More Hands in the Soil

Nde Farms is such a unique opportunity. I talk about it all the time—this is a Utopia of farming conditions. Though the growing season is short, the soil is rich in minerals, the rain comes once a day like clockwork; and if it doesn’t rain, we have an unlimited supply of water fed straight through the Hatchery from a natural spring in the mountains. We have an abundance of nutrient rich fish soil and fish emulsion—it’s a farmers dream. The farm is only a quarter of an acre, but we have every inch densely planted with all things edible—radishes, turnips, beets, cucumbers, beans, peas, pumpkins, kale, cabbage, broccoli, carrots, squash, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, mustard, lettuce, raspberries, strawberries, clover, mallow, corn, celery, chard, sunflowers, rosemary, oregano, cilantro, chili peppers, and fresh eggs—just to name them all. The Farm has acquired quite the following of customers. It’s become a hub for the community to gather around and visit with friends. It has been successful at putting a small dent in the local food desert. Lately our harvests have been around 250 pounds per week. Hopefully it will serve as inspiration for developing larger food sovereignty projects, and smaller household gardens. The community’s reaction to the farm has been very encouraging. By next spring, we hope to have a seed bank.

The nearest grocery store in Mescalero is twenty five miles away and the nearest farmers market is just as far. Having food grown and sold locally allows easier access for elders and people without transportation. My supervisor Mike Montoya helped to assist in applying for the WIC program. The elders now receive WIC vouchers from the Elder Center that could be used only at farmers markets on fresh produce. The van full of elders pulls up every Friday and wipes us out first thing!  A majority of the elders said that the other farmers markets were too far, so the Mescalero Farmers market is the only option for fresh locally grown produce.

Nde Farms has been a pioneer for sustainable agriculture in the area. I think that it will help inspire larger agricultural undertakings by the community. There are potential farm lands available throughout the reservation. There is already talk about experimenting with a few crops in this area called Three Rivers, where there are fields with ready irrigation. Three Rivers used to grow alfalfa, but has been resting because alfalfa prices have been too unstable. Some of our customers are also thinking about starting gardens of their own next spring. If they grow enough produce, we could grow more Farmers market vendors.

I think it has been a successful grow season so far. Hopefully with our green houses, cold frames, and row cover we will extend the season. We plan on experimenting with winter crops like barley, cabbage, and spinach—until it gets too cold, of course, but my goal is year-round produce. This whole experience has helped me learn more about managing a small-scale farm, and how much it can impact the people of a small community.  I think local food development should be a staple in any community large or small. It’s the first step in building a local supply chain. More hands in the soil leads to healthy people and healthy communities.

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