TEMPO WEB EXCLUSIVE

Roots deep in the farm soil

Local farmers have a vision to change the way we eat

Tamra Testerman
Posted 4/8/20

Eight hundred pounds of carrots is the number that Taos farmer and agricultural visionary Micah Roseberry and her crew of six harvested last week on Anjel Ortiz’s farm in Chimayó.

Roseberry said that for every crop there is a season, and the harvest won't wait. Many local farmers engaged in bringing in the crops agree. The water must flow to the seeds in the fields, people must be fed. Life goes on.

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TEMPO WEB EXCLUSIVE

Roots deep in the farm soil

Local farmers have a vision to change the way we eat

Posted

Eight hundred pounds of carrots is the number that Taos farmer and agricultural visionary Micah Roseberry and her crew of six harvested last week on Anjel Ortiz’s farm in Chimayó.

Roseberry said that for every crop there is a season, and the harvest won't wait. Many local farmers engaged in bringing in the crops agree. The water must flow to the seeds in the fields, people must be fed. Life goes on.

For many, the coronavirus pandemic has made the business of grocery shopping a potentially dangerous foray into crowded supermarkets. Online shopping with curbside load-in and limited delivery is happening, but agricultural activists say we may be at a crossroads where the options that we choose could change the regional food landscape forever.

The farmers market in The Taos Plaza is a weekly event where farmers and locals swap stories and cash for kale, carrots and whatever else the seasonal harvest offers. It is an alternative to the industrial food supply system, and it has been canceled until further notice because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Roseberry said currently “the farmers market is less than one-half of 1 percent of the food that is consumed in Taos. There is a lot of room to increase that capacity and build a local farming network.” She continued, "The time is now to support local farmers. With many restaurants and businesses closed, the farmers need markets to sell everything they can grow. Farming is a risky business with hail, late freezes, drought, crop failure and now the coronavirus pandemic.

"New Mexican farmers have the knowledge and experience to grow, and the young people have the desire to learn. Now more than ever we need to work together to help each other get our fields planted. The rivers and the acequias connect us. I want to make sure that the community continues to benefit from the food and seeds as long as these crops are being grown. We need to look at these needs as communities and create storage and food hubs that can span any break in the commercial food supply chain.”

Farmer Ortiz, owner of Zitro farms and member of Los Ríos del Norte Farm and Ranch Co-op, planted the carrots harvested last week in Chimayó in the summer to provide fresh carrots as part of the Taos Farm to School Initiative. Ortiz feels strongly about the importance of school lunchrooms "providing our children with healthy food, to give them the nutrients they need to grow strong. And the need to provide food locally. The big stores in town can’t sustain the population the way local organic farms can. Local produce is free of pesticides and other toxic food additives and packaging used to preserve produce which make up most of the industrial food supply chain."

As of this writing, the Taos Municipal School nutrition program is providing free breakfast and lunch and delivering meals along designated bus routes. See Taos Municipal School website for current schedule.

Retired Taos elementary school teacher, a former mayordomo of the Acequia de Atalaya in Arroyo Hondo and agricultural activist, Bob Blair said Taos has the land, technology and history to lead the way in agriculture. “The Taos Valley and surrounding areas have an infrastructure in our acequias upon which we can build. We have centuries of knowledge on not only how to maintain that infrastructure but also a deep-rooted knowledge on a wide range of crops that work in our diverse microclimates.

"We know how and when to prep and plant," he continued. "We have a deep-rooted belief in the importance of community involvement in growing local healthy food. In recent times we are experiencing a resurgence of restoring our food production capabilities by bringing back some fractured acequia systems – an example exists in the town of Taos."

Blair, like Roseberry, is an agricultural visionary who views the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to change business as usual in Taos. He cautions that income from the tourist economy in Taos may not be coming back soon.

He encourages his fellow Taoseños to “be in the moment and spend a little time thinking past the moment and ask how can we take care of ourselves. Local growers need to be provided assurances and community support for the crops they grow. We need places to distribute our local products, and we need to be sure that local charitable and other organizations can spend their resources in the most beneficial ways possible.”

He challenges the now shuttered businesses to help – providing opportunities for these businesses, the growers and the community. "We already have local restaurants, grocers, churches, schools, storage and cooking facilities, farmers and ranchers, existing grant money and eager donors and volunteers being put to use now to feed folks who do not have the means to feed themselves tomorrow," said Blair. "These efforts need to be recognized, valued and expanded. The larger Taos community has deep historical knowledge on how to take care of those who are blessed to live here.”

Blair said now is the time to “be creative. Roll up your sleeves and take part in making our Northern New Mexico communities leaders by example. In addition to supporting a CSA [community supported agriculture], maybe think about growing a “victory garden” even if it is only big enough to grow a bit of food.” Victory gardens were planted by families during World War II in the United States to help address a need for food.

To learn more about Micah Roseberry and her agriculture initiatives, visit her café and farm website farmhousetaos.com. To join the Taos Community CSA, visit growingcommunitynow.org/taos-community-farm. For information on how to start your own victory garden, visit greenamerica.org/food-climate/climate-victory-gardens/how-start-climate-victory-garden.

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