Get Your Hands in the Dirt

Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 11.32.45 AMThe degree to which we’re willing to care for something is based in the value we see in it. So it seems that solutions to the environmental troubles we face lie partly in reevaluating our relationship with nature. There is perhaps no better way of experiencing our place in this remarkable web of life called Earth than tending a small piece of it, in planting a garden. Get your hands in the dirt, have some successes, some failures, some surprises. Figure out what works. Experience directly what nature is up to, both that which is around us and in us. Continue reading

Yanni’s Urban Garden

Nicole Kapnison and Co.

Photos by Joy Godfrey

Wisdom is often hard earned, but the true testament of the strength of that wisdom is when it is shared and honored from one generation to the next. Nicole Kapnison was 6 years old when her parents opened Yanni’s in 1993. Since 2011, she and her mother, Chris Komis, have used the accumulated wisdom of those 21 years to modernize and progress to keep pace with the shifting restaurant scene. Continue reading

All Local All the Time

CSA egg, cabbage, carrotOn a bright Thursday morning, a group of six people have set up a temporary camp of sorts at the Hillside Market in Santa Fe, packing produce into boxes and reusable grocery bags. It’s member pickup day for Beneficial Farms CSA, Steve and Colleen Warshawer’s family business. The couple is joined by three volunteers (as well as some of the volunteers’ tiny, adorable children) and Colleen’s son Thomas Swendson, who moved to Albuquerque from Denver three years ago to work for MoGro, a nonprofit mobile grocery store that supports sustainable local food distribution. “I’ve been doing more of the technical side parttime for Beneficial Farms,” he says, “but in the past month, it’s been more handson.” Despite everyone working to a tight deadline, the collective vibe is laidback and friendly. But laidback does not mean slack, as any conversation with Steve quickly demonstrates.

Though not from a farming family himself, Steve knew he wanted to go into agriculture after spending time as a teenager working on a co-op farm located in Georgia. He came to New Mexico in the late 1970s as a junior at St. John’s College; when he finished up that academic year, his path took a different turn. “The land that we live on was purchased with my senior year tuition savings, and I didn’t return to school after,” he says. Thus began the long road to creating a working farm, which didn’t come into full existence until 1993. Initially the land, about 25 miles southeast of Santa Fe, was vacant unmanaged ranch land, and all infrastructure had to be put in place. There was, says Steve, “no water, fences, roads, anything.” Continue reading

In Chile We Trust

In Chile We TrustI admit that upon moving to New Mexico it took me longer than some to fully embrace the state vegetable. In fact, at the risk of losing my New Mexico residency card, I’ll go so far as to say that I still prefer my pizza and hamburgers to be chile free. Days can go by without a chile appearing on my menu, and my comfort food is more along the lines of risotto or mashed potatoes, sans chile, than it is mac and cheese with chile or a heaping plate of chile cheese fries. Chile has gradually crept into my diet, however, and I certainly don’t stare at the waitress with a blank look on my face and stutter when asked, “Red or green?” Chile rellenos and carne adovada, two dishes unheard of in the East, have become favorites. But I guess I’m kind of vanilla in my chile tastes—I like it on New Mexican food but not crossing over into other cuisines and, beyond the occasional breakfast burrito (usually eaten when there’s a tray of them at an early work meeting), it certainly doesn’t carry over into breakfast.

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Roxanne Swentzell

Roxanne Swentzell in the gardenWhen she was little, exploring among old ruins, Roxanne Swentzell remembers occasionally finding turquoise beads. She describes holding them up to squint through each tiny hole: “I was looking into the past.” These memories were so alive to her that, many years later, as a Native artist of great renown, she commemorated them by creating a large clay sculpture of a woman gazing into the past through the hole in her own turquoise bead. “We’re walking right alongside it,” Roxanne says of the past. “We’ve always walked side by side.” Sitting outside Roxanne’s living room window, the sculpture is a reminder; she holds this sense of simultaneity between her thumb and her forefinger.

From an acclaimed family of potters and sculptors whose Santa Clara Pueblo roots span all the way back to the days before contact with Europeans, Roxanne grew up with the code of sustainability the Pueblo people had always lived by. Back in the early ’80s, when Roxanne found herself, at 23, “homeless, living in a tent—an army tent—with two babies,” she admits feeling desperation. “So in between when my kids were napping, I spent a whole year mixing mud and making adobes. When I needed help lifting a beam or a viga into place, my mom and my aunties were there.” Continue reading