Homesteaders

Farm to Table Editorial - Homesteading

Nazca Warren

Finding the meaning in a phrase like “homesteading” is a journey in itself. And that makes sense, really. Over the course of meeting and talking with people who organize their lives around the concept, it became clear to me that to “homestead” is no singular act; it is not a verb constrained by strict definitions. Consider instead meaning drawn from patterns—lives lived one day at a time, based on a series of small conscious choices, the sum of which create a system of living in closer harmony with ourselves and the land.

I take personal refuge in this route to understanding Homesteading because, perhaps like you, I was more than a little daunted by the formality of the pursuit by the puritanism I had projected onto the term. In short, I’d imagined “The Homesteader” as someone of heroic proportions and deeply rooted convictions, someone ready to eschew the comforts of modern living for bootstrapped self-sufficiency of nearly monastic proportions. Maybe chalk that up in part to a penchant for the dramatic and my own idiosyncratic way of seeing just how much greener that xeriscaped garden is on the other side.

But like so many misconceptions, that premise was a false binary. There isn’t an “us and them,” and we’re cast along a continuum. Those of us living and thriving in Northern New Mexico have the increasingly rare and precious privilege of living in a liminal realm between urban and rural. The non-negotiable realities of living in a desert—even one at high altitude—dictate a level of environmental awareness that is conspicuously absent in other regions. Before moving here, I’d never seen a rain barrel—despite having lived most of my life in California, a state chronically challenged by drought.

Rain barrels, cisterns and makeshift water catchment systems are practically par for the course here. And that’s a defining aspect of the domestic landscape here: without making great sacrifice or any big fuss, many of us are already incorporating aspects of homesteading. At its elemental root, it’s about a common-sense relationship with the land. Continue reading

Harvest Time in Corrales

deesanchez-2016-posterA 1930s tractor pulling a trailer stacked with hay bales chugs past farm stands overflowing with fresh-from-the-vine tomatoes and chiles. Horses clop down main street past musicians strumming folk music. These sights are juicy slices of Americana, and they aren’t scenes of yesteryear. In Corrales, they unfold during the annual Corrales Harvest Festival, held Oct. 15–16.

Farming has deep roots here—from the Tiwa Puebloans who resided in pit houses here around 500 A.D. to the two-dozen Spanish families who settled along the floodplain of lower Corrales in the 1700s. In the 1800s, gourds gave way to grapes when French and Italian immigrants planted vineyards. Later, prohibition stamped out these vineyards, and cattle ranching, orchards, and cornfields moved in.

The Harvest Festival has more contemporary origins, though. When the San Ysidro Church decided to forgo its own seasonal celebrations, Corrales grand-dam Evelyn Losack decided to continue the festivities in her own way in 1985. (Losack passed away earlier this year.) That year, Al Knight, an early volunteer, visited Disneyland and marveled at the way the vacation spot transported visitors from the parking lot to the main gates. He and a few friends, including Roy Soto and Rick Harris, gave the system some local flavor, revving the engines of their tractors and hitching trailers to transport visitors from La Entrada, down Corrales Road, to the Old Church. Since then, the hayride circuit has been the festival’s marquee attraction—and primary not-so-rapid-transit system. Continuing the festival’s tongue-in-cheek nature, the trio even made themselves Corrales Yacht Club jackets to wear while driving. The Kiwanis Club of Corrales Foundation took over organizing the festival a few years ago, giving the grassroots effort a bit more formality. Continue reading

Support New Mexico Chile Growers- A Letter from Pamela Schaefer

It’s that time of year. The nights are getting cooler, and on sunny weekend days, the smell of green chile being roasted fills the air and sets our senses tingling.   But do you know where the chile you are buying or ordering in your favorite restaurant was grown? Just because you find chile in New Mexico, doesn’t mean it is from New Mexico.

New Mexico chile is known for its incredible flavor and fiery heat. Chile is so intrinsic to everything New Mexican that our state question is “Red or Green?” We put it on everything from eggs to cheeseburgers to turkey sandwiches and pizza. Chile production contributes significantly to our state’s economy and tourism industry and is celebrated at festivals throughout the state.

Chile harvested in New Mexico has been in continual decline, with foreign companies taking advantage of reduced regulation and cheap, plentiful labor. If this trend continues, our chile crop could virtually disappear in a few years. You have probably heard the stories about chile being sold as “Hatch” or “New Mexico Grown”, when it comes from outside New Mexico, or even outside the United States. You would probably be surprised at the popular New Mexican restaurants that use chile grown outside of New Mexico.

In response to consumer demand for real, authentic, home grown New Mexican chile, The New Mexico Chile Association developed The New Mexico Certified Chile Program (NMCC). The NMCC works to verify and certify the chile you buy and consume is actually grown in New Mexico, and it is free for small farmers, farmers markets, restaurants, grocers and distributors.

How can you be certain that you are getting genuine New Mexico chile? Ask! Next time you eat out or purchase chile to cook at home, ask where the chile comes from. Look for the NMCC logo at your favorite restaurant and read grocery store labels carefully. If you are proud of the tradition that chile represents and want the guarantee of the unique flavor, high quality and reputation of New Mexico chile, make sure it is certified, home grown in New Mexico. Ask your grocer to stock New Mexico chile and New Mexico chile products. When you dine out, ask for New Mexico chile.

You have many choices with places to eat and buy chile. If you support the chile growers and producers that are keeping the tradition of New Mexico grown chile alive, then frequent the restaurants and buy from those that are certified by the NMCC. Help ensure that we will continue to grow and enjoy the best chile in the world for generations to come.

Pamela Schaefer, Director
New Mexico Certified Chile Program

Still Hungry? June 2015: Farmers’ Favorites

Local Flavor has been tuned into and talking to the New Mexico farming community for 20 years and in that time a lot of very special people have appeared on our pages. Just stop by the Farmer’s Market in Santa Fe on a Saturday and you’ll see how integral these people are to our community and how much locals enjoy knowing the people who raise their food, from vegetables to meat to honey. This month we revisited several of our past favorites to see what they were up to and asked for some of their favorite recipes. Continue reading

Harvest the Sun

Solar-TesuqueCoal is the single greatest cause of climate change. When we boot up our computers or flick the light switch, most of us are getting our electricity from the Public Service Company of New Mexico’s (PNM) coal plant. Most people know New Energy Economy for our work to close coal. We also create opportunities for energy alternatives, with real world solutions.

New Energy Economy uses model solar electric system installations as a means to: 1) demonstrate the financial, environmental and health benefits of solar to hundreds of people; 2) repurpose money previously allocated to utility bill payment for vital programs that service the community; and 3) build durability for our community institutions through a highly visible and notable community project with well-established local partners. We call this energy democracy. New Energy Economy develops community-scale solar energy installations on fire stations, community centers and tribal facilities to expose the vision of what’s possible and educate the public about the economic, health and environmental benefits of renewable energy. To date, we have installed six solar systems throughout New Mexico, including: Crownpoint Chapter House on Navajo Nation, the Taytsugeh Oweengeh Intergenerational Center at the Pueblo of Tesuque, the City of Santa Fe’s largest fire station, Santa Fe County’s fire stations in Tesuque and in Chimayo, and the Zona Del Sol Youth and Family community center. Our latest solarization partnership was again with the Pueblo of Tesuque—this time solarizing two green hoop houses. Continue reading

From Photosynthesis to Photovoltaics

life-of-solarIt’s rare to pick up a newspaper and not find at least one headline about solar and wind power, electric cars and battery development. Renewable power is here, and here to stay.

Not that it’s ever gone away. As a farmer, I’ve lived off of photosynthesis for the past 40 years, and of course sun-powered storms have brought the rain and snow that allow plants to tap into the nutrients in the soil. And fossil fuels, though not renewable, being compressed organic matter from eons past, began as plants and creatures ultimately powered by the sun. Sailing ships have been with us for millennia, windmills for hundreds of years. What’s historically new are silicon-based photovoltaic cells that can convert sunlight into electricity, though harvesting sunlight for electricity seems a natural extension of using it to grow crops.

Continue reading