Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Last Day of our Fundraising Campaign!

The greatest fine art of the future will be the making of a comfortable living from a small piece of land. 
Abraham Lincoln

So far, we've raised $18,000 through Indiegogo, $1,500 through mail-in donations, and a private foundation is willing to grant us $100,000.  We are almost there!

Visit our campaign and please contribute if you feel inspired.

Campaign ends tonight Nov. 4 at 11:59pm Pacific Time

Thank you for all your Love and Support!

Poki and Dominique

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Starting Book Club

Hi! My name is Gaya, and I recently joined Poki and Dominique on the farm as an intern. 

I am writing to you today to invite you to be a part of a "Gaia Gardens Book Club"! 

The group would be designed for those interested in learning, thinking more about, and discussing with others the big questions which growing food for an urban community puts on our plates. The idea came to me from the following brief meditation on my first few weeks working with the veggies:

A garden is a place to experience transformation. With each new morning we return to the arroyo to find the scarlet-runner beans have lengthened an inch overnight, that a baby cucumber has swelled to a glistening, crescent gourd, or that clusters of tomatoes have plumped and ripened in their beds. This is the magic that drives us from one row of kale, to chard, to kohlrabi to carrots to the next, and that sometimes makes me think of my job as treasure hunting. But there are other changes that don't just appear, that are not as dramatically perceived in our daily surroundings, and that we must cultivate with as much care, and imagination, as when waiting for the first seeds to sprout….

I am interested in reading not only to put my daily work as farm volunteer into perspective, but also the choices I make as a consumer, omnivore, and constituent in a highly stratified foodscape. We could read works of history, philosophy, anthropology, poetry, and folklore touching on topics such as biodynamic farming, the urban agriculture movement, community land trusts, and climate change.

The Book Club would meet in the evening once every other week for informal discussion, tea and munchies. The exact time and location will be determined once we know who is interested, and when they are available. Poki has suggested meeting at Annapurna restaurant during their Chai Happy Hour! The final reading list will be put together collaboratively, but just to start the conversation, here are a few suggestions. Online sources such as blogs, articles and films could also be great to share and talk about as well.

Steiner, Rudolf. Agriculture: Spiritual Foundations for the Renewal of Agriculture
George, Henry. Progress and Poverty
Davis, John Emmeus, ed. The Community Land Trust Reader
Boggs, Grace Li. The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century
Petryna, Adriana. What is a Horizon?: Toward an Anthropology of the Environment and Climate Change
Holmes, Seth. Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States

Please contact me if you are interested!



Monday, September 29, 2014

2015 CSA, Fundraising Effort, Deals on Basil and Collards!

2015 CSA
As this season slowly comes to a wrap, I am starting to reflect on our plans for 2015.  I know we need to transform the way we operate the farm as it is way too much work for me for very little money, and it's starting to seriously wear my body down.  What I am contemplating is not to depend so much on the Farmers' Market for our revenues but concentrate instead on increasing our CSA membership.  Going to the Farmers' Market is a ton of work - driving, loading and unloading and sometimes it is not worth the effort.  A lot of farmers compete for business and being new, we don't have a very good spot so our sales are not very impressive...
So I need to ask how many of you would consider joining our CSA next season?  Hearing back from you will help us make the decision to expand our CSA.  Shares will be $25/week next season and our CSA lasts for 20 weeks (June 1-Oct 31).  Your answer is not a commitment, this is just a poll.

We've been putting a lot of efforts into our Indiegogo Campaign and we still have 16 days to go.
We've raised $15,000 so far on an ambitious campaign goal of $250,000! 

Next month, the Green Fire Times will feature another article on Gaia Gardens, beautiful written by our friend Alejandro Lopez "...the very heart of this world-bedazzling town, was set aside for productive gardening and was tended to by locals. In fact, the religious, cultural and economic underpinnings of the Pueblo world as well as of much of the native Nuevo Mexicano villages that constitute the foundations of our state, arise from the very same or similar set of values and practices being carried out at Gaia Gardens".   
Our campaign will also appear in the LaMontanita Coop newsletter.  
Tomorrow morning at 8:30am, I will be interviewed by Richard Eeds on KTCR Radio 1260AM.

We've been in conversation with a foundation on the East Coast and could get a significant boost from them.

All and all, things are moving along smoothly and we are preparing to make an offer to the bank soon.

I want to take this opportunity to thank all the people who have donated so far.  Thank you for believing in our efforts to preserve this unique place for future generations!

I also want to profusely thank our attorney Gretchen Elsner who has been promoting our effort to purchase the property at a State level, schmoozing with State Senators and Representatives and handing them promotional packages!

I also want to express my gratitude to all the organizations that have been promoting our campaign- Edible Santa Fe, the Santa Fe Farmers' Market, the Santa Fe Farmers' Market Institute, the New Mexico Community Foundation, the GreenFireTimes, LaMontanitaCoop, the New Mexico Land Conservancy, the Center for Nonprofit Excellence, HomeGrown New Mexico, Wwoof-USA, Woof Independent, KSFR, KTCR and Journey Santa Fe/Collected Works Bookstore.

You can help tremendously in the success of this campaign by passing the word around, posting and reposting on Facebook (please write a personal intro to our campaign when you post it) and Tweeting your heart out as all these social media actions have a substantial effect in promoting our campaign far and wide. 


This is what you get for $7!
We need to move all our basil as the cold is coming and it will go bad-black-caca-done!
We are offering 4 large pesto plants for $7.  It takes 10 minutes to pluck the leaves and you get one pound of basil!  Buy 3 lbs of organic walnuts at TJ's, some garlic, olive oil and good sea salt, throw in the blender and wham!, you have 3lbs of delicious pesto for the winter.  Order here and come get your basil at the farm before it's gone on the first cold night.  I hate to waste so much basil! Seriously!  We'll give you an even better deal if that's what it takes.

We have tons of collards and we are offering it for $1.75/lb.  You blanch it and freeze it and can use it all winter in soups or stir fries.  Yum!  Order here and come get your collards at the farm.  We'll give you a better deal if you take a large quantity.  

Please come visit us at the Farmers Market every Saturday (8:00am-1:00pm starting this week)

“There are, it seems, two muses: the Muse of Inspiration, who gives us inarticulate visions and desires, and the Muse of Realization, who returns again and again to say "It is yet more difficult than you thought." This is the muse of form. It may be then that form serves us best when it works as an obstruction, to baffle us and deflect our intended course. It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.”
Wendell Berry


Friday, September 19, 2014

Update on our Fundraising Campaign


So far, we've raised $11,328!  Several large donations have also been sent by check.

Expanding our social reach is critical to the success of our campaign.

Indiegogo uses algorithms to rank a campaign according to how much money it raises in a given amount of time, its number of comments, the content of the campaign and how many times the campaign URL is mentioned on the great Ocean of the Internet.

Right now, our campaign is featured on top of the second page in Indiegogo under "Community"

We need to get our campaign on the front page to get more attention from the general public.

It's kind of amazing but $3,368 have been raised from 17 donors visiting the Indiegogo website.  These people do not know us.  They saw our campaign while browsing Indiegogo and decided to support us. 

So, here is how you can help (without having to donate anything!)...
  • Post our campaign on Facebook.  
  • Tweet (and re-tweet!) about our campaign
  • Forward the email announcement you just received (with the cabbage lady) to all your friends
We are doing very well and need all the help we can to bring national attention to our campaign.

We've got 26 more days to go.

Let's make it an extraordinary community effort.

Thanks for all your support! 

Poki and Dominique 

Friday, September 5, 2014

INDIEGOGO Fundraising Campaign Launched Today!

Help us raise money to buy the farm property. 

Tell all your friends!

Thanks for all your support!

 Go to Indiegogo campaign now!


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Community Land Trust and Indiegogo Campaign

Just because we feel like it's the right thing to do, we have created Mil Abrazos (a Thousand Hugs), a non-profit Community Land Trust, to purchase the property.
We incorporated with the State of New Mexico last week and are now preparing to file for our 501(c)3 status.

What is a community land trust (CLT)?
CLT's are nonprofit organization—governed by a board of CLT residents, community residents and public representatives—that provide lasting community assets and permanently affordable housing opportunities for families and communities. CLTs develop rural and urban agriculture projects, commercial spaces to serve local communities, affordable rental and cooperative housing projects, and conserve land or urban green spaces. However, the heart of their work is the creation of homes that remain permanently affordable, providing successful homeownership opportunities for generations of lower income families.
For more information on Community Land Trust, see here

Mil Abrazos Community Land Trust purpose

1.  To acquire and hold land in trust in order to provide for permanently affordable housing.  Homes will be built and lands will be used in an environmentally sensitive and socially responsible manner.

2.  To provide permanently affordable access to land for such purposes as quality housing, sustainable agriculture, cottage industries and co-operatives 
by forever removing the land from the speculative market.

3.   To develop and exercise responsible and ecological practices, which preserve, protect and enhance the land’s natural attributes.

4.  To serve as a model in land stewardship and community development by providing information, resources and expertise.

RAISING THE CAPITAL to Purchase the Property

Later this month, we will be launching an Indiegogo fundraising campaign to raise the capital (goal $400K) to purchase the property.  Our Indiegogo video is almost finished and we are now creating the Perks for the campaign.

Perks are benefits that you can offer in exchange for contributions to our campaign.   We are looking for unusual donations to add to our list of perks.
Do you have anything valuable to donate?  If you do, please let us know ASAP.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

In the Santa Fe Reporter today

Free Farmin’
Can urban farming flourish in the high desert?

By Conor L Sanchez

Growing up in the Candlelight neighborhood of Santa Fe, I often felt like I lived in adobe suburbia. The homes in this wedge just west of the intersection of Zia Road and St. Francis Drive are pretty cookie-cutter, you have to drive everywhere and nearly every property has a perfectly manicured yard full of gravel. 

So when I visited Gaia Gardens for the first time this summer, I felt like I had been transported into another dimension. The whole setting, from the lush garden beds with over 30 different types of vegetables to the spacious chicken coop where fresh eggs are produced daily, breaks the mold of concrete driveways and xeriscaped landscapes. 

To get to the farm that’s off Yucca Road along the Arroyo Chamiso Trail, I park on Paseo de los Chamisos and walk through a set of wrought-iron gates adorned with Zia symbols. I am greeted by a long-haired 20-something guy on a bike, who turns out to be a volunteer with Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms, an organization that links volunteers with organic farms all over the planet.

We walk down the hill toward the gardens where Poki Piottin, the farm’s founder, is organizing deliveries for the day. As we stand under a tree chatting, Dominique Pozo, Piottin’s partner and the farm’s artistic director, walks outside and shouts at us to look up. We lift our heads in time to spot a large gray and white bird perched on a nearby branch. 

Despite growing up a mile away and attending high school just down the street, I had never seen a hawk here before. 

For Piottin, this is what it’s all about—getting the community to engage with the environment and its neighbors in a way that doesn’t happen in cities anymore. 

“I tend to look at this operation more from the intangible side of things,” he says. “They aren’t hard figures, so you may have to use your imagination for the benefits of nurturing well-oxygenated kids and happy moms who stop by here on a daily basis.” 

Proponents of urban farming are offering up a lot of hype, going so far as to tout its potential to rejuvenate depressed neighborhoods in cities like Detroit and Baltimore by developing unused land, addressing food insecurity and promoting healthier diets. 

I knew nothing about the concept until two years ago, when a friend in Washington DC said he was growing tomatoes on his roof. On Facebook, friends in New York City and San Francisco were posting photos of themselves in overalls with skylines in the background. 

When I moved back to Santa Fe in June, I was convinced I’d find a plethora of these progressive efforts to build a more sustainable future for food production. I didn’t. 

One way cities can promote urban farming is by addressing land use laws. Those ordinances are typically broken down into three categories: residential, commercial and industrial. And since urban farms often occur in someone’s backyard, cities are grappling with how to appropriately regulate these new operations given their tendency to blur the lines they’ve drawn over the past half-century. 

The city of Santa Fe, however, has yet to produce a policy that addresses urban farming. Last summer, the Public Works Committee considered a resolution that ordered city staff to look at ways for urban agriculture to be integrated into land use, but that didn’t get far. Now, the Santa Fe Food Policy Council is preparing what it calls “a comprehensive food plan,” part of which addresses urban agriculture. This fall, those formal recommendations are expected to land before city and county officials. 

Gaia Gardens is a perfect example of how bumpy the road can be. The farm started in February 2012 shortly after Piottin spent six months working on a farm in San Pancho, Mexico. 

Piottin has spent the last two years working to develop the farm despite complaints from some neighbors about the frequency of farm visitors. Last summer the city issued citations about code violations on the property and even said school kids could no longer take field trips to work on the farm and volunteers weren’t allowed to sleep in tents there. A farm stand had to be shuttered and the produce couldn’t legally be sold from the site, the city ordered. 

I knocked on the door of the neighbor who, according to Piottin, takes photos of the garden when too many volunteers are on the field. She told me she was “addressing the issue in other ways” and shut the door. 

Even if the city adopts a more farm-friendly policy in residential zones, I wonder what we can realistically expect from a region that averages 14.21 inches of rainfall per year and where the cost of water, not to mention land, is so high. 

Although Gaia Gardens has a permit application with the State Engineer that is under protest and could affect the water part of the equation, much of their overhead costs are uniquely low. Last year, they brought in just over $21,000 from sales. Their total expenses were $16,000, leaving the farm with about $5,000 in net revenue. 

The slim profit margin, Piottin says, is why it is so important that the city provide support for urban farmers. “There’s a lot of talent and potential here. We may be behind most cities, but we can forget that by creating something that help young urban farmers,” he says. 

Although Gaia remains the city’s largest commercial farm, there has been a local uptick in the number of residents interested in farming. 

“I would definitely say that in more recent years, urban farming has become a growing trend in Santa Fe, and not in the sense of large commercial farming, but rather a lot of folks just want to grow their own food,” says Patrick Torres, interim Northern District director for the New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension program. 

Gerard Martinez, who lives in Los Cedros neighborhood near Nava Elementary, began growing food in his backyard five years ago. Today, Martinez says he saves $300 on food costs each year by getting food from his backyard. 

The biggest challenge, he says, is water. He’s installed an irrigation system that reclaims water used by his dishwasher, but he says if the city is serious about helping urban farmers, it also needs to find residents more access to graywater. 

So what’s holding urban farming back? 

It’s impossible to argue that Santa Feans lack the interest or ingenuity to boost local food production and expand access to affordable produce on their own. But residents need clarity as to how the city plans to regulate farms, and they could really use greater access to safe reclaimed water. 

My childhood neighborhood needed something like Gaia. I’m waiting for the city government to catch up.

 Conor L Sanchez is a graduate of Santa Fe High and Occidental College who will leave for Nicaragua to serve as a Peace Corps volunteer next month.