The Big Ride Comes to Santa Fe

(Story by Melyssa Holik/Photos by McCall Sides and Jackson Buscher)

This June, Santa Fe will join the international community of cyclists as host to the worldwide bicycling event known as Gran Fondo New York. Santa Fe is only the second city in the U.S. to hold this honor. A Gran Fondo is a term for ultra-long-distance bike races (the Italian phrase translates to “big ride”) and is the bicycling equivalent of a marathon. The Gran Fondo New York series of races is the largest global series of this type of event: 20 races, with up to 5,000 riders competing in each one. The series was founded in New York in 2010, and each year, races are held in global locations as diverse as Italy, Argentina, Indonesia, Jerusalem and the Philippines to name just a few—but until this year, there have been no other U.S. events besides the annual New York ride.

According to Mike McCalla, the director of GFNY Santa Fe, the event has been a couple of years in the making. It all began in 2018, when several members of the Santa Fe bicycling community approached the city with the idea to bring GFNY to the City Different. Local cyclist Jake Rodar became interested in creating the Gran Fondo Santa Fe event after riding the GFNY in Cozumel, Mexico. Last fall, Jake, Mike and Mellow Velo owner David Bell applied for a grant from the City of Santa Fe Tourism Department. They won the grant, which allowed them to form a nonprofit to oversee and organize GFNY Santa Fe.

Now, one year later, GFNY Santa Fe is ready for its inaugural year. The event will begin with an expo on June 21 and 22 at the Scottish Rite Temple. The expo will include food from Cowgirl BBQ, beer and spirits from Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery, and booths for bike companies and local vendors. Those who have purchased VIP passes are also invited to a very special Friday night Food and Wine Experience at The Compound Restaurant which avid cyclist and chef, Mark Kiffin will host.

The big ride begins June 23. At 7 a.m., more than 400 riders from all over the world will gather in the Santa Fe Plaza. Clad in GFNY green, riders will set out en mass during the crisp early morning hours to compete to be the North America champion—it should be quite a sight to see.

Racers can participate in a 55-mile Medium course or the 81-mile Long course. Both courses showcase Santa Fe’s breathtaking scenery as riders traverse the multiple climate zones and terrains of the high desert southwest. The 81-mile Long course includes a grueling 7,500 feet of vertical climb, and what Mike McCalla categorizes as “the toughest finish” out of all the GFNY events. The final 15 miles are all uphill, making it the longest continuous climb out of the series. GFNY Santa Fe is also the second highest altitude race in the series after Columbia, finishing up in the thin mountain air at about 10,300 feet above sea level.

The Santa Fe event represents a contrast to the New York race, too; aside from being the only U.S. races in the series, the two locations are complete opposites. In many ways, Santa Fe is different than most of the other venues, which is part of what gives the event a unique appeal. Mike suspects that may be why the GFNY organizers welcomed Santa Fe’s participation. “Santa Fe adds diversity to the lineup of races in GFNY,” Mike explains. “And New Mexico is a fantastic place for cycling. There’s low traffic density, plenty of sunshine and beautiful terrain.” He also notes that GFNY Santa Fe represents an opportunity to “show off the best of Santa Fe” to the visitors who come for the race. That includes our food, culture and natural splendor, as well as the area’s outstanding biking and hiking trails.

After they’ve completed the punishing race, riders will gather once more for lunch and the awards ceremony. In blissful exhaustion, riders can celebrate the challenge they’ve just shared over a round of drinks and indulge in some well-earned revelry.

“It’ll be a lot of fun, and something new to Santa Fe,” Mike says. “We’re looking to showcase Santa Fe as not just an arts and culture destination but as an outdoor destination as well.” Randy Randall, executive director of TOURISM Santa Fe, says that’s one reason why the city awarded the grant to GFNY Santa Fe. He says while Santa Fe has long been known as a center of history, culture and food, it’s still under the radar as a place for outdoor recreation. Randy wants that to change. “It’s time,” he says. “This is the next thing for us to promote.” While New Mexico is often overshadowed by Colorado and Utah in terms of outdoor tourism, Randy says, “We’re next.”

Tourism offices all over the state are developing this avenue for attracting visitors in an effort to set the state apart from our neighbors. Randy credits some of the increased attention to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s newly established Outdoor Recreation Division. “There’s more emphasis on it now,” Randy says. “We’re trying to build the outdoor recreation side of Santa Fe as yet another reason to come.” With an annual race like Gran Fondo New York, Randy is optimistic people will begin to see our city as a world-class outdoor destination. As he says, “Affiliation with GFNY puts Santa Fe into an elite class.”

This is an elite race and there will be extraordinary athletes participating, to be sure, but the race is open to anyone who wants to push their limits and measure their own abilities. As Mike says, “During the event, you’re racing other people, but you’re really just challenged by the course and the satisfaction of doing all that—the entire ride—on your own power.” For Mike, nothing else compares. “You can see the world on a bike,” he says. “A lot of things are fun about it: the group dynamics of riding in a pack, the thrill of speed and endorphins, and you can eat a lot of food after! It’s a really good lifelong sport. It’s something you can do when you’re young or old.” In a testament to that lifetime appeal of cycling, GFNY Santa Fe will have awards for age groups from teens to 75 and over; it truly is a sport for all ages.

Even if you aren’t up for the challenge of an 81-, or even a 55-mile bike ride, there are still plenty of ways to enjoy the event. The expo on Friday and Saturday is for racers and non-racers, and of course, anyone can be a spectator to the race on Sunday (provided you want to wake up to watch the 7 a.m. start!) or, if you’d like to see the race a little more closeup, there are many volunteer opportunities available as well—everything from packet stuffing, to manning an aid station, to being a motorcycle marshal. (Bicycling experience is not necessary to participate as a volunteer.) However you choose to be involved, Mike says, “I really hope you come out and see the inaugural event.”

Whether you are an elite cyclist hoping to test yourself against top global athletes in the field, or you simply enjoy the inspiration of watching people push themselves to their physical limits, it’s undeniable that GFNY Santa Fe represents an opportunity for our capital city. It’s a chance for Santa Fe to catapult itself into the realm of world-class outdoor recreation destinations—a distinction most locals would agree has been a long time coming.

For more information and to register, visit gfnysantafe.com.

Half-Century Thoughts

(Story by Stanley Crawford/Photos by Gabriella Marks)

Fifty years ago, I arrived in Northern New Mexico along with my Australian wife RoseMary and our infant son Adam, ending an Odyssey that had begun on Crete with extended stops in Dublin and San Francisco, Calif. Northern New Mexico was then a still somewhat foreign country, not quite the U.S., not quite Mexico. As in many isolated mountain communities, newcomers were not exactly welcomed. But RoseMary and I had lived abroad for many years, seven in my case, and perhaps we had a better eye for cultural fault lines than many. In short order, we worked our way into the community of the Embudo Valley, RoseMary though writing and directing plays for classes at Dixon Elementary School, I through participating in the acequia that ran through our newly purchased two acres.

By the end of the 1970s, we had bought another couple of acres, rented four more, acquired our first tractor, and became full-time farmers, at least from May until November. We sold first at farmers’ markets in Taos and Santa Fe, then sold exclusively to Santa Fe restaurants, and in turn, moved into selling our garlic bunches and arrangements at craft fairs in Santa Fe, Taos, Los Alamos and Albuquerque. A few years later, in the mid-1980s, we returned to selling at the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market.

Then, in 1998, we downsized. Under a Ford Foundation grant, I worked for the Farmers’ Market nonprofit wing, and became project director in charge of planning for the future market permanent site, work I did for three years. At the end of that time, a three-year writing grant dropped from the sky, and I was able to write throughout the year, even during the summer—a great luxury. We mothballed the farm, as it were. We let go of our three-acre lease, sold off two acres. But I wasn’t particularly happy about becoming a custodian of a large non-productive property, our remaining two acres. After the grant money ran out, I somewhat reluctantly went back to farming. Eventually, reluctance became enthusiasm. After all, I knew how to do this, had the equipment. And I finally took an interest in drip irrigation, which allowed for more intensive plantings, more efficient irrigation, and involved less soil compaction. Soon, we were producing on our reduced space almost as much as we had been producing on some seven acres.

Before the respite of the two grant periods, RoseMary and I were physically and emotionally exhausted by the farming life and had mutinous thoughts about selling out and moving to Albuquerque to be closer to our daughter Katya. Though we had built up an impressive equity in the house and farm, we seemed trapped in an endless cycle of borrowing to get through the winter against summer hopes of paying off our various loans. My banker once warned: “Beware of the good financial year.” Beware, because the good year presents the rosy illusion of a prosperous future, leading you into spending money you should be saving—for the next bad year.

I resumed farming in my 70s with the realization that I would have to mechanize as much as possible to counter the effects of an inevitably aging body. At the cost, of course, of more debt. But the result is that now, at the end of the second decade of the 21st century, I am presiding over a four-row automatic garlic and shallot planter, two types of garlic harvesters, a garlic separator to break up bulbs for planting, a brusher-cleaner for cleaning bulbs prior to sale, an aged manure spreader, and a large array of powered and hand tools for soil preparation, crop cultivation and planting. The farm is about as automated as I can make it.

The farm also attracts the young. Three former students, one from my fiction-writing seminars at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and two from my Southwest literature class at Colorado College, became interns—and lasting friends. Plus a couple of friends of theirs. And the farm keeps me engaged—with the neighborhood, and with the extended family of fellow farmers and customers and managers of the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market. And I have come to appreciate, at this even more advanced age, the importance of keeping as physically active as I can. Sell out? Move away? It’s no longer a question. I keep the farm going, but the farm also keeps me going.

The farm has also provided a strange and unexpected gateway into the global economy through what was to have been a simple request to the U. S. Department of Commerce to review the tariffs of all garlic importers, under the guidance of international trade attorney Ted Hume, now of Taos. But this simple request opened, in the words of Yogi Berra, “a box of Pandoras,” which I have detailed in my forthcoming The Garlic Papers: A Small Garlic Farm in an Age of Global Vampires to be released by Santa Fe’s own Leaf Storm Press in October. A matter, as the cliché has it, of turning lemons into lemonade.

Who knows, this may be yet another new beginning. I’m wondering what other gifts my small farm will bestow on me.

Visit stanleycrawford.net.

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Stanley Crawford writes and farms in the Embudo Valley.

 

 

 

 

 

Vida Verde Farm

(Story by Emily Beenen/Photos by Joy Godfrey)

I read recently in a National Geographic article that only 12 plants and five animal species make up 75 percent of what the world eats, and when we think about increasing population and the need to “feed the world,” large-scale, industrial agriculture is often touted as the ultimate solution. But with such a small variety, these larger, commercial food systems are vulnerable to disease and disaster. Small farms like Vida Verde Farm in Albuquerque are becoming increasingly important for many reasons, not the least of which is strengthening food security. Small farms grow more variety, and tend toward heartier organic and heirloom vegetables, which increases biodiversity, which in turn fortifies the food system overall.

To be clear, Seth Matlick, owner and farmer at Vida Verde, says the farm’s not “certified” organic, but relies strictly on organic principles. Seth, who grew up on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, got his first exposure to a rural lifestyle outside the big city attending college at the University of Vermont, where the pastoral aesthetic that defines much of the state provided a contrasting perspective. After graduation, Seth became a “WWOOFer,” otherwise known as a volunteer for the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, in Costa Rica, where he spent four months on a homestead, helping out with the animals, the orchard and the vegetable garden in exchange for room and board. His interest in farming was piqued, and he decided to transition from a volunteer position to the more in-depth experience of an internship. He emailed six applications all over the United States, and lo and behold, New Mexico returned his email first! Two days later, Seth was on a bus headed to the North Valley, where from February to October 2008, he interned at Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm, which provided him with a framework of skills to take the leap when he was offered land to use.

Vida Verde was born in the winter of 2009, and the now 34-year-old Seth and his team of interns are just starting their 11th season. Seth describes the past decade of farming as a lot of trial and error, learning from his peers, personal research and plenty of good, old-fashioned making it up as they go along. His love for farming and the New Mexico lifestyle have become intertwined in the fields of the North Valley with its horizons nearly unimaginable to a child growing up in one of the most densely populated cities in the world. There were always unplanned problems that needed solving, but the seasons took on a cadence—prepping the fields around February, planting around March, starting harvest sometime in late April or early May through, roughly, Thanksgiving, with a lull in the field work to prep and plan from December to February.

That first season, Seth planned to be a market gardener, growing for the Downtown, Corrales and the Los Ranchos growers’ markets, but he grossly overestimated how much food they’d sell and ended up taking the surplus to Seasons Rotisserie & Grill, Artichoke Cafe and Jennifer James 101, restaurants with a reputation for buying local. The overestimation turned serendipitous, and once he had those three reputable chefs on board, other restaurants began placing orders with confidence. Seth saw an opportunity to broaden distribution, and the next season, he dialed back the market scene and began twice-weekly delivery to restaurants and La Montañita Co-op.

In hindsight, those initial interactions with local restaurants were part of a larger arc and revelation in Seth’s life. “One of the reasons I fell in love with farming is that I’ve always been a very enthusiastic eater,” says Seth, who comes from a family of strong women in the kitchen; his mom and grandma, specifically, are amazing cooks. Seth worked in restaurants in high school, and he continued to do so in different capacities for his first six years in Albuquerque, including at Seasons in Old Town. There were many days when he would farm from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., and cook from 4 to 10 p.m. “Keith and Kevin [Roessler] were really great to me, and I have to say, growing during the day, delivering the food I grew to the chef at Seasons, then prepping the food to serve that night because I worked at the salad station and cold appetizers—I loved it.” Seth understands that farmers who don’t know how to use their product or how to cook are worse off for it. “You need that intimacy,” he says, “or you’re losing half the knowledge of what this is good for.” He believes the same holds true for chefs, and encourages them to be inquisitive, have a garden at the restaurant or at home, or have conversations with farmers. “The chefs I love working with seem to have some knowledge of how the product is grown, or raised or produced,” he says. “The chefs that I think make the best food are the ones that get the whole system.”

One such chef is Eliza Esparza at Farina Downtown, who Seth notes is one of the top-five biggest supporters of Vida Verde Farm in volume and consistency. Richard Winters, the executive chef, is also an enormous proponent but is on a much-needed six-month sabbatical. Eliza, whose been at Farina nine years, says Seth “keeps us in the know about what he’s planting, and he’ll even take requests.” The produce is always top quality, and Seth also makes clear attempts to keep things interesting, introducing new produce, such as Eliza’s favorite, the Spanish Black Radish, a crisp, larger radish that is slightly bitter and quite spicy. Laughing a little bit at herself, Eliza shares what might be the thing everyone loves about farmers but feels too self conscious or sentimental to say. “I really like that I can get an email from Seth about a produce order and he delivers it, in his overalls, all full of dirt. You can tell he’s been harvesting all morning, and there’s something wholesome and comforting about that.” Seeing the dirt and the work is inspiring to her. “When you buy local, it does require more attention, you have to put more time and effort, but there’s a lot there in return. It warms me to see that we’re in this together.”

Restaurant customers reap the benefits of this hard work and these relationships, but Seth notes they can reciprocate and advocate by taking the dialogue a step further. “When you sit down to eat, ask, ‘What’s in season?’ Or, ‘Which menu item has the featured local ingredient?’ Then order that dish, because the quicker the chef goes through that, the quicker the chefs order more and then they see that their customers truly value the local products and are willing to move beyond just the expectation to see ‘local’ on the menu to investigate what that claim means.”

When asked why he’s never had Vida Verde certified organic, Seth simply says, “I’d rather be on a tractor than a computer and I’d rather be in the field than at a desk.” He knows the farm’s already growing within the organic standards (and sometimes even stricter standards because there are organic-approved herbicides and pesticides, but Vida Verde is completely chemical free). Seth’s maintained the mantra and strategy to “plant, plant, keep planting, keep food going in because you might have an unforeseen failure, and because I assume there will be a percentage of crop loss to pests, to geese, to weeds, to bad germination.” But mostly, being able to take a bite of produce plucked directly from the ground motivates Seth to farm without chemicals. “I feel safe eating the food in my fields,” he says, “and that’s how I want everyone to feel.”

Vida Verde spent much of its first 10 years figuring out the how-to’s of organic farming, but now Seth’s ready to look beyond season to season. There’s an adage he shares with me toward the end of our conversation: “Young farmers plant radishes, old farmers plant trees.” Currently, Vida Verde rents land from seven different landowners, which, despite its hectic moments, has been reciprocal and beneficial for all parties. But Seth’s looking for a longterm lease on one big plot so he can move beyond “radishes” and start planting “fruit trees and perennial herbs and rhubarb and asparagus and maybe incorporating animals into the rotation and have the sustained infrastructure that looks down the road.” It’s a difficult decision because it’s hard to plant something you might not get a yield from in five or even 10 years. “You need the certainty and confidence that you’re going to be there in a decade,” Seth says. He started farming when he was 24 and didn’t know where he’d be when he was 35, but “after farming for a while, I got a truck, then a tractor, I got a dog, I got married, I got a house. Thinking ahead feels less intimidating the more rooted you get in your community.”

Malandro Farm, the Second Generation

(Story by Lynn Cline/Photos by Douglas Merriam)

Up in Abiquiú, beneath the northern slopes of the Jemez Mountains and ancient towering cottonwoods, Lisa Anderson and Jim Benson work the land on their Malandro Farm, coaxing sweet potatoes, sweet and shelling peas, carrots and other vegetables from the same earth where Jim’s parents farmed a generation earlier. This farm is where Jim grew up, and it’s where he and Lisa are raising their three young children, who frolic in the fields, eagerly tasting each new crop as it comes in. Their connection to place is palpable, and that bond likely has something to do with why their kale, radishes, tomatoes, squash—and every other food they grow—taste so delicious.

“I love the work, otherwise we wouldn’t be doing it,” Lisa says, surveying their field while keeping a close eye on Zoe, age 7, Ila, 4, and Kaleb, 2, as they run circles around us while we chat beneath an old cottonwood outside their farmhouse. “Even weeding. I love being connected to nature, to our food supply, and being able to work from home. The kids help minimally (physically) but emotionally and energetically, they help.”

Jim finds satisfaction in the continuity of life on this land, where he grew up as the child of hippies. “For me, a lot of it is I just like the idea of doing good and making a living at it,” he says. “Doing minimal harm; it’s the least harm you can do almost, as far as participating in society and making a living. And obviously, for me, feeling the connection to the land. Hopefully…I’m passing something worthwhile on to my family.”

You’ve likely tasted the fresh, flavorful fruits of their labors—all certified organic—at the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market, where Lisa sells year-round, or at the Taos Farmers Market, where Jim brings a truckload of freshly plucked ingredients to vend. There’s a steady stream of customers at both Lisa’s booth in Santa Fe and Jim’s stall in Taos, where tomatoes are their most popular item, as Zoe enthusiastically points out. Her mom agrees. “We get those tomatoes early, and I would say, we do have a following for those,” Lisa says. “But I know that people know us for our carrots.” Jim can see why that’s true. “I really love carrots,” he says. “People talk about tomatoes fresh off the vine, but for me, carrots straight out of the ground—there’s just something about them that feels alive.”

You don’t have to spend much time on Malandro Farm to sense the deep passion this family shares for their land. And it comes as no surprise to learn they received the Organic Young Farmer Award from this year’s New Mexico Organic Farming Conference. Sponsored by the New Mexico Farm & Livestock Bureau, the award cites Lisa and Jim’s “focus on providing their customers with the freshest food possible while striving to ensure that the land is continually improving its soil health and biological diversity through the use of cover crops, green manure, compost and crop rotation.”

“We add a lot of compost,” Lisa explains. “We try as much as we can to do cover crops, and vetch is definitely my favorite. It gets planted in the fall and worked in in the spring, and we use winter wheat and peas if vetch doesn’t work. To some extent, it’s just having this buffer zone around us, pasture that is minimally grazed, a lot of wild land that was left untamed by Jim’s parents being here.”

Malandro Farm sits on 47 acres, but only two acres are utilized for growing. Some of the land not in production is occupied by their goats or used as pastures for cows owned by friends and neighbors. “Having all that undisturbed soil around means that there’s a big storehouse maintained in the greater area around here,” Jim says. “Also, we try to minimize tilling. We think carefully about the timing of it so we don’t have to till twice. We’ll never leave a piece of land uncovered in this environment because the wind will blow all your topsoil away. Lisa’s very conscientious about rotating crops.” Lisa nods, and adds, “I try to put three years between crops.”

The two acres in production at Malandro Farm are dominated by three high, tented tunnels that Lisa and Jim call caterpillar tunnels. These 14- and 15-foot-high hoop structures, covered with white tents that are easy to move and with sides you can raise, were purchased with the help of the National Resources Conservation Service. This cost-sharing program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, aimed at conserving natural resources, provides technical assistance to farmers and other private landowners. Beneath each tent lies a virtual Garden of Eden, a green oasis of tall vines of sweet and shelling peas, rows and rows of tomatoes, pickling cucumbers, carrots, beets, lettuce, fennel and so much more.

These two farmers met in Tucson, Ariz., when they were working in the same vegetarian restaurant. “I was really passionate about food and had been working in a restaurant and in a small organic market in the produce department,” Lisa says. “And I was seeing farmers coming in and doing deliveries, so I just got more interested in their side of it rather than the retail side. I did an internship on a farm in Colorado, in 2007, outside of Ignacio. I had a great mentor, but I also just recognized I really preferred to work for myself, and that, to some extent, I can learn this.”

At that point, Jim was taking care of the Abiquiú property because his dad was leaving. “After her trip to Colorado, we took a trip to Brazil,” Jim says. “She was clear she wanted to come back here and grow and farm. I realized I needed to be together with Lisa and I needed to offer support.”

And so, in 2008, Malandro Farm was born as a small operation, lovingly nurtured into the success it is today. “This was all Lisa’s dream,” Jim says. “I wanted nothing to do with it. But I definitely have become more involved every year.” He’s a vital part of the farm, but he’s also in the process of becoming a professional firefighter, which will provide job security and, because of long shifts that alternate with longer off-shifts, allow him some solid chunks of time at home and on the farm.

Lisa and Jim are not alone in their love of farming in New Mexico. According to newly released data from the 2017 Census of Agriculture, New Mexico is one of just a few states where the number of farms continues to grow and the number of young people drawn to farming is also on the rise. In addition, 41 percent of the state’s producers in family farms are female, reflecting Lisa’s role at Malandro Farm.

Behind the stats, though, farming is never easy or glamorous, no matter how many customers love your carrots and tomatoes. “There’s the unpredictability of the weather, the uncertainty of the water supply, and we have problems with pests,” Lisa says. “Even if you can get past all of those things, it’s a lot of work, and it’s emotionally and physically draining.”

And yet, the rewards are great. “Part of the satisfaction for me in farming here is bringing to fruition what my parents envisioned, to get this piece of property so that it will sustain their children, to get ‘back to the land,’ raising my kids on the same property I grew up on,” Jim says. “Knowing that my kids are eating…”

“…Healthy food!” Zoe interjects happily, and her parents break into broad smiles.

The Golden Circle: Tales of the Luddite Chef

(Story by Katharine Kagel / Photos by Gabriella Marks)

This Luddite Chef is devoted to all things low-tech, especially when there are high-yield results to be had. We hear it everyday, we read it everyday; our sorry, exhausted planet is pleading for inspirational solutions to human desecration. As a restaurateur with breakfast, lunch and dinner services seven days a week, I have a trove of food scraps ready for reuse. As you’ll see from the story about to unfold before you, there is a brilliant, sustainable answer to reusing our city’s commercial and household daily food waste. The stage is set; now, we only need the actors—ourselves and the political will of our city’s decision makers—to make household food scrap and commercial food waste a daily system for Reunity Resources’ curbside pick up.

Lucky for us, a vibrant collaborative, win-win project awaits. An innovative project that uses the most basic of technologies—human ingenuity, imaginative brain power, compassion, dedication, mastery, patience, goodwill, backbone, joy and foresight—is already at play here in Santa Fe. Impish Juliana and pensive Tejinder Ciano, the dynamic duo who first established the small commercial cooking-oil- to bio-fuel-recycling business Reunity Resources, have grown it into an estimable full-circle, sustainable, environment-saving model. For eight years, they’ve been collecting cooking oil from some 100 businesses in Santa Fe and Albuquerque and turning it into bio-fuel. And these days, they also transform food scraps into excellent compost.

Juliana had her first vision of such resource cycling back in the third grade when she was asked to contribute to her school’s science fair. Young Juliana invented in her youthful mind a machine to vacuum pollution out of the air and send it into the soil. She didn’t have the science then, but has discovered since that she could fulfill her childhood dream with the work she and her husband Tejinder have created alongside compost expert Trevor Ortiz at Reunity Resources.

Tejinder realized through his meditation practice that he, too, wanted to contribute to a life in service beyond himself. After his college years, and playing in a band in Los Angeles, he relocated to Northern New Mexico to create a life doing his part in building a sustainable community. That’s when he met and married Juliana.

As the parents of two small boys, the Cianos are dedicated to generativity and a nurturing care for the planet, because that’s what they most want to give to their children and future generations. Their systematic solutions with the attendant ripple effect are already in high gear—right here, right now.

Their solutions lie in their creation, Reunity Resources, a nonprofit closed-loop food project. For the past four years, they’ve been collecting food scraps from some 51 area restaurants and school cafeterias. They’ve taught more than 15,000 school children how to separate their food scraps from other waste. Source-separating and processing food scraps into compost has resulted in mountains of compost for sale to area gardeners and farmers.

The compost Reunity makes has a lasting beneficial impact on Santa Fe. More than one million pounds of food scraps are diverted annually from our landfill and put to work in area farms and gardens. Their method of composting sets up the carbon sequestration cycle, which can actually reverse climate change by removing carbon from the atmosphere. (You go, little Juliana!) Last year, Reunity sold and donated a total of 8,000 cubic yards of compost to area gardens. The equivalent of 19,000 car emissions was mitigated last year alone.

Reunity transforms the mountains of food waste collections by a method known as an Aerated Static Pile composting system. They use large machinery minimally. Turning the windrows of compost can make carbon dioxide and risks the troubling possibility of the compost going anaerobic and creating methane. Reunity uses a nifty system.

Aerating the compost piles is accomplished from the inside out, with a timed fan blowing air into a perforated pipe running through the base of the piles. The regular infusion of air into the center of the piles allows the compost to “cook” at temps that reach 130-160 degrees. These high temperatures can break down not just wet scraps but also meats, dairy and citrus—items usually excluded from home-scale composting systems. Even weed seeds are killed in the high-temp processing method, so spreading this compost can be done with confidence. Because of the high-heat system, no pesticides or other possibly dangerous residuals have been found by third-party labs.

After 30 days in the Aerated Static Piles, the compost cures for a minimum of 30 days with attention to the propagation of beneficial micro-fungi, micro-bacteria and nematodes. The compost is available as top dressing for scattering on lawns, pastures or on cover crops, and also as enriched compost to amend soil for better plantings. Mulch and worm compost are also sold to add to the garden for growth enhancement and protection of plants.

OH, WORMS! Worms are farmed by Reunity in a 40-foot-long high tunnel so that the worm-castings (poop) are then packaged and sold in one-pound bags for home gardeners to enrich existing plants or as a soil amendment for initial plantings; these bags are available from Reunity Farm and also sold at Agua Fria Nursery.

The fine-screened compost in all its forms is available at Reunity Farm for pick up or delivery. Container-ready potting mixes by the cubic-foot bag or in bulk by the cubic yard for garden or farm are also available at Reunity Resources.

In March of this year, Reunity Resources purchased Santa Fe Community Farm, continuing the legacy of Founder/Farmer John Stephenson. After witnessing the ravages of hunger in war-torn Europe during and after World War II, John, a veteran, created the three-acre farm and 80-tree orchard located at San Ysidro Crossing to combat hunger here at home. John dedicated his life to growing food communally, with volunteer help, to donate to our city’s hunger-relief organizations. He loved what he called “The Golden Circle,” in which food and farm waste is composted and then put back into the farm’s soil to grow more produce for the community good. Upon his death at 102 years old, his children decided to sell to Reunity Resources so the mission their father began some 70 years ago would continue.

The farm John Stephenson created operated with the determined effort from an ever-changing corps of Santa Fe area volunteers in addition to its small board and staff. Now, under Reunity Resources’ stewardship, Reunity Farm continues the mission efficiently with their new practices. Last year alone, more than 10,000 pounds of the farm’s production was contributed to area hunger organizations—that’s roughly $25,000 worth of food to combat hunger.

A perfect example of The Loop in action is Kitchen Angels, a recipient of Reunity Farm’s donated produce. Kitchen Angels uses the donated produce to prepare daily meals delivered at no charge for their homebound clients. The food scraps that are source-separated at Kitchen Angels’ facility during food production of the recipients’ meals are then picked up by Reunity Resources for composting. Eventually, the compost and mulch is dug into Reunity Farm’s rows by farm volunteers and a few paid staff members to create healthy and flourishing crops for purchase and for Kitchen Angels, among other food-security groups.

The Food Depot, YouthWorks, Adelante Development Center, and Feeding Santa Fe also receive donated produce from the farm and orchard, and they, too, collaborate as contributing partners in this genius sustainable food loop.

This spring, to help along “The Golden Circle,” Reunity Farm needs our support. Like any community garden, upfront cash is needed at the start of the season. Reunity is issuing a $100 Farm Card, good for a 10-percent discount on all purchased produce during the growing season, both at the farm and at their booth at The Santa Fe Farmers’ Market. It is my earnest hope as a dedicated luddite chef who believes in community solutions that commercial food-waste pick ups become a daily occurrence in Santa Fe. To become a local reality, household weekly food-scrap curbside pick up, as proposed to the city by Reunity Resources, needs constituent lobbying of city councilors and the mayor. Call, write, e-mail, support. The future is determined by the determined.

Reunity Resources is a community-wide effort, and its dedicated founders need us, as concerned Santa Fe citizens, to become dynamic partners in order to ensure our resources are responsibly invested. The many harmonic integrated parts of this remarkable work are inspirational and accessible to everyone. Let’s join in to help create mulch mulch more of the Cianos’ gentle but imperative community-building dream machine.

Sidebar:

Reunity Farm

Shop for produce, flowers and fruit at The Farmstand at Reunity Farm, open Tuesdays 3-7 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m.-3 p.m., June through November.

The Reunity Farm Card offers a discount of 10 percent on all purchases from Reunity Farm or The Reunity Farm Booth at the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market on Tuesdays and Saturdays throughout the farm’s season, June – November. The prepaid card supports The Reunity Farm Project and is used to buy produce and flowers. There’s a $100 minimum with no upward limit on the card. Limited cards are on offer for 10-percent off this season’s produce.

Buy a $10 Reunity Farm Membership and be called/messaged first for u-pick days at Reunity Farm as a delicious and nourishing perk. Visit reunityresources.com.

Experience the Farm and contribute your time to growing crops for those in need Tuesdays from 3-7 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m.-3 p.m., beginning in June. Volunteers are encouraged to bring a friend and a picnic to relax and enjoy, and then work the soil and get their hands dirty.

Reunity Resources Composting

To purchase compost delivered by the yard, contact 505.393.1196.

To purchase compost/mulch/potting mix/worm castings, haul in your truck/trailer or purchase by the bag. Visit Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. and Saturdays, 9 a.m.-noon (Note: Saturdays only, April-June).

To contribute food scraps/cooking oil from your business or institution, contact 505.393.1196.

Want a home-composting collection bin in Santa Fe County? Visit reunityresources.com. Reunity will deliver the bin and pick up your home food scraps for a small fee.

Want to drop off your home composting at Reunity Farm? Drive on in to 1829 San Ysidro Crossing between 9 a.m.-5 p.m. any day, and drive 50 yards straight ahead and drop-off your food scraps at the compost sign.

More Ways to Get Involved

Home Compost Collection is not yet available for pick up in the City of Santa Fe as of this writing. Encourage your city councilors and the mayor to institute a program of curb-side home-food-waste pick up, as proposed by Reunity Resources, by emailing City Hall; visit santafenm.gov.

A letter to the newspaper of your choice calling for home-composting curbside pick-up by Reunity Resources in the City of Santa Fe might further nudge the city’s decision makers.

To make a Donation to Reunity Farm, book a workshop or presentation, schedule a field trip, or for other educational opportunities, contact farm@reunityresources.com. To volunteer at Reunity Farm, contact farm@reunityresources.com.

To learn more about the Farm, food collection, composting, Harvest Groups and beyond, visit reunityresources.com.

The Luddite Chef suggests: Please do whatever you can to alleviate food insecurity in our community.

Far Flung Adventures

Photo by Maria Blosser

(Story by Toner Mitchell/Photographs courtesy of Far Flung Adventures)

For most of its 40-year existence, Far Flung Adventures, one of the oldest and most esteemed rafting companies in New Mexico, has been helmed by Steve Harris. Starting a rafting company flowed naturally from his youth spent afloat; Steve had a “particular passion for rivers,” was an avid canoeist in his Oklahoma home country, and he fondly remembers visiting Big Bend National Park as a Boy Scout and thrilling at the prospect of “going down the river and [seeing] what was around the next bend.”

Harris is also well known as one of the West’s most sensible and eloquent river advocates, particularly on the Rio Grande, the Rio Chama and the Gila River. In most industries, few would doubt that running a business entails significant efforts to protect one’s cash cow. As Steve observed in his early days of rafting, however, most industries did not include rafting.

Or so it appeared in the early 1970s, when a young Steve Harris was earning his river-running chops on California’s Stanislaus River. The Stanislaus was the target of the proposed New Melones Dam, a project that would inundate much of the nation’s deepest limestone canyon, a section favored by a nascent and quickly growing white-water industry. In a long and hard-fought battle, Steve and his compatriots gathered enough signatures to create an anti-New Melones state ballot initiative, and although this referendum failed, it served as a galvanizing moment for river conservation ever since (Friends of the River, the California river protection group, was born of the New Melones campaign).

Photo by Michael de Young

“We learned first-hand how swiftly and brutally a river’s life could be ended, and got an object lesson on how one could succeed as an activist,” Steve recalls. “It’s pretty simple, having this traumatic experience of

Photo by Seth Roffman

a river being developed out from under you, and subsequent events in many of the rivers in California; through this process of degrading and developing every developable section of rivers in the western United States and worldwide, the existence of wild rivers was very much imperiled. So if you enjoyed your experience, would you not want the same experience to be available in 10 years to a person you’ve never met, who doesn’t even exist yet? In 20 years, in 50 years?”

A strangling drought from 1974 through 1975 forced Steve out of California and back to Texas, where he began exploring the Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park. In 1976, he and buddy Mike Davidson yearned to make permanent their rafting lifestyle. They combined their savings, bought some surplus gear, and hung out their shingle as Far Flung Adventures. In 1979, their company secured one of the first Bureau of Land Management commercial permits on the Taos Box, a section of the Rio Grande that Steve likens to the Stanislaus in terms of wildness, beauty and technical difficulty.

Since that humble beginning, Far Flung has blossomed into a modern, full-service river operation offering a range of single and multi-day options on the Rio Grande, Gila and Chama rivers, as well as customized trips to locations as remote as Mexico. Far Flung also offers courses in inflatable kayaking and swift water rescue, as well as interpretive trips where customers can learn about local geology and archeology.

Far Flung also partners with other recreational outfitters to offer combination excursions such as Rock and Raft (morning of climbing, afternoon float), Saddle Paddle (horseback in the morning, afternoon float) and hiking/rafting combinations as well. My personal favorite is Far Flung’s combo rafting/fly fishing float through the Middle Box, a section of the Rio Grande that is seldom rafted or fished. This is an overnight adventure featuring great food and spectacular scenery, and it’s scheduled in spring and fall, when the fishing on the Rio is at its very best.

Photo by Michael de Young

The incredibly snow-blessed 1980s made for big rapids and long seasons, abundant and reliable water that enabled Far Flung to expand. At the end of this wet period, however, the State of Colorado exercised its rights under the Rio Grande Compact­­—a binding water agreement between Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and Mexico—to meet its downstream obligations early and capture the year’s remaining water at the expense of downstream users. Like rafters. This experience ultimately inspired Steve to found Rio Grande Restoration in 1994, a nonprofit dedicated “to returning the Rio Grande to health by providing an improved flow regime of high quality water.”

Potential beneficiaries include rafters, farmers, ranchers and other citizens throughout the basin, and while Far Flung Adventures has a vested interest in the success of Rio Grande Restoration’s mission, its underlying objectives are community-based. At its current capacity, for example, the company can put 35 boats in New Mexico rivers on any given day. The men and women it employs live in towns where they buy local and participate in local activities and organizations. They pay rents and mortgages, grow gardens and send children to school, all while attracting out-of-state revenue to New Mexico. Certainly, Far Flung is profit-motivated to improve flows, but as a purveyor of high-quality recreational products, it has an existential interest not only in itself, but in the communities—and landscapes—its neighbors call home.

As Steve puts it, “The idea is view water as more than a commodity, to balance ownership interests with common interests.” Nowhere is this idea put to better practice than in the Rio Chama Flow Project, Steve’s effort to adjust operations at El Vado Reservoir toward the combined benefits of increasing recreational opportunity (and economy), ecological resiliency and diversity, and meeting water delivery mandates to downstream tribes and farmers in the Middle Rio Grande. Before launching this project, Steve had already participated in negotiating flow regimes that served weekend rafting with no injury to downstream users, effectively adding value to every drop of water leaving El Vado.

The Flow Project applies this same model to ecological values. “Knowing we could craft a win-win between rafters and downstream water rights owners, we thought we could do the same thing with the Chama’s ecology,” Steve says.

Mandated by law to only store and deliver water to distant downstream users, El Vado is essentially a faucet, the Chama a mere pipe. Before rafters and, most recently, Rio Grande Restoration got engaged, dam releases were often destructive to the Chama’s ecology, eroding the channel and its banks, and altering sediment transport at the expense of wildlife, particularly brown trout spawning habitat and food supply.

While meeting water delivery targets, the Flow Project seeks to mimic natural flow regimes as closely as possible to mitigate dam impacts on cottonwood groves, bank vegetation and sediment composition. Project stakeholders include scientists, management agencies, urban water utilities, fishermen, boaters, members of local communities and irrigators as far away as Socorro. They’re in it for the long haul, even though, to date, the project’s achievements have been small and seemingly random. What’s important, in Steve’s opinion, is inclusivity. “Listen to everyone,” he says, “because each of us holds a piece of the truth, a piece of the answer.”

To an environmentalist’s eye, improving Chama ecology is enough in itself. Though not necessarily of a different ethic, the rafting enthusiast has equal cause to celebrate. And, why not? Between El Vado and the Monastery of Christ in the Desert above Abiquiu Reservoir, all but the very upper reach of the Chama can only be experienced by floating. The canyon is among the earth’s most beautiful places, featuring painted orange cliffs, majestic ponderosas, the occasional monster brown trout, and enough pulse-charging rapids to keep one on her toes. And thanks to reliably scheduled dam releases, this experience is available throughout a long summer season, even in drought years.

Photo by Irene Owsley

This beauty and reliability are why so much of Far Flung Adventure’s program has been built around the Chama. Along with its far-from-routine three-day packages, Far Flung’s 2019 schedule includes a three-day music trip (June 21-23) featuring Brent Berry and the Neighbors, a guitar, banjo, mandolin trio that will finish each thrill-packed day with a fireside bluegrass jam. Far Flung has also scheduled two Chama yoga retreats (July 20-22 and Sept. 24-26), where planned yoga sessions will begin and end the days.

Music and yoga—were there ever more perfect complements to a wilderness adventure of rediscovering our natural rhythms on a river that is trying, with Steve Harris’ significant help, to do the same? Imagining being on one of those trips (and having actually floated down the Chama with Steve), I have difficulty discerning where the rafting part ends and the conservation begins.

Sure, when you book with Far Flung Adventures, your guide will be trained in CPR, Swiftwater Rescue and Wilderness First Response. He or she will be schooled through experience on the creatures, petroglyphs and geological formations you float by, as well as on regional culture and customs. Your guide will keep you safe, well fed and hydrated, all so you can get what you came for. Fun.

What you should not expect, even in the unlikely event that Steve Harris himself is your guide (Will Blackstock, long-time Far Flung guide, has taken the helm at Far Flung Adventures as Steve eases into retirement), is a lecture on conservation. The river will take care of that.

“Rivers tend to move people if they’re open to it,” Steve says. “Our net catches good people.”

To find out more about Far Flung Adventures, visit farflung.com or call 1.800.359.2627.