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.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Offering additional CSA shares for the rest of the season

CSA share Wed. July 23

As you may know, we've been offering a Community Supported Agriculture for the past two years.

Each week, CSA members pick up a bag of produce at the farm, as well as volunteer at least 2 hours/month on farm-related tasks.

CSA share are $22/week and there are 15 weeks left until the end of our season ($330 payable in 2 installments)

The additional shares offered will not contain eggs, just produce.

We are only accepting a few new CSA members so if you are interested, please contact us ASAP for an application

Next CSA pick up day is Wed. July 30

Friday, July 18, 2014

Plant Sale at the Farmers' Market Sat 7/19

Help feed the bees.  Plant pollinator flowers!

Saturday July 19  
Gaia Gardens is having a big PLANT SALE at the Farmers' Market
Look us up near the water tower at the Railyard

We'll be selling our flower and herb starts for $1.25 (regular $2.50) or 10 starts for $10
Bring a box if you intend to get lots of starts.
We'll be making deals. 


Alyssum (white, tiny tim)
Bells of Ireland
Bottle Gourd
Broom Corn (Amish Rainbow)
Calendula (resina)
California Poppy (orange)
California Poppy (white linen)
Comfrey  ($4 not included in the sale)
Golden Marguerite
Lemon Balm
Pink Cosmos
Rosemary ($2.50 not included in the sale)
Speckled Swan Gourd
Sunflower (evening sun)
Sunflower (flash blend)
Sunflower (mammoth)
Sunflower (sunspot)
Sweet Peas
Tobacco (pink, cigar wrapper)
Tobacco (yellow, smoking)

Monday, June 30, 2014

In the Local Press last week

Our View: Urban farming needs support, not more talk

Most city folk have no business wearing a pair of overalls or handling a scythe. But some are anxious to try. As the demand for locally grown food continues to rise nationwide, a few city dwellers are responding by tilling the soil in vacant lots, empty fields, rooftops and other innovative spaces. It’s called urban farming — the growing and harvesting of food in a city that is intended for sale — and it’s taking off, little by little.

Some cities have even implemented policies encouraging and subsidizing its growth, helping the movement to reach its full potential. For example, San Francisco is considering tax breaks for property owners who make empty lots available for farming. Detroit has enacted an urban agriculture ordinance law, specifying where farms can operate and under what conditions. Austin, Texas, has adopted a framework that helps farmers connect the dots between various stakeholders.

Cities are taking action because they recognize that urban agriculture does more than just produce locally grown, sustainable food. It builds community, improves the environment, beautifies empty lots, increases food security and encourages healthy diets. The verdict is still out on whether the concept has any substantial economic potential, but few can argue its ability to bring people together and to educate them about food production.

Despite all this, Santa Fe seems to be on the fence.

Gaia Gardens — located across from Santa Fe High along the Arroyo Chamiso Trail — remains one of the few commercial urban farms inside city limits. Since it started in 2012, the organization has repeatedly been cited for various city code violations. At one point last year, the Gaia controversy prompted the city’s Public Works Committee to consider a resolution ordering staff to look at ways urban agriculture can be integrated into land uses. Unfortunately, the resolution has not progressed.

Regardless of how the Gaia saga plays out, the city needs to let residents know where it stands. The absence of a concrete, citywide policy sends a message of indifference to would-be urban farmers and their would-be customers. The Santa Fe Food Policy Council has prepared a food plan that covers a range of issues, including urban agriculture. After taking comments from the public, the council will make a recommendation to city and county officials for what is most appropriate for our city, given its unique water needs. Irrigation water rights should be available on some vacant lots, making growing food possible and affordable. Their recommendations are expected to come in early fall.

There may not be a magic formula that leads to the successful implementation of urban agricultural initiatives. Cities inevitably have differing approaches, each according to their own needs, desires and politics. But the longer Santa Fe waits to figure out what works best for its population, the longer it postpones reaping the benefits of what is already serving to revitalize hundreds of communities throughout the United States. With food insecurity such a problem in New Mexico, making healthy, fresh food available close to home makes sense.

If Santa Fe wants to be a leader in the green economy, we have to dig deeper.

Reader View: Gaia Gardens - a remarkable treasure

As a first-time visitor to Santa Fe, where I’ve spent the week training 15 high school teachers for environmental science, I had the great pleasure of visiting the Gaia Gardens organic urban farm. For many years, I’ve heard so many good things about Santa Fe — a national leader in arts and sustainability — and thus was delighted to find this jewel in the heart of your lovely city.
During my visit, I learned not only is Gaia Gardens producing high-quality organic products but also has the mission of educating Santa Fe citizens, including students on all levels. 

I also learned of your “Sustainable Santa Fe Plan,” yet another forward-thinking program that includes “making the community more resilient in the face of climate change” based on the three principles of environmental stewardship, economic health and social justice.

Gaia Gardens encompasses your commitment promoting all three of these principles. There is no greater human impact on our biosphere than agriculture, which consumes 40 percent of our planet’s fresh water, 40 percent of its arable land, more than 40 percent of the gross annual biological productivity and a toxic soup of agrichemicals while it emits 18 percent of global greenhouse gases. This is obviously an unsustainable food production system.

Thank goodness for Gaia Gardens, which demonstrates another way — highly nutritional, local, organic produce with carbon-neutral input and insignificant water use. If you haven’t visited this remarkable operation, you’re missing a Santa Fe treasure.

Thanks to Santa Fe for its foresight in promoting such activities. I will be telling your story to many more as I travel across the nation for my teacher-training activities.

Jack Greene is a College Board Advanced Placement environmental science workshop consultant and resides in Logan, Utah.