Today we wrapped up the field school’s first week on the road, making two stops on our way back to Albuquerque. After one last breakfast of yogurt, granola, fruit and coffee in the grassy courtyard of the Sun God Lodge, we headed south to the Santa Cruz Farm in Española. The Santa Cruz Farm, run by farmer and community activist Don Bustos, is a vegan organic (or veganic) operation, meaning that no animal products – such as blood meal, bone meal, fish meal and manure – are used as fertilizers. Don has been farming this plot of land, which has been in his family for over 300 years and is a part of the original Santa Cruz de la Cañada land grant, since he was a child. The 3.5 acre farm produces over 70 varieties of fruits and vegetables year round in its solar-heated greenhouses and fields. The produce is sold at the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market, through a small CSA, and to local restaurants, grocery stores and schools. Santa Cruz Farm currently supplies the Santa Fe school district with salad greens through the Farm to School Program. Don also assisted the Agri-Cultura Network in Albuquerque’s South Valley in getting local salad greens into Albuquerque public schools; the first delivery went through last September, and ongoing sales to the school system since then have significantly boosted the economic viability of the farmer-owned collaborative.
During our visit we saw the greenhouses full of colorful baby lettuce greens and assorted root vegetables, and the fields of berries and asparagus. Our group spent some time weeding rows of strawberries, and then got a chance to speak with Roni Stephenson, a former apprentice at Santa Cruz Farm. She talked to us about her journey from herbalism to farming, and her desire to heal people through nutrition. Roni and her husband Jorge are now farming their own plot of land, and are working on strengthening the small farm community in the area. Roni lamented the difficulty of connecting willing growers with available land in the Española Valley. “There is a grip of land around here and people seem shy to say, ‘Here, go use it’.” This comment got our group thinking that a potential career could exist for a broker of sorts who would work to connect landowners with farmers, thereby increasing the amount of local food that is grown in the state.
Our last stop of the day was at Tesuque Pueblo, where Clayton Brascoupé graciously welcomed us into his home. Clayton is a farmer and founding member of the Traditional Native American Farmers Association, an organization that offers workshops on traditional agriculture and permaculture design. He spoke to us about the Pueblo’s native seed project, which works to defend heirloom seeds from contamination by genetically engineered crops. Clayton grows numerous varieties of traditional and heirloom beans, corns and squash on his family’s plot of land and saves quantities of his best seed every year (which he passed around the room for us to marvel at). He is also a proponent of strengthening native food traditions and family oriented agriculture. For example, Clayton’s wife recently learned how to make piki bread, and has now passed on this once-forgotten knowledge to their daughters. Some traditions have been “lost” in certain families and communities, and it was inspiring to learn that indigenous people today are seeking to rediscover and reconnect with the traditions of their ancestors.