In the rearview

Looking back: 10, 25, 50 years ago - August 9

Rinconada farmer launches hop crop, Questa chief scolded, Taos police fired

By Mary Beth Libbey
Posted 8/8/18

- 10 YEARS AGO -'Farmers experiment with new cash crop'By Andy DennisonAug. 7, 2008A front-page feature and photo told the story of Todd Bates, the Rinconada naturalist and organic farmer, who was …

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In the rearview

Looking back: 10, 25, 50 years ago - August 9

Rinconada farmer launches hop crop, Questa chief scolded, Taos police fired


- 10 YEARS AGO -

'Farmers experiment with new cash crop'

By Andy DennisonAug. 7, 2008

A front-page feature and photo told the story of Todd Bates, the Rinconada naturalist and organic farmer, who was growing the first certified "hopyard" with his partner Steve Johnson.

Bates told reporter Dennison that his motivation was his desire to "help save the family farm." The solution, the two former Philmont Ranch Boy Scouts told The Taos News "was growing in their own backyards.

Bates told the story of discovering wild hops while living in Taos Canyon several years earlier. Then he and his partner found a wild variety in Capulin and another in Amalia. These became the first experimental breeds for the two growers who crossbred, discarded and cloned these varieties. The result was a half-acre of hops rooted in bottomless pots and climbing strings under a trellis, hard by the Río Grande. The two said they expected to bring in 100-200 pounds at harvest time, which was just around the corner.

The big deal about this crop was that Bates and Johnson proved that hops, the key ingredient in flavorful beer, could be grown at this altitude so long as they were the right hops. "They said that they wouldn't grow organically at altitude, " Bates said. "But anywhere apples grow, hops grow. And we've got some pretty good organic apples around here."

Their work paid off, according to articles published since Dennison's story. A writer for the food and drink magazine, Local Flavor, wrote two years ago that in about 2010, Bates sold the fruits of his labor to a Washington-based commercial hop farmer, Eric Desmarais, at CLS Farms, who in turn sold them to the owner of Santa Fe Brewery to grow for use in his end product.

Meanwhile, Bates moved on to commercially growing another local crop: oregano, well not exactly oregano, but sort of. A Taos News story in 2016 tells of Bates' efforts with the plant that "actually belongs to the genus Monarda -- which means that it's not oregano at all, but rather a variety of bee balm. Bates told News reporter Cassandra Keyes that oregano is not a plant per se, but is rather a particular flavor profile of a plant.

She writes, "The flavor he is referring to is a chemical produced by the plant called carvacrol. Carvacrol is essentially the pungent, aromatic taste of oregano, and according to Bates, the flowers of Monarda contain only carvacrol. Carvacrol not only gives the plant its characteristic flavor; it also gives the plant many of its healing powers."

Bates said he was growing the stuff for both purposes. At the time of Keye's story, Bates was growing 11 rows, each 160-foot long, of oregano de la sierra.

- 25 YEARS AGO -

"Questa police chief scolded"

By Bob MentzingerAug. 5, 1993

Questa police chief Danny Pacheco was "scolded" by the village council for an accidental discharge of a firearm that injured three people July 21 of that year.

Apparently, Pacheco plus two of his officers, Frank Gallegos and Russell Martinez, had responded to a call at the Questa Health Center. The center's alarm had been triggered at 2 p.m. when someone threw a rock through the window. The three officers were in front of the building when Pacheco's gun discharged and hit hospital administrator Dale Cisneros, Pacheco and Steve Segura. All three were treated at Holy Cross hospital although, according to Mentzinger, "some of the pellets could not be removed and remained in the victims."

No arrest was made in the vandalism incident. Pacheco said his gun was set on safety, and a police investigator would not allow the reporter to see the findings that were given to the village council. Three of the four councilors voted in favor of the chief's reprimand.

- 50 YEARS AGO -

'Town police fired, rules study slated'

By Keith Green

The Taos Town Council made tough decisions this week and got support from The Taos News for doing so.

First, two police officers were fired by the council for their behavior while they were off duty.

Joe G. Martinez was fired as a result of an alleged altercation with a woman at the Taos Inn. Maclovia Martinez (no relation) had filed a complaint against him with both the council and with Peace Justice Filemòn Sánchez a month earlier, and the officer had been suspended. It came out at the council meeting that Joe Martinez had been involved in a second incident since he was suspended, but no details were given.

The second officer who lost his job was Jimmy Gallegos. According to Green's report, Taos Mayor Rumaldo Garcia told the council that residents had given him three checks written by Garcia, and all of them were returned by the bank for insufficient funds.

The council agreed that the officers had the right to ask for a hearing, but the council had no obligation to grant one.

The mayor also appointed three council members to a police advisory commission: Tessie Lester, Bob Brooks and Martin Vargas. Among other things, Brooks said, the commission would be looking at the authority vested in the police chief to hire and fire. Apparently, at that time, the position did not have that authority. "Whether a new police chief is required, I don't know. But morale will always suffer if there is no supervision," Brooks said.

The second tough council decision had to do with unpaid water bills. The council was under pressure from state Department of Health and Social Services to repair pumps at the town sewer plant after a raw sewage spill had occurred.

One source of money would be long delinquent water bills. The council had asked the water department to take action with those water users the week before, but no action had been taken.

After some irate members expressed their concern, the council reiterated its orders to collect on the deadbeats or cut them off. Town clerk Carolyn Farr pointed out that the last time the town cracked down on late water bills about $4,000 was paid by users in one day. That would go a long way to pay for the required sewer pumps.

As for the newspaper's editorial, editor Green applauded the Garcia administration and the council for facing "the obligations of public service. Green wrote: "The residents, above all, must insist that their town government is operated for them--not for the council members. And the elected town officials--only five of them--must insist that each citizen pays his share because anything less is unfair to all the rest."


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