Monday, December 26, 2016

Goodbye Santa Fe


I wish to begin with a Big Thank You to all the people who contributed to making Gaia Gardens, and my initiation as a farmer, one intensely profound experience.  

First and foremost, my co-conspirator and dearest friend Dominique, who makes beauty of whatever she touches and helped hold a loving space for all the people who came to the farm. 

To the volunteers who made us feel like a family and fed the holy fire of community. 

To all the sweet people at the Farmers’ Market, who cheered us on all along, whether they were our customers or not. 

To all the farmers I befriended and fell in love with. 

To all the organizations and sponsors who understood our worthy and noble cause. 

To my cat, who constantly made me laugh and reminded me to always stay somewhat feral. 

To the teacher who inspired me to look at soil as what a farmer really grows. 

To our neighbor, who through her determination to destroy the farm, helped make us popular and successful.

To all the city officials and food justice activists who helped bring more food security awareness to the community.

To the Gaia Gardens property owner, who offered his land for farming so generously and stood by us all along. 

To the local Press who did mostly a very good job at covering the issues and standing up for what’s right. 

To all the attorneys who helped us fend off an administration and neighbor bent on keeping the farm from operating.

To all the residents of the Los Chamisos Homeowners Association, our direct neighbors, who saw the farm as an asset to the neighborhood and showered us with kindness.

And finally to all the seed growers and seed keepers without whom this would not be written.  

Many people expressed their sadness at the farm closing and my relocating to Colorado.  Of course it is sad when a beautiful community hub like Gaia Gardens disappears.  Many of us understand how beneficial a vibrant and welcoming farm can be to a neighborhood.  Of course it is sad to have so many people are deprived of the opportunity to stop by the farm and dip into a dynamic oasis of fertility and human interactions.

It is sad for me to no longer be able to hold a place for community to gather.  For me the farm was way more than growing food. Just like a Café is more than just about coffee.  These places always serve an essential function in the building of community.  People need to interact socially for some fundamental soul nourishment.  On a farm, people also get to interact with a vibrant and self-reflective ecosystem.  Together with the farm, we learn.  How to grow food.  How to grow as people.  How to grow as community.

I am personally pleased with the amount of human relationships we helped weave.  Through our community potlucks, open-house policy, volunteer time and at the Farmers’ Market.  For me it is probably the most important measure of our success.  We made friends and felt very loved.

It is my hope that what we accomplished, with community cooperation and very little resources, will inspire others with vision and passion to keep re-greening the city with a tapestry of “farm-gardens”, where people trade their crops or buy from their neighbors.  Where paths connect gardens so children can play and the wildlife has a home in the city.

Over the course of four years of farming near an arroyo, I experienced a connection and communication with birds that I wish every child on Earth to have.  Birds seem to know who the farmer is, the one who cultivates plants and supports the birth of seeds, season after season.  They see you everyday in the garden.  They always hide in the bush near where you pee in the morning, and seem to chirp you up for a good day. They come for food and water but stay around the farm-their home.  

After we closed the farm, Dominique and I committed to planting the next season for the wildlife.  And we did.  And that makes me very happy to have made so many friends with so many birds.

The difficulties we encountered from a neighbor’s opposition and a less than enlightened City administration dramatically increased my workload and stress level.  Farming in itself is difficult enough without having to spend countless hours in meetings with attorneys, and being seriously impaired in our ability to operate freely as an educational center.

When I started Gaia Gardens, I already knew that the property was in foreclosure.  I was willing to take a chance, and attempt to make a positive impact on the City, even if I only had a year to do so.  Circumstances made it so that we were able to farm for four seasons.  The uncertainty about the future of the property was a strong factor in making the decision to close the farm.

But it was not the only reason.  My stress level made me brittle.  I wasn’t operating at my best.  My workload-farming year-round, writing grants, working with school gardens, dealing with a bureaucratic firestorm, helping draft an urban farming ordinance and managing the 7-unit rental property that the farm was located on, was an initiation of tough proportion.  My nervous system and Soul were ready for a break. 

When we began working together, Dominique and I had just met.  She rented a studio on the farm.  She jumped right in while also finishing her Masters degree and working as a Massage Therapist.  The farm workload and stress increased for her as well.  Without her complete devotion to people, plants and animals, the farm would have never been what it was.

As much as the economics of Gaia Gardens were successful by all standards, we also depended on small grants, donations and paid work at school gardens.

For me, it became increasingly difficult to work so hard while making so little money.  I had to be honest with the imbalance in my life.  I was working to nourish people yet felt depleted.

Dominique and I assessed that we had done our best, learned a lot, touched a lot of people, fed an abundance of wildlife and survived our friendship. We both intuitively knew that it was time to wrap it up and move on to new creative endeavors dear to our hearts.

I took a year off, went traveling, promoted a documentary that was made on the farm, got immersed in the Bernie fever, started dancing again, went to Standing Rock and began exploring where I would be drawn and inspired to acquire land for the MilAbrazos Community Land Trust, which was birthed out of the farm momentum.

After six months of looking for land, I have chosen to relocate to Paonia, on the Western Slopes of Colorado.  It is and adorable and creative agricultural community that has welcomed me with a warm heart.  Should your whereabouts take you to this part of the West, feel free to stop by for a visit.

I will miss my friends in Santa Fe and will visit once in a while.  

Thank you again for all the Love and support you gave us!

With immense gratitude,

Poki

Monday, June 27, 2016

Help Restore the Creativity for Peace Memorial Garden




















CALL for VOLUNTEERS

Help Restore the Creativity for Peace Memorial Garden


WORK PARTY: Saturday, July 2, 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. at Camp (just before Glorieta)

In 2009, a 15 year-old former camper from Gaza along with two of her sisters and a cousin were killed in the fighting between Israel and Gaza. Later that year, our campers and staff created a memorial garden on our camp land to honor these young women and as a place of contemplation and remembrance for all those affected by war and violence.

As the camp is not occupied year-round, time and nature have left their marks. We now need to infuse care and love back into this garden. We have received a cash donation to help with the project as well as materials donated by local businesses. Now we need a few volunteers to undertake the garden restoration and year-round maintenance.

If you can help with this project, please contact: Kirsten: kirsten@creativityforpeace.com

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.



https://vimeo.com/160541673/93c752563b














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,

Poki

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

New Website for Mil Abrazos Community Land Trust

http://milabrazoscommunitylandtrust.blogspot.com/p/about.html
Click on image to go to website

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



Introduction 

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!