Farm to Restaurant

“We now have 30 restaurants as members so far; 15 or so of them are very consistent, ordering every week. Their hearts are in the game—they need no convincing!” Nina Yozell-Epstein

For our fledgling Farm To Restaurant Delivers program (F2R), brainchild of the Santa Fe Alliance, it’s the classic underdog story. Due to a sluggish and unpredictable economy, visitors and residents alike are thinking twice about the efficacy of each expenditure they make. As a result, Santa Fe chefs, all of whom are walking a fine line between creative innovation and keeping prices down, are less likely than usual to court unnecessary risks. Meanwhile, even in the best of times, northern New Mexico is a challenging place for food growers. According to Jacona Farm owner, Phillip Loomis, “with the extreme cold this past winter, a dry and unusually windy spring, the fires and smoke earlier this summer and, through it all, the long drought,” 2011 has been the most difficult he’s ever experienced in 20 years of farming.

And yet, despite such daunting odds, Santa Fe’s Farm to Restaurant program, not quite two years old, stands in the forefront of this pioneering movement: It’s one of the most successful in the entire country! How is that possible? Like all good underdog stories, this one involves a vast, interdependent web of people—from chefs to farmers to grassroots organizers to people like you and me—for whom Cole Porter could have written, “The difficult I’ll do right now/The impossible will take a little while.”

In matters of food appreciation, Santa Fe has had a head start over many other parts of the country. As a unique destination spot, the City Different has always had more than our share of world-class restaurants. And our farmers’ market (which actually began way back in the late ‘60s, with a group of farmers selling their produce on Saturdays from the back of their trucks) has become a vital, bustling crowd pleaser in its permanent year-round home at the Railyard. Continue reading

Erin Wade

Erin Wade’s Nambé farm is home to a curious cast of characters.

There’s the large flock of what Wade calls “ridiculously hormonal” chickens ranging freely over the property. They keep the pests down, roost in the trees and sometimes break into the house. Four very large pigs root around in a sturdy pen above the driveway. They spend their days taking mud baths and arguing with a bold pair of ravens over savory tidbits of slop. Charlie, Wade’s “egg-suckin’ hound,” pokes around in the shadows looking for wayward chicken eggs.

Finally, there’s Hopkins, a little orange cat that showed up on the farm one day and decided to stay. Hopkins is named after poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. She follows Wade around the farm, wagging her long striped tail and basking in the sunshine. She’s a cat that thinks she’s a dog.

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Sweat and Miracles

Gardening requires lots of water—most of it in the form of perspiration. –Lou Erickson

Milagro is Spanish for “miracle” because it takes a miracle to grow grapes here. –Mitzi Hobson

If, perchance, you are interested in making wine, whether commercially or for a hobby, Milagro Vineyards owners, Rick and Mitzi Hobson have three rules to abide by: keep your day job, keep your day job, keep your day job.

The Hobsons lived in Albuquerque’s North Valley until 1985; Mitzi was an educator, and Rick was an engineer who sold mechanical equipment. They moved to Corrales in ’85 and began growing grapes as an “experiment.”

“We liked to drink and eat, and it was totally to be the fun part of our life,” Mitzi explains when I inquire as to how one comes to oversee ten acres of grapes in the little village of Corrales. “It was about getting family together to mark the seasons and celebrate.”

Then the (unpaid) work began. Their land was a field of alfalfa and Christmas trees, so the initial task was to dig them up and haul them to local parks to be donated. The next task was the primary planting of the grape vines, another rigorous ordeal that required long hours and a lot of assistance from family and friends. “We kept wondering, ‘This is what we’re doing for fun?’” Mitzi laughs in recollection.

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