Hello, North Valley

On the morning of the second day, we used the newly renovated Los Ranchos Agri-Nature Center (formerly the Anderson Valley Vineyards) as a classroom. The students learned from Jaelyn deMaria (a documentary photojournalist and PhD candidate at UNM) 15 techniques of taking great pictures (as opposed to simple snapshots), and spent time practicing with the audio recording equipment. After lunch we walked across Rio Grande Boulevard to the Los Poblanos Inn and Cultural Center for an opportunity to hone our photography and audio recording skills (and to do a little bit of good old fashioned manual labor in exchange for our tour).

The Los Poblanos Inn and Cultural Center was once the site of the original Creamland Dairy and a farm that grew sugar beets, alfalfa, oats, corn and barley. Today it is a charmingly bucolic property just minutes from downtown Albuquerque. The majority of the Inn’s buildings are original structures designed in the Territorial style by New Mexico’s famed architect John Gaw Meem.

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Artisan farmer Sean Ludden took us on a tour of the Los Poblanos Inn’s kitchen gardens and lavender fields, both of which he manages. The kitchen gardens produce heirloom and native landrace crops such as amaranth, Chimayo chiles, Tohono O’odham cowpeas, casaba melons from Santo Domingo and San Felipe pueblos, brown tepary beans and Magdelena Big Cheese squash, all for exclusive use by the Inn’s chef. Preparing local, organically grown food is a central focus of the Inn. Additionally, the Inn offers classes on growing and distilling lavender, and community members can pick their own during the month of July or purchase lavender products year-round from The Farm Shop. Farmer Sean also showed us the vintage greenhouse where he propagates lavender and many of the farm’s edible crops, and pointed out some of the features of the Inn’s edible landscaping. (Most of us ended up with purple stained fingers and teeth after a long stop at a particularly prolific mulberry tree.)

Los Poblanos Organics (LPO) also farms a portion of the Inn’s agricultural fields. North Valley LPO Farm Manager Ric Murphy gave us a brief tour of the picturesque fields that were planted mostly with summer squash and various spring greens.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent getting a feel for the life of a farmer, working with both Sean and Ric in their respective fields. With Sean, we hula hoed the lavender fields and the beans and potatoes in the kitchen gardens while chatting about the specific landrace crops he is cultivating. With Ric, we pulled out rows of kale and collard greens that were past their prime and wilting in the summer heat. The plants were carefully pulled from the soil – leaving behind small sunflowers, amaranth and other plants that attract beneficial insects and enhance the fertility of the soil – and piled into the back of the farm pickup to feed to the Inn’s goats, chickens, pigs and token cow. Even the farm animals get to enjoy LPO’s organic produce (and it’s easier to share by this time of year, when almost every Albuquerquean has had their fill and does not want to see another leafy green for another six months – at least!).

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