I head over to the Blake location of Erda Gardens and Learning Center, just a few miles away, to meet with Outreach and Education Coordinator, Amanda Rich. Like La Orilla, this is not a manicured showplace. It is a working farm. Arriving there, I am greeted by kids with kids—that is, one of Erda’s nanny goats gave birth to three kids the day before, and Amanda is conducting a farm camp with a group of children, who are having a great time petting and holding the kids. Amazing how ready to go they are, at one day old.
Amanda and I sit at a picnic table by one of the fields. Again, we’re near the Rio, so there’s the sounds of the cranes, and there are more low flying aircraft. We are smack-dab in the middle of the big picture.
Erda, whose name comes from the German word for “earth”, was, says Amanda, “started in 1996 by a Franciscan nun, Marie Nord, a peace and anti-poverty activist for many years.” Frustrated with activism as a reaction, Nord decided to create something positive, something that would help her community, heal her community. “This is the first CSA project [Community Supported Agriculture] in Albuquerque,” says Amanda. People invest in Erda either as a paying or work-trade member and share in the produce of the farm. “We are also a learning center with a free lecture series,” she says. “Work parties in the gardens are an opportunity for hands-on learning, and we have farm camp for kids, giving them access to the outdoors.”
A crew is harvesting carrots, which will be sold through the Agri-Cultura Network to local restaurants. We pause as Amanda takes a carrot, wipes off the dirt, snaps it in half and hands a piece to me. It is sweet and crunchy, earthy and good. “There’s something about tilling a bed, or planting or weeding—you feel that you’ve accomplished something,” she says. “You’ve contributed in a meaningful way.” I mention to Amanda we’ve been digging in the earth longer than we’ve been fooling around with computers. “Amen to that,” she says.
Erda now has six growing sites around Albuquerque and is more than halfway into a capital campaign toward buying the Blake location. “The last five or six years, I’ve watched the exponential growth of the local food movement and the local farming movement,” says Amanda. “Many people are thinking about this; many people are wanting to learn these skills. Our workshop series is overwhelmed with participants. People want the knowledge. Ultimately, we really need this.” It’s great to see Erda’s success. “The more people who can learn how to grow food, the better—for everyone,” says Amanda. We peer into a cold frame brimming with new little green things sprouting up. How can you not be optimistic looking at this?
Story by Gordon Bunker