Romero Farms

ROMERO_01_kl_2017Matt is one of the most popular, colorful vendors at the market, offering samples, recipe ideas, growing tips and answers to just about any question a shopper may have. He is what you might call “a farmer’s farmer”—skilled at his craft, devoted to his labor and happy to share what he’s learned with others. Yet Matt didn’t grow up on a farm and he didn’t harbor a lifelong desire to connect to the land through growing things. He worked as a chef, instead, honing a creative sense of flavor and an instinct for what people like to eat.

“I know I’m doing the planet a favor, but that’s not why I’m doing it,” Matt says, taking a break from mowing on a recent spring morning at the farm. “I’ve always loved producing good food for people, whether it was at a restaurant and I bought and cooked it, or here on the farm, where I grow it. I still feel pride over what I do and the knowledge that I share with people. For example, someone will say ‘I don’t like radishes.’ If you don’t like them, and then you try them, then you’re a perfect test case. Every year, I see people try things they don’t like and then they taste it and they change their mind.” (Case in point: when I arrive at the farm for our interview, Matt hands me a warm breakfast burrito, stuffed with his red chile and homemade elk sausage sourced from an animal he and his daughter brought home from a hunting trip. Although I normally don’t eat elk, this was one of the best burritos I’ve ever had.) Continue reading

The Corn Man

Taos Family Foods

Taos Family Foods

Have you ever counted the kernels on a single cob of corn? Each seed is secured within a meandering row running the length of the cob. And sure, you could count each kernel, but knowing the number would not describe one cob of corn any better than simply knowing the taste of it, or feeling its rhythmic surface in your hand.

This is a tale of a few of those kernels of corn. There is no single story of corn in New Mexico. From an agricultural perspective, corn is so integral to the mythology, landscape, agricultural and aesthetic landscape of New Mexico that it could take multiple shelves of the library to tell that story in a truly comprehensive way. Instead, we are going to travel the route of one row of kernels on one cob of corn, to see where those stories lead.

The seeds of this particular story were first planted over three decades ago. Today, just minutes from Taos Plaza, on a surprisingly chilly mid-May morning, native corn seed is being planted in rows. The seed falls from a 37-year-old piece of machinery called a “planter” (affectionately named Romeo) attached to a 38-year-old John Deere named Moses, driven by a young man from Arkansas. Lifelong farmer David Frazier likes to name his machines because he looks forward to a long working relationship with them. His young dog Critter runs alongside, always with David in her sights…except perhaps when she sees a rabbit. Continue reading

Think New Mexico

_DSC9025Amidst the political slings and arrows of this particularly acrimonious year, a modest historical residence perches, facing the Roundhouse, as it has for almost 20 years–quietly percolating. It’s a unique kind of think tank. Inside, the small staff—with guidance from its board of directors—births ingenious possibilities buttressed with persistent, meticulous research. Field Director Othiamba Umi, New Mexico born and raised, wants to give back to this state that’s given him so much; “I commute from Albuquerque and it’s totally worth it!” Native Santa Fean Kristina Fisher, Associate Director, agrees: “We stand up on behalf of people who can’t be here” during the legislative session.

Think New Mexico is the brainchild of founder and Executive Director Fred Nathan, a self-described recovering lawyer. Previously, he was Special Counsel to Attorney General Tom Udall. “Tom’s legislative campaign included addressing our drunk-driving epidemic,” Fred says. In pursuit of a bill outlawing drive-up windows, “I staffed the task force, which was a Noah’s Ark of experts, with two of everybody, including from the alcohol industry.” There was a lot of pushback to the proposal, but by the fifth year, they got it passed. Then-Gov. Gary Johnson vetoed it, and to Fred’s chagrin, “the sponsor of the bill was ecstatic! ‘When Johnson’s re-election comes around,’ he said, ‘we’ll wrap this around his neck!’” Continue reading

Still Hungry? June 2017

Photo-Credit_Douglas-Merriam Harsh and frigid, scalding and cracked, ancient with fossils of the inland sea that once was, and fresh with shoots that somehow rise from the earth’s snow-quenched crevices. The sky is huge and open enough to cradle both the bright, searing sun and the drenching monsoons and billows of snow that stumble in, early or late, never apologetic, each summer and winter season. Soft from afar, jagged up close; seemingly dead as a fossil, crystalized—but, just there, a fragile shoot. Part of the magic, the miracle of this place, the high desert, is the paradox of, the contrast between, the aliveness that bursts through what seems to be the uncaring, solid stillness of earth.

And then there are the people who cultivate this earth’s soil. All year at the Santa Fe Farmers Market, these men and women from their various plots of Northern New Mexico land sell the creations they’ve nurtured with their own hands. “Life for such a creation in northern New Mexico is unlike anywhere in the world,” writes Lesley S. King in photographer Douglas Merriam’s 2016 cookbook—a book born of, inspired by and in ode to the Santa Fe Farmers Market. The book, A Farm Fresh Journey Santa Fe Farmers Market Cookbook, is a gorgeous testament to the stark beauty of New Mexico as well as to Doug’s artistic talent, his ability to capture the earth, its fruit, its people. It’s the portrait of the contrast to and relationship between the New Mexico landscape, the plants that grow from it, and the people who cultivate and make these delicacies thrive. Ultimately, it’s a taste of our local earth. Continue reading

The Root Cellar

LL The Root Cellar16The adage says it takes a village. Greg Menke, owner and chef of Beestro, The Hive Market and The Root Cellar, contends it’s not a village it takes—it’s a hive. That’s the model for effective, healthy communities—ones that renew and aid their landscape rather than deplete it—he’d like to see adopted. “The bee is really just a metaphor for how to live locally, live sustainably and give more than you take,” Greg says. And he’s taking over one storefront at a time on East Marcy Street to import it.

Greg inherited his infatuation with honeybees from his grandfather, an aeronautical engineer who studied honeybees and honeycombs, and applied those principles for lightweight strength to his work. Pouring through his grandfather’s old journals and workbooks, he found inspiration and answers to questions he hadn’t known he had. He’s come to see bees, providers of honey and beeswax for candles, as an emblem of sweetness and light, both of which are in need of spreading.

In Greg’s own work, those ideas have manifested in the form of the honey-centric businesses that have grown in recent years off the established lunch spot, The Beestro, which opened six years ago. The Hive Market, which opened in November 2015 in the former home of the Blue Rooster and the Rouge Cat, began as a holiday pop-up shop themed around “gifts from the hive.” The aim was to take a test run at the space and the idea of a store centered on honey-based products. It worked. Continue reading

The Big Chèvre – Old Windmill Dairy

DSC_2284Can baby goats stampede? I’m still not sure, but I am sure that 70-some two-month-old kids unleashed from their corral and running toward awaiting bottles is an entirely joyful sight. Their long ears flopping, their spindly legs barely finding purchase on quarter-size hoofs. This spring, my fellow baby goat feeders at The Old Windmill Dairy’s farm visit wait innocently as the wave of goats floods us, pooling around our knees, and voraciously searching for their bottles. When they can’t find one or they get shouldered aside, they settle for suckling our fingers or untying our shoelaces. Effervescent laughter ripples through the crowd. A few minutes later, their bellies absurdly bloated on their tiny frames, the babies demur. I pick one up, No. 245, and—after a failed attempt at eating my earring—she tucks her feet into the crook of my arm like a cat, settling in for a nap.

Awash in this overwhelming adorableness, it’s easy to forget: Soon, these kids will grow up and, like their milk-heavy mothers, help make some seriously good farmstead cheese. Since it opened in July 2007 as a Grade-A dairy, The Old Windmill Dairy has earned a handful of awards for its popular chèvres as well as its semi-hard cheeses. Fifteen years into his business journey, Michael Lobaugh lights up recalling when he’s earned compliments from his customers. “The joy of it is seeing the end product,” he says. Continue reading