For my community service portion of the internship I collaborated with the Taos Pueblo Tourism Department and Taos Pueblo Senior Center to install and help maintain small traditional crop gardens!
I believe it is important to always have our traditional crops growing everywhere and in all scales of size so that our community members are constantly reminded of the ability to provide our own nutritious food. With this gift of cultivation, there are also other benefits of community, cultural retention, and self sufficiency.
The Taos Pueblo Senior Center had a small garden with some raised beds that was in need of some irrigation repairs. I volunteered to install a new and improved drip irrigation system that would improve the efficiency of the garden and reduce the labor of watering for the elders. With the new irrigation system in place, the garden is producing a good amount of veggies and flowers for the Elders to enjoy. I am thankful that i was able to support the efforts of the Elders who wanted to grow food and stay connected with the land.
The Taos Pueblo Tourism Department agreed to allow the installation of 3 new gardens at the entrance of Taos Pueblo! One garden was placed directly in front of the Governor’s office, another in front of the Tour Guide House, and the last one in front of the Parking Monitor station. I was excited to know that this year all the visitors who came to Taos Pueblo were able to see what our traditional foods are and how they grow so that they wont think that Fry Bread and other commodity foods are indigenous.
The Tour Guide House Garden and the Parking Monitor Station garden are small 2’x6′ Raised Beds and the Governors Office Garden is river rock lined and measures 5’x10′. I decided to grow our three main staples of food,Blue Corn ,Red Beans, and Hubbard Squash, also known as the 3 sisters. These traditional crops are what my ancestors of Taos Pueblo depended on for centuries so that they could thrive in one place. Corn, beans, and squash compliment each other perfectly in the biological and agricultural sense.When all planted in the same mound, Corn grows tall and uptakes large quantities of nitrogen; the beans are nitrogen fixing plants that use the corn as a trellis to climb up; and finally the squashes spread across the ground and provide cover to reduce evapotranspiration during dry times.
The employees of the tourism department are all young college age people that also helped take care of the gardens in front of their posts. It was nice to see their interest in agriculture sparked by the weekly transformations of the gardens. At first, there were only the dedicated folks helping and now during harvest everyone who even just walked by the garden wants some of the food coming out of it! lol Even the Elders in office noticed the new growth and compliment the caretakers.
Overall I feel that my community service was exposing our entire community of Taos Pueblo to new growth at the entrance of the pueblo. I know that even the site of a garden can improve a person’s day or even inspire them toward something positive. I also feel that these gardens are of educational use as the visitors to Taos now have the opportunity to see what energy our ancestors built their culture on.