Monday, December 17, 2012

Reflections Post a First Season of Urban Farming

Before I begin elaborating on the myriad thoughts, feelings and visions post an exploratory year of urban farming, let me extend my immense gratitude and awe to all of the people who contributed to making Gaia Garden’s first season a magnificent experience. 

Inspecting compost at our Dec.1 workshop


Prior to starting Gaia Gardens in Feb. 2012, I apprenticed on three farm projects, in Mexico (El Jardin de Guadalupe), Santa Fe, NM (Dandelion Ranch) and Cerrillos, NM (Synergia Ranch).  I learned enough in these places to muster the courage to venture into a larger market garden.  I chose the Gaia Gardens location specifically for its proximity to the Bike Trail and High Schools, and for the fact that it hadn’t been cultivated before. I wanted to be in the same conditions that many future urban farmers in Santa Fe would deal with; poor soil and limited water. I also found Jay, the owner of the property, remarkably receptive to all the activities I proposed to have peripheral to the garden.

Nothing prepared me for what I experienced, both in terms of the hard work and support which was so graciously offered at Gaia Gardens. Everything fell into place. We were pushed and challenged by the demand of a first farming season, while also building a nurturing and inspiring community around us.  Our volunteer days, workshops and potluck gatherings brought together an amazing array of talents and personalities, slowly revealing the important aspects and purpose of an urban farm environment like Gaia Gardens.

I believe that a place has its dream.  As caretakers, granted that we are attentive enough to listen, and brave enough to trust, we engage in a co-creative process with all the inhabitants of a place.  At Gaia Gardens this includes residents, volunteers, customers, neighbors and also insects, bees, birds, fungi and soil micro-organisms, the later humming a symphony of health and balance that I sense is behind all the hope and inspiration that drive us to tend the land with such care and devotion.

Gaia Gardens started as an urban farm and was quickly acknowledged for holding a larger function in the evolution of our city and its culture.  The resonance of a thriving eco-system on its surroundings is obvious.  Birds (over 30 species observed) and bees flock to the garden, hundreds of people pass by the garden while riding or walking the Arroyo de los Chamisos Trail, many stopping by to purchase produce at our farm stand.  Parents bring their children to the garden, to our greatest delight.  Elders from the neighborhood frequently stop by to chat, praise our work and give us advice.  The garden, with its regular volunteer and farm stand days, has quickly become a restful, inspiring and healing playground.

In providing a camp for WWOOFERS, we make available opportunities for young people the world over to gather experience in urban farming, and in turn they bring to us a wealth of creativity, joy and knowledge.

Our November workshop on fermentation

In offering workshops, at a very low cost or for free, our community is introduced to many elements that ought to be considered in our quest to foster a healthy culture.

After nearly a year of much doing and deep listening, it is becoming clear that Gaia Gardens wishes to be much more than a market garden.  It has the elements and the spirit to be a place of incubation for regenerative community. It is a place where we can practice BEING together, finding ways to make decisions that serve a broad and diverse audience.  It is place for children and adults to attune themselves to the timeless art of growing food, while at the same time making friends, sharing and learning the skills that will support a life giving future.  It is a place to heal and gently rebirth our indigenous selves.

Inspecting young plants in our new 10' X 40' hoop house

With money often being a hindrance to participation in important teachings, we are inspired to move Gaia Gardens to a gift economy, trusting that the goodness and resourcefulness of our community will support the operation of the farm.

December meeting of Architecture for Humanity

Architecture for Humanity will be building our new garden structure, using a large portion of recycled lumber. The structure will be used for packing vegetables for the Farmers Markets and for our CSA shares, and to provide shade for people working in the garden.

The new top bar beehives

In 2013, we will be presenting regular workshops on gardening, composting, fermentation, natural building, beekeeping, medicinal herbs, bicycle repair, seed saving, and more.  We will also be offering our place for activist groups working on land and food security issues. A puppet theater is in the making to add a playful dimension to the farm. And our fire pit is always available for heart-to-heart gatherings of men, women, and adolescents.

We are inspired by countless possibilities and are aware that we must strike a healthy balance of work, play, and nourishment in order to model a regenerative environment.  While constantly nourishing the soil with beautiful compost, we must equally nourish ourselves.

Our first duck eggs

As we begin crafting our offerings for 2013, we invite you to come forward with your ideas, hopes and desires.  We wish to create a community hub that works for you, our neighbors, and the many school children visiting the farm. Together, we must skillfully navigate finances, city codes and ingenuity in order to craft a place that is inspiring, dynamic and joyous, and can serve as a model for other urban farms around our city.

We will soon be hosting a series of conversations to involve your participation and the creativity of the children.  We intend to create various committees to take care of flowers, medicinal herbs, bees (we have 3 hives and will be adding 2 more in the spring), compost, children’s activities, events, workshops and more.

As you may know, in order to increase our cultivable area, we need to drill a new, deeper well.  The Shoong Foundation generously donated $4,000 toward our cost of $9,000 for the new well.  Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support that effort (you can donate here). 

In order to model water harvesting, we will be restoring an old 5,000 gal underground concrete cistern, formerly part of a 1960 greenhouse operation on the property, and diverting roof water and runoffs to it in order to supplement our irrigation system.

The owner of the property is trying to renegotiate his mortgage with the bank.  In the event that he is unable to hold on to the property, we need to find individuals or a foundation willing to purchase the property and create a land trust. 

We’ve been delighted to receive much attention from the press this year (New Mexican, Green Fire Times and Albuquerque Journal)(see articles here). We presented our project to the Department of Land Use, Sustainable Santa Fe Commission, Santa Fe Food Policy Council and Santa Fe Community College, and feel a deep calling to grow and steward Gaia Gardens to be a successful model of urban farming, sustainability and permaculture education, while sharing our knowledge and facility with as many people as possible.

Thank you for being part of this truly amazing experience!  We couldn’t have done it without your love and support.  We look forward to serving our community next year and wish you a happy holiday season.

Caramela, our one-eyed duck, fiercely guarding her nest

Monday, December 10, 2012

Gaia Gardens Honored with "Best Recycler" Award

The Recycling Recognition Program hosted by the New Mexico Green Chamber and in partnership with the New Mexico Recycling Coalition and the Partnership for Responsible Business, encourages more businesses to reduce their waste, buy recycled, and recycle more, as well as build value and raise awareness for businesses that do recycle and reduce their waste.

On November 14th, at the City Council meeting, Santa Fe's Mayor Coss recognized and honored the following Santa Fe participating business and organizations for their dedication to recycling and re-using.

Dept. of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management
Earthstone International
Gaia Gardens
New Mexico Highlands University
Positive Energy Solar
Restaurant Martin
Santa Fe Incubator
Santa Fe Public Schools 

Fresh from the Press

(click on image to read full article)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Seeds for your Christmas Stockings


Gaia Gardens is now selling seed packets as part of our fund raising effort for a new well.

  • Sunflower (2 varieties, including the Russian Giant that we had in the middle of the garden)
  • Marigold (2 varieties)
  • Calendula
  • Scarlet Runner Bean
  • Hollyhock
  • Tobacco (2 varieties)

Individual seed packets are $2.50
Bundle of 5 different seed packets are $10

We'll be selling at the Farmers Market on Sat Dec. 15 and Sat. Dec 22.

You can also buy seeds at the farm and we ship.

Bulk rates available for larger quantities of seeds.

For ordering email Poki

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Compost Workshop Sat. Dec. 1

Location:  Gaia Gardens
Time: 1:00-3:00pm

Lots of people ask us about how to make good compost.  It's a bit like cooking.  You've got to use good ingredients, in good proportion, give it enough water, time and a little care.
In this workshop, we'll look at half a dozen piles made during the summer.  Some will be turned, and some will be used to top dress our garden beds before they get mulched for the winter.
Digging through, turning, looking at, and smelling compost are the best ways to learn about the process of composting.

Be prepared to move some energy and explore the magic of soil making.
Children are totally welcome.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Monthly Potluck, Mason Bees and Bird Sanctuary

Orchard Mason Bees
Warm thank you's to Kathy for gifting us a sleeping tribe of Orchard Mason Bees!  She delivered the slumbering creatures in 6 inch cardboard tubes, which we gently unravelled to separate each individual cocoon.  After freeing all the bees to be, we placed them in the refrigerator to keep them from hatching yet.  They will be released next spring when the temperature rises to a steady fifty degrees Fahrenheit.  These tiny black/blue superheroes are the first pollinators, they target the earliest blooming trees and bushes. To learn more about this amazing process you can reference, "The Orchard Mason Bee", by Brian L. 

Beekeeping at Gaia Gardens
Gaia Gardens will be keeping bees next year as we have acquired two top bar hives and are building a third one with adobe bricks.  If you are interested in participating in our beekeeping activities, please contact Dominique.


Bird Sanctuary
In September, Cheryl, a bird watcher from the Audubon Society, came by to observe bird life in the garden. In two morning sessions, she recorded 21 species!

Barn Swallow
Northern Rough Wing Swallow
White-winged Dove
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Mourning Dove
Rock Dove {Pigeon]
American Robin
Black-headed Grosbeak
Western Scrub Jay
House Finch
Canyon Towhee
Spotted Towhee
American Crow
Western Kingbird
House Sparrow
Curve-billed Thrasher
Rufous Hummingbird
Black-Chinned Hummingbird
Broad-tailed Hummingbird
Western Wood-Pewee [Flycatcher]
Bewick’s Wren

If interested in helping us choose plants to attract and feed migratory birds for next year, please contact Poki

Don't miss our grand finale Community Potluck 
Monday Nov. 5
Come celebrate the end of our first farming season with wood-fired pizza, pumpkin soup from the garden, music and dessert.

NOTE: Please park on the street!

Sign-up on the right of blog (Follow this Blog by Email) to receive announcements posted on this blog.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Upcoming Workshops, Studio for Rent and Community Potluck

Sat. Nov. 17  
Natural Building with Charles Bell

We'll be creating a semi circular bench in the garden using little more than the earth under our feet.  Come learn skills that can be applied to a wide variety of natural building projects for beautiful, durable and long lasting natural structures.  Clay + Sand + Straw = Bench, Oven, Studio, House... Whatever!  Cob is a structural composite of clay, sand, straw and water which lends itself to freeform artistic building while still being strong enough for any situation and easy enough for anyone to do.
No experience necessary, just a willingness to get dirty and have fun.  Come for the full day or just an hour.  Children most welcome.  Cost:  Donation  (TB$ accepted)


Sunday Nov. 18  
Fermenting Vegetables with Dawn Bourgeois
In this fun, hands-on class, you will learn step-by-step how to make raw fermented vegetables. We will discuss the tools needed, the production process from start to finish and ways to eat them. You will also learn the benefits of eating this amazing healing food! You will walk away with a handout of the process discussed in class, a jar of vegetables and the confidence to make fermented vegetables in your own kitchen. Join us for an afternoon of fun and fermentation!  Cost:  $15  (TB$ accepted)

Dawn Bourgeois is a Certified Body Ecologist and budding Holistic Health Coach. In 2006, after struggling with health issues and the current medical system, she began deeply exploring natural healing and food as medicine. She is passionate and intrigued by the ability of fermented foods to heal and nurture the body. She has been providing fermentation demonstrations since 2007 and is currently studying at The Institute for Integrative Nutrition.

At our Oct. 14 Hoop House workshop...

Installing grommets on the 6mil plastic

Voila!  Tucked in for the winter...

Community Potluck
Monday Nov 5
This will be our harvest celebration and last community potluck this year.  We'll be making pizza and bread in our wood-fired horno and will sacrifice our largest pumpkin to make the most delicious, cream-filled soup.  Musicians and kids always cherished.

Volunteer Time and Farm Stand
Mon. and Wed. 9:00am-12:00pm
We are still working in the garden on those days and still have chard, kale, arugula, carrots and winter squash for sale.

600sq' Work Studio for rent at Gaia Gardens  
There will be an opening in the commercial building as of Dec 1st (possibly earlier).  Studio is one open space with 220V for a stove and kiln.  Space currently has no heat. Bathroom and shower are next door in the building.  $500/month. For inquiries, please contact Poki  RENTED!

NOTE: There will be no more Qigong class offered on Monday until next Spring.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

New Volunteer Time and HoopHouses Workshop

New Volunteer Time 
Mondays and Wednesdays 

We still have tomatoes, potatoes, kale and chard for sale.  We'll keep the farm stand open during these days and times.

"Scraper" working with Dominique cleaning frozen tomato plants


Francesca, a new wwoofer staying at the farm.


Kaylyn (pushing wheelbarrow) is back...

Today Sunday Oct 14
Workshop-Building Hoophouses
Cost: $10

Monday, October 8, 2012

Hard Freeze, Monte del Sol and Last Day of Farm Stand

This morning was a rude awakening!  A freeze hit the garden hard last night and killed basil, squash, tomatoes and marigolds.  Even though the tomatoes and basil were covered, as a 32 degree had been predicted the day before, the freeze put an early end to our season.

A dozen flats of green tomatoes were brought inside and hopefully will ripen before Christmas...

The covered plants before the freeze

The damage to the chard, marigold and squash...

Our last farm stand will be this Wednesday Oct. 10, 8am-12pm.  We will do a few more Farmers Markets after that but we are nearing the end of our growing season.

Last week, twenty teenagers from the Monte del Sol High School came to spend a morning at the farm.

They predator-proofed the chicken coop,


sifted compost,

and cooked lunch with vegetables from the garden.


Building hoophouses over your existing beds
Sunday, Oct.14
Learn to create efficient hoophouses using rebar, PVC and UV resistant plastic to cover existing beds.  Grow food such as kale, parsley, mustard greens and chard in these tight and windproof tunnels.  Instructor: Poki, Gaia Gardens coordinator.  Cost: $10

Sign-up on the right of blog (Follow this Blog by Email) to receive announcements posted on this blog.

If you wish to support this project, you can make a tax-deductible donation here.   See our Wish List

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Community Meeting Monday Oct 1, Earthcare and Ducks

Bianca Sopoci-Belknap (left, with her baby Rowan) Director of Youth Programs for EarthCare, with her new Americorps crew.  These young folks are in town for eleven months, working in garden-related projects as part of EarthCare food justice program

They spent an afternoon helping remove goat heads around the property and two of them came to work our stand at the Eldorado farmers market.

The following weekend was a great opportunity to say thank you to EarthCare and fire-up the horno for some wholesome pizza (including exotic varieties with pears and beets!)

Members of the Architecture for Humanity local chapter met with us at Gaia Gardens to discuss their intent to build a new farm stand, a solar shower and a portable puppet theater for Gaia Gardens.

Following a noise complaint from a neighbor, our 3 ducks got relocated to a new pen (palace?) near the compost yard.  A large postcard in the shape of a duck was delivered to the neighbor with these words on it:  
Dear Don,
I am sorry that my quack was so obnoxious.  I think my parents were genetically- modified and used as boat horns in Indonesia.  I just moved down the hill to a very plush pad with ground-level swimming pool and shaded patio.  The food, unfortunately, has not changed… Poki may be French but his cooking abilities are worse than British. I hope your mornings are peaceful once again.
PS. I hope you don’t report the chickens to the authorities, as we (the 3 ducks) are now enjoying our own space, and don’t want to ever have to share our place with so many rambunctious ladies.

Kids help pick damaged chard and kale leaves, and feed the chickens and ducks,


as well as gather eggs from the hen house.  Their visit ends with songs.

On Sunday afternoon 4-6pm, a group from EarthCare is now coming to work on the farm.

We started sifting compost from our large compost pile,


and amended one of the potato beds that was recently cleared.

Chard will soon be transplanted in that bed.

The Sunday evening ended with, guess what?  More pizza!  Feel free to join these wonderful youths on Sunday for an afternoon of laughin' and farmin'.

Monthly Community Potluck
Monday Oct 1
Bring dishes to cook in the horno (pizza dough and toppings, bread, root vegetables)

Upcoming Workshop!

Building hoophouses over your existing beds
Sunday, Oct.14
Learn to create efficient hoophouses using rebar, PVC and UV resistant plastic to cover existing beds.  Grow food such as kale, parsley, mustard greens and chard in these tight and windproof tunnels.  Instructor: Poki, Gaia Gardens farm manager.  Cost: $10
Please register by emailing us

Farm Stand
New hours
Mon., Wed. & Fri. 

Farmers Markets
Tuesday at the Railyard  8:00am-1:00pm  (our booth is outside)
Saturday at the Railyard  8:00am-1:00pm  (our booth is inside)
Friday in Eldorado  3:00-7:00pm

Mon., Wed. & Fri.    8:00am-12:00pm 

Qigong Class ( Led by Dominique. Free)
Mondays 7:30-8:00am 

For more info on our activities and schedule, please visit here

Sign-up on the right of blog (Follow this Blog by Email) to receive announcements posted on this blog.

If you wish to support this project, you can make a tax-deductible donation here.   See our Wish List