 cubic foot hole and place the dirt extracted from the hole into a wheel barrow. Sift through the dirt and count the amount of worms within that dirt. If you find at least 10 worms the soil has good health. If your soil is low on worms, you can remedy this by adding more organic matter.

pH Test

A pH test is key to let you know if your soil is high in acid or is more alkaline. In order to have healthy soil you need a neutral balance of acid and alkaline. There are several ways to test your soil, but one of the most interesting and fun ways to test is using red cabbage. This may seem bizarre but it works if done right. For this test you will need a head of red cabbage, distilled water, baking soda, vinegar and a sample of your soil.

Using a knife, cut the red cabbage head into finely chopped pieces (you can also use a food processor to chop up the cabbage). Next, boil a pot filled with distilled water, and once boiling add the chopped red cabbage. Allow the pieces of cabbage to soak in the pot for about ten minutes, and then remove the pieces of cabbage leaving the purple-hued solution. To test to cabbage juice, pour a small amount of the juice into two cups. Add baking soda to one cup and vinegar to the other. The baking soda red cabbage solution should turn blue or green because it is an alkaline solution. The vinegar solution should turn hot pink and show that it is an acidic solution. Finally add a sample of your soil to the pot filled with the remaining cabbage and observe the color change. If the solution remains purple or violet, your soil is close to neutral. If it turns pink your soil has high acidity and has a pH between 1-7, if it turns blue or green your soil has high alkalinity and has a pH between 8-14.

The tests when done properly, will enable you to be able to show the results your soil’s health. You can then research methods on how to amend your soil if it is in poor health. Once your soil is healthy you can successfully be able to grow plants. And, there is no better taste than eating a fruit or vegetable you grew by yourself out of the healthy soil you created.

-Posted by Sean

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Whole Foods Market and Walmart: The Sustainability Movement

At one point in time, Whole Foods Market and Walmart seemed entirely different enterprises, a natural food industry versus the largest retailer of common goods in the world. Whole Foods Market got its start in 1980 in Austin, Texas, when four people looking to change the natural food industry introduced a storefront offering quality standards, food safety, and organically grown products. Their motto, “Whole Foods, Whole People, [and] Whole Planet” aims to “sell the highest quality natural and organic products available.” On the other hand, the first Walmart opened in 1962 by the Walton family with the “decision to achieve higher sales volume by keeping sales prices lower than competitors.” Walmart’s mission is to “give more people access to a better life, one individual, family, and community at a time.” Recently, Walmart announced their plan to offer consumers a wide selection of organic foods, while still keeping to their “Everyday Low Prices” motto.

Although there is no set definition of sustainability, and many organizations have their own metrics, it is a guiding interest of both Whole Foods Market and Walmart. According to the United States EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), sustainability is “based on the simple principle” of “creating and maintaining conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations.” A comparison of the different measures of each company allows for a deeper understanding of each company’s sustainability success, within the three pillars (environmental, social, and economic) of sustainability. In order to form a quick conception of each company’s practices, I focused on the supply chain, employee development, and overall profitability.

The Supply Chain (Planet)

According to the EPA’s Top 30 Retail Partner List, which represents the largest green power users among retail partners within the Green Power Partnership, Walmart ranks at #3. Also, on Walmart’s corporate site the company clearly details a few initiatives and commitments to preserving natural resources such as getting to net zero deforestation, promoting a quality water supply, and conserving land. First, Walmart has committed to selling only sustainably sourced palm oil products in private brands by December 31, 2015 and only beef that is free of Amazon deforestation (both are 100% accomplished). Second,  Walmart intends to “gain increased visibility over the next 10 years into key metrics regarding yields, water usage and greenhouse gases in the food supply chain.” Progress is tracked by receiving “supplier Sustainability index responses covering 77% of Walmart food business.” Last, Walmart has committed to conserving one acre of wilderness for every acre of Walmart-occupied land in the U.S through 2015.

In April 2014, the EPA recognized Whole Foods Market in Marietta, GA for reducing food waste. In addition to this achievement, Whole Foods Market upholds quality standards for fresh produce and flowers, animal welfare and meat quality, sustainable seafood, and cleaner cleaning products for the home. Whole Foods Market’s own Responsibly Grown rating system, standards in the meat department, sustainable seafood guide, and a direct way to check levels of their Eco-Scale rating system for cleaning products helps customers to easily navigate and find sustainable products.

Employee Development (People)

Walmart offers competitive pay, health care plans, educational assistance, and retirement plans to all of their employees. They offer every employee a Walmart Discount Card for a 10% discount on fresh fruit, vegetables, and regular priced merchandise within the store. Also, Walmart rewards employees with comprehensive health insurance plans that include dental, vision, and counseling. Last year alone (2016), Walmart promoted 200,000 employees and now 300,000 associates wear a 10+ year badge. On top of these benefits, Walmart also offers scholarships to their associates and their dependents looking to further their education. Remarkably, Walmart helped serve 10,000 communities in natural disaster ridden areas last year (2016) and dispensed $46,000 in grants for communities in need.

Similarly, all team members of Whole Foods Market receive a 20% discount card on  products store wide.  In addition, after 800 hours of service they offer employees low individual insurance premiums starting at $20 per paycheck.  After 6,000 hours of service (approximately 3 years of service) employees are eligible for service-hour grants to put towards their education. However, all of these benefits are available only to employees who work 20+ hours a week and have successfully completed a probationary period of employment. Additionally, Whole Foods Market cares for surrounding communities through community giving days,  in which “five percent of that day’s net sales are donated to a local nonprofit or educational organization.” Also, Whole Foods Market serves the global community by micro lending to rural communities around the world to aid in alleviating global poverty.

Profitability (Profit)

Back in 2005, when Walmart first reported they were “going organic” net sales finished at $285.2 billion. So, has Walmart increased sales since implementing their organic movement? The corporation does not divulge how much revenue comes from organic products alone, making it hard to compare fiscal years. However, Walmart generated $482.1 billion in net sales in 2016. Overall it seems the $196.9 billion increase in revenue over the 10 years alludes to Walmart’s success.

In comparison, Whole Foods Market reports for fiscal year 2016 record sales at $15.7 billion. According to the press release details, comparable store sales decreased by 2.6% (whether or not Walmart was included in this calculation is unknown). In 2005, Whole Foods Market reported $4.7 billion in net sales, an 234% increase since 2016.

Although it is hard to say which company will be in the forerunner in organic food products in the future, Walmart has definitely made an impression in the sustainable grocery movement. Perhaps, more grocery stores will follow suit and supply organic and sustainable foods for the public.

-Posted by Shannon

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The Now, the Future, and the Challenges of Small Scale Growing in Albuquerque

“Where tillage begins, other arts follow. The farmers therefore are the founders of human civilization.”

Daniel Webster

The future of Albuquerque’s local agriculture can be seen in the present. This is evident by merely witnessing the transition from one generation of farmer to the next.

While visiting Montoya Farm I was greeted by the unyielding Tonie Montoya. Tonie is an Albuquerque local farmer who grows peaches, apples, plums, and cherries on his one acre orchard. He says his farm is best known for its famed peaches, which he sells at various local growers’ markets. His daughter, Christina and future son in law, Jordan, also assist on the farm. Christina hopes to work the farm indefinitely, a passion that was instilled in her from an early age.

Christina says “I just grew up doing it my whole life, I love it, I love hard work, just selling to people and they love our products. Getting to know people, it’s so rewarding.” Christina’s fiancé, Jordan, is new to growing, but is extremely enthusiastic about learning and taking on responsibilities. Jordan says he constantly finds himself asking “why like this, why like that?” as he is learning about various growing practices. Jordan, like Christina, expresses similar sentiments in that the connection to the community is rewarding, and that you meet “the nicest people at the market.”


Christina and Jordan. Photo Credit: Author

During my short visit on the farm I was exposed to an avalanche of information about growing. Some practices were ordinary, such as utilizing rotational practices and working with Soilutions to improve the soil. Montoya Farm implements a strict regimen of practices to achieve their high density planting, by growing other plants – such as tomatoes and chiles – between their whopping six hundred trees. Tonie says, “We are one of the very few in New Mexico who does this.” This feat is not achieved through some amazing technologic advancement, rather as Tonie expresses, “sixty some years I’ve been a farmer, what changes is new ways of planting, getting better quality of crop, that’s what I look for.” One fundamental practice is how the Montoyas prune their trees in rows of V-shaped trees. This V-shaped pruning allows for the trees to be planted closer to each other. Furthermore, each fruit-bearing branch possesses a number of nodules that would presumably grow numerous peaches; however, these too are trimmed so as not to stress the branch and to make larger nutrient-rich peaches.


Branch with potential fruit nodes. Photo credit: Author

After a few more tips from Tonie on “the process of pruning, compost, and getting everything ready for irrigation,” we embarked on a discussion about water. I had asked Tonie what he thought would be the greatest challenge for growers in the future and he said that “the biggest challenge is going to be water.” Despite Montoya Farm having a pre-1907 water right, seemingly making his farm’s water secure for the foreseeable future, Tonie expressed caution and concern. This brought Tonie to discuss other challenges, such as the possibility of overregulation “to the point where guys like me can’t make a living.” Tonie noted that “we lost Whole Foods (Market) because of the regulations that came about from the Food Safety Act.”

Tonie also expressed concern over farmers claiming their produce is organic and problems from pollution stating “You go up to Nine Mile Hill and you look down in the valley at eight o’clock in the morning and tell me what you see over Albuquerque. Smog.” With growers’ produce bathing in chemicals from the air, one could easily conclude some legitimacy to the notion of organic being compromised. Tonie simply asked, “If you say you are organic how do you protect your crops from that?”

The attention we give to protecting our communities from harmful impacts is vital to the success of Albuquerque’s local agriculture. Teaching the necessary skills to grow food and making sure future generations can pursue a livelihood in agriculture will enrich our community.

 “Even though the future seems far away, it is actually beginning right now.”

– Mattie Stepanek

-Posted by Nicholas

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