Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Volunteer Days Cancelled

Our regularly scheduled VOLUNTEER DAYS have been CANCELLED due to a lack of attendance.
The garden has instead been planted with pollinator flowers to honor our commitment to support wildlife.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Garden Parties have started!

Dominique and I were blessed to share Easter morning in the garden with our dear friend George…he lifted our spirits and renewed our desire to continue hosting volunteer days. 

George had just attended Easter mass at the Cathedral and was all pumped up!  He even had a dream a few days before that he was Pope!

I got my camera to capture a bit of his rapture.


On Monday, George showed up again, brought a friend with him, and a couple other folks joined us for our volunteer time.

We bundled dried basil stalks from last year as some beekeepers use the stalks in their bee smokers.


We also cleaned up the beds by the farm office and amended them with some pretty lovely compost.

The weather is supposed to warm up so we'll start transplanting next Sunday.

Come join us!

Volunteer Days

Sundays  11:00-1:00pm  
Mondays  3:00-5:00pm 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Spring Fever

Yesterday was our first garden party of the season.  As you may know, we've announced that, if enough volunteers commit to work with us, we'll give the produce we grow to the Food Depot.

Three of us showed up yesterday and we got a little bit done...

Most of the beds have been cleaned and amended with fresh compost, all the bird and rodent damage to the irrigation lines have been repaired, and a few beds have been seeded with carrots, beets, turnips and radishes.

Our friend Juaquin, who works on a demonstration farm in Encinitas, CA, gifted us many starts.

Our one remaining greenhouse is getting pretty full.

For the next few weeks we will hold Work Parties on:

Sundays  11:00-1:00pm
Mondays  3:00-5:00pm 

If these days/times don't work for you, feel free to contact us.

We will add more days and times as more people are interested.

Over the years we have noticed that the garden loves to be visited, stroked, laughed upon & sung to…life appreciating connection and recognition…

So come!!  Join us in tending to this dear friend.

Dominique, Lauren and Poki 

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Seeking Volunteers to Grow Produce for the Food Depot

Dear Community,

Dominique and I are clear that we are not doing a farming season this year, as was announced last fall.

We are now focused on the Mil Abrazos Community Land Trust project.

We still live on the farm property and have beautiful soil, plenty of seeds and irrigation.

We were going to plant wild flowers and a few vegetables, turn the irrigation on and let Nature do her magic dance.

However, as of late, I am thinking that if we get enough committed volunteers, we could grow plenty of food and donate it to the Food Depot.

If you recall, at the end of last season, we donated 1.5 tons of fresh produce to the food bank.

Should you feel drawn to spend a couple of hours per week in the garden, we could have fun playing in the dirt together, while providing fresh food to the underserved.

It would be a beautiful thing to do, continuing in the spirit of Gaia Gardens, as well as honoring our dedication to serving the community.

So think about it.  If interested, please email us or call: 505-796-6006

In Gratitude,


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

New Website for Mil Abrazos Community Land Trust

Click on image to go to website

In nature’s economy, the currency is not money, it is life.   -Vandana Shiva  


We live in times of pressing challenges. Global temperatures are rising and biodiversity is decreasing at alarming rates.  The way we currently consume resources and exploit others is directly proportional to how we as humans separate ourselves from each other and the larger ecological web of life. In order to achieve the transition to a sustainable society, a radical change in technologies, institutions and worldview is needed.

We believe that true wealth springs from sensitive and skillful relationships between humans and natural resources. With thoughtful and proper planning, human and biotic growth are capable of not only being compatible, but life enhancing in myriad ways. This paradigm shift requires a personal and intimate connection with the environment, as well as a willingness to live and work with the natural rhythms and cycles that form our world.

Our Mission
The Mil Abrazos Community Land Trust’s (MACLT) mission is to create a low-impact intentional community in Northern New Mexico.  This community will provide affordable homeownership for individuals and families wishing to lead a land-based life, while simultaneously contributing to local communities, economies, and eco-systems.  It is our belief that these elements are critical in order for society to shift towards a more plentiful future.

Developing and employing ecologically responsible practices to preserve, protect and enhance the land’s natural attributes is paramount to MACLT’s purpose.  We aim to serve as a model of low impact development that rejuvenates Northern New Mexico’s communities, landscapes and economies.   We plan on becoming a reference point for future sustainable development possibilities in the region.

MACLT recognizes that the well-being of humans is inseparable from the well-being of the earth. The project recognizes the rich history of Hispano, Native, Chicano/a, and Anglo people in Northern New Mexico. In recognizing that Northern New Mexico has a long history of conflict over land and water rights, as well as struggles with rural poverty, we strive to create an environment which does not repeat the violence of the past.

MACLT welcomes people of all backgrounds to our community, and we aim to integrate ourselves respectfully into the local community.

The care of the Earth is our most ancient and most worthy, and after all our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it and to foster its renewal is our only hope.    -Wendell Berry

Vision for Community

The MACLT plans to provide a supportive framework for residents to minimize their ecological footprint and maximize their integration within the local community.  Residents will endeavor to substantially meet their needs from the site through agriculture, horticulture, forestry and cottage industries.
The MACLT site will be comprised of mixed fields and woodland, with an intention to create an integrated human settlement designed and run on permaculture principles. The land will be developed to improve the synergy of the different habitats across the site, simultaneously enhancing bio-diversity and leading to an increased and sustainable yield from the land.
The community will strive to create its own electricity from renewable sources. It will supply its water needs through rainwater harvesting and the use of a spring, well or stream. The community will welcome and manage visitors in such a manner as to minimize traffic impact.
The site will be managed to create an accessible educational center, and will feature a variety of self-built eco dwellings, centered around a community hub building and permaculture farm, using best practice design and technology, combined with local natural materials.
The land will be owned by MACLT, whose role it will be to oversee the community’s development and ensure that the founding principles and objectives are maintained.
Community members will adhere to a set of community agreements stipulating the ways in which they participate in community life, infrastructure building and maintenance, and various educational activities mandated by the MACLT mission statement.

Joining the Mil Abrazos Community

Aspiring community members, once their application accepted, will go through a minimum one-year trial membership, during which their compatibility to live and work with the existing community will be evaluated.  Priority will be given to low-income families with children, people experienced with land-based community living, farmers, as well as young people and elders wishing to access affordable home ownership.

Once accepted in the community, members will have an equal voice in the running of the community and, if available, able to purchase equity in a living dwelling on the community land.  Equity can be purchased in an existing dwelling (stand alone or room(s) in common house) or, if zoning codes allow, permission may be given to member by the community to construct a new dwelling, which size and cost will be determined by the community agreements. Community members purchasing or building a dwelling will be issued a 99-year lease on the land that their dwelling occupies.

A community member choosing to leave the community can only sell his/her equity in a dwelling to an approved member of the community.  A dwelling cannot be sold on the open real estate market or speculated upon.  Its resale price is determined by the “resale” clause in the community agreements.  Residents have some essential benefits of home ownership: lifetime security, a limited fair equity for their investment, and a legacy for their descendants.

Model for Sustainable Practices

The MACLT aims to demonstrate the viability of low impact development as a model that has the potential to rejuvenate the Northern New Mexico landscape and economy and act as a reference point for future sustainable development possibilities in the region.

The project will be carefully monitored to provide evidence of the level of achievement of targets and criteria, and to provide a research resource to inform and promote the wider uptake of low impact living.
The project, by virtue of its innovative approach will attract publicity and interest. MACLT will support visitors within a structure that promotes sustainable travel solutions and balances the needs of visitors with the needs of the residents to maintain a degree of privacy in their lives.

We abuse land because we see it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.     -Aldo Leopold

Friday, February 5, 2016

WHAT'S NEXT? Looking for Property

A year ago, we attempted to raise capital to buy the Gaia Gardens’ farm property. The Indiegogo campaign brought in $22,795, two anonymous donors donated another $15,000 and two foundations gave us commitment letters for $75,000. As per the agreement with the New Mexico Community Foundation, our fiscal sponsor, these funds must be used to purchase land by Nov. 2016.

We matched these funds with our own money and made an offer to the Gaia Gardens property owner, which was to be presented to his bank as a short sale, since the property has now been in foreclosure for 4 years.

Unfortunately, the property owner and his attorney decided not to present our offer to the bank and instead, are waiting for the bank to foreclose on the property.

So, we finished our 4th farming season and last July, after another round of opposition to our opening a farm stand (from a neighbor and the City of Santa Fe), we decided to close the farm.

We never expected to farm on this property for as long as we did, knowing that the property was in foreclosure when we started this project. However, we are very pleased with what we accomplished in such a short amount of time!

Through working with numerous schools and countless volunteers/interns, we were able to showcase not only the viability of urban farming in Santa Fe, but also the cherished experience of building a supportive and warm community. In addition, we were celebrated through winning several awards and receiving grants from local foundations.

Since the inception of this project the lessons have been many, and they continue to this day. In modeling how an urban farm might serve its neighborhood and town, it has always been our wish to inspire others to grow food, flowers, and friendly connections in their own backyard.

We have developed a deep reverence for Nature while engaged in the sacred act of growing food. We will take what we’ve learned and apply it with the same care and devotion to our next endeavor.

So what’s next?

In 2014, we created the Mil Abrazos Community Land Trust with a mission to:

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

2. 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. Develop and exercise responsible and ecological practices, which preserve, protect and enhance the land’s natural attributes.

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

We are now looking for property (10-100 acres) within 60 mi from Santa Fe. The land should have water (acequia, year-round creek, spring or well), sympathetic neighbors and be located near national forest. Proximity to an interesting community is preferable.

We are not necessarily looking for agricultural land as we do not intend to engage in commercial farming but instead plan to create a sustainable community offering permaculture education, summer camps and homesteading skills.

We are in the process of exploring how the Mil Abrazos Community Land Trust can serve this community, its children and elders, and continue to offer a vibrant space to gather, share skills and build resilient community.

Please help us spread the word that we are looking for land.

Thank you for your love and support!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Closing the Chapter

I had the privilege of spending much of this growing season as an intern at Gaia Gardens. Over the past seven months, I experienced the natural shifts in weather and tasks from spring to summer to fall, as well as several models of marketing and engaging with the surrounding community. I learned more than I ever imagined about gardening, the demands of running a small business, the potential of urban farms, and the daunting legal and political challenges they can face. Now as the season draws to its final, hastened end, I am left at once grateful, inspired, and disillusioned.

I arrived in early March to a flurry of seeding, transplanting, and on occasion, snow. At the time, Poki and Dominique were optimistic that the urban farming ordinance that had been drafted and circulated the previous year would soon pass, and were looking forward to welcoming more school groups, hosting workshops, and reopening the farm stand. In the meantime, we spent nearly a third of our time working in two school gardens and selling seeds and plant starts at the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market.

For a time, I found it exciting and fun to work the market. I was energized by the buzz of interactions, the faces that soon grew familiar, the spontaneous moments of connection with strangers passing through, the camaraderie and admiration and support among vendors. But by mid-summer, I was also weary of the hours of loading and unloading a truck stacked high with bins and tables, hundreds of seedlings, crate after heavy crate of gallon pot tomatoes. When we finally freed ourselves, in a frenzy of giving, from the last of the plant starts, I was deeply relieved and ready to let go of the most stressful part of each week, as well as intrigued to see the farm stand unfold.

I soon understood why Poki and Dominique had been so eager and fought so hard to reopen the farm stand. I cannot imagine a more ideal space, right off a major bike trail, in the heart of the garden, where people could sit in the shade and enjoy a free cup of herbal tea grown on the farm, or walk through the garden to admire the flowers and see where and how the produce they purchased grew, just feet away. A few familiar friends and neighbors dropped by, thrilled to finally be able to walk down the street to chat and buy their produce for the week. Most of the people who came to the stand I had never seen before. Some had walked or biked by the farm every day on their way to work, wondering at the flowers along the fence, and were excited to be invited in through the open gate. Others happened to be passing by on a ride through town and were curious and excited to discover a farm in the city. One such young couple in particular are engraved in my memory. They came in from the bike trail,  bought a bunch of kale and a bundle of carrots, and meandered through the garden. They eventually found their way to the “dragon bench,” lovingly shaped and plastered with straw and clay by volunteers, nibbled their way through the carrots, then headed up the hill to feed the carrot tops to the chickens. I found them in front of the coop several minutes later, still tossing the leaves piece by piece to the chickens, laughing, playful, teasing, entranced. I wondered if they had ever fed chickens before. Yes, I thought, it was moments like these, far more than the meager sum we earned, that made the farm stand worthwhile and critical.

On a practical level, the farm stand took a fraction of the time, effort, fuel, and heavy lifting of the Farmer’s Market. For months, we had spent at least five or six hours each week first loading the truck for market, then leaving before dawn, driving three miles away, and scrambling to unload and set up our stand, only to pack everything carefully back into bins a few hours later, load them back onto the truck, make the short drive back to the farm, and unload all of our supplies again. Now, instead, we could rise with the sun, quickly set up and harvest for the farm stand from within the garden, and work in the surrounding fields during lulls between customers. We could harvest just a modest amount of each vegetable, much of it that same morning, and restock as necessary. This saved us from having to figure out how to store or use up a giant harvest if sales were slow on a given day. It also meant the freshest produce possible for customers, and less going to waste. And we were providing fresh organic vegetables to a completely different clientele not already served by scores of other growers at the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market.

The farm stand lasted two weeks before it was closed by the city. The expressions of dismay and outrage of those passing by persisted for months. I came to dread the predictable questions, from the mouths of friends of the farm and utter strangers alike: Why didn’t we just return to the farmer’s market, or wholesale to local restaurants and co-ops? And couldn’t we sell them produce “under the table” in exchange for a “donation?”

What many people don’t seem to realize is that producing and selling food was only a small part of what the farm offered, or could have if it were given the freedom to.  All along, the purpose of Gaia Gardens was to provide a space for people to tangibly contribute, learn by doing, share their experience and skills, and in the process, forge connections with the natural world and each other. First and foremost, the farm aimed to demonstrate, refine, and teach ecological food production methods, as well as model “bootstrapping” a farm by diverting waste and utilizing inexpensive local resources. (Rain catchment, composting food scraps from local restaurants, recycling used potting soil, and using salvaged building materials, to name a few.) Ironically, the farm stand became the central focus of the controversy around Gaia Gardens and urban farming in Santa Fe, but I believe it was actually the city’s over-zealous restrictions on school visits, volunteer groups, workshops, and community events that most undermined the spirit and promise of the farm.

We knew when we opened the farm stand that our days were numbered. The morning before, we had been informed that the property owner was not willing to consider a short-sale, and there no longer remained a viable option for securing the land. I spent most of the day clearing the dirt paths to the garden and carefully lining them with stones, shrouded in sadness. Mourning the loss of such a treasure of a place, where so many had invested their energy, dreams, sweat, and skills; found solace, inspiration, healing, and new ideas; laughed, deepened friendships, shared a meal, chomped on a lemon cucumber or scarlet runner bean right off the vine. Where barren ground had been built and nourished each year, transformed into rich soil prime for food production, and constantly fluttering with birds and pollinators.

And I mourned the loss of incredible potential, all it could have become, the fragile spider web of visions and dreams that had spiralled around it: a demonstration center or intentional community centered around natural building and permaculture, an alternative school, a summer camp, an urban farm incubator program...

I looked back through the fence at the waving fronds of cosmos, the tidy rows of vegetables, land that had passed through so many manifestations and transformations over the years, loved and abused, a stage and silent witness to the rise and fall of human ambitions and dreams, patient, enduring. A quiet assurance that even as this chapter was drawing to a close, the story of the land was far from over.

A few stones have been kicked out of place, but the paths still lead to the garden gate and through the fields, still beckon neighbors and friends and passer-bys, winged and human alike, to wander through a labyrinth of rows still blooming, still teeming with rich soil and seeds and a universe of subterrestrial life. Yet we must continue on our own winding paths, hoping, praying, trusting that in some way -- in the unknown mystery of seeds burrowed and stirring beneath the crust of the earth -- the legacy of growing, nurturing, connecting, and sharing will live on, here on this pinprick of the planet and in this community.

Blessings to all of you who have enriched this place and my time here.

Rachel Brylawski