Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Reflection on a Stormy Day

Last Sunday was the first Community Meeting at Gaia Gardens.  Five of us met (Jay, Cia, Jennie, Judith and Poki) to begin a conversation about the future of Gaia Gardens and what is needed to get there.

As the instigator of this project, I have purposefully left the definition of this "urban farm" wide open in order for more of a community mind/heart to define its mission and goals.  You are therefore all invited to participate in the definition of this new place.

In one month time, a handful of volunteers have staged a large compost area, recycled a lot of equipment and raw material from a defunct greenhouse operation, built a 20'X8' lean-to greenhouse for our plant starts, planted fruit trees, started seeds indoors, and begun to prepare 7,000sq' for cultivation.  A blog has been created, attracting over 500 visitors so far, an application for fiscal sponsorship has been submitted to the NM Community Foundation and a grant has been submitted to RSF Social Finance.

Starting a farm is no small undertaking.  Especially with no money! Especially in Santa Fe where soil is poor and water scarce.  However, my heart tells me that we ought to demonstrate that with the proper soil preparation, wind protection, water harvesting, choice of plants and a little bit of community magic, fertility and abundance can be restored to our land, and delicious food produced within our city limit (do you know that in Havana, Cuba, 50% of their fresh food is grown in the city? see more)

Beginning a farm can be a bit overwhelming.  The rototilling of the 7,000sq' area surfaced several tons of rocks that must now be removed.  Picking rocks is what our ancestors had to do by hand each time they started a new farm plot.  Reconnecting with the patience and devotion that it takes to prepare a plot of land is bringing us closer to the indigenous mind.  What if each rock was picked with a prayer and an expression of gratitude for the opportunity to create another oasis in the city...

Creating an urban farm that also encompasses art, a playground, a park, a bird sanctuary, ceremonies, classes and a variety of growing and composting techniques would be an inspiration to many.  Engaging a whole neighborhood in recycling its food waste for our compost operation would be a great example in a city so "different" that there is no green waste recycling, and less than 20% of the population recycles its glass, cans, plastic and cardboard (in contrast, San Francisco has made it mandatory to recycle all residential and commercial food waste (see more).

What kind of farm are these times and this particular location calling us to create?  What kind of farm can collective intelligence and wisdom bring forth?  The possibilities are endless yet we must also be wise and creative in looking at the economics of such an undertaking.  Where will the money come from to develop the infrastructure (large water catchment, efficient irrigation, year-round passive solar greenhouse, tools, amendment, seeds) and where will the revenues come from?  Can the farm become a place where many teachers offer classes and demonstrate a variety of methods and technologies?  Can the farm yield enough food to sell at a food stand on the property or at a local farmers market?  Can several small enterprises be created, some involving teenagers (vegetables, plant starts, worms, eggs, goat milk, compost)?

I have a lot of questions on my mind.  We have an opportunity to bring in a lot of knowledge and wisdom in creating this new farm.  I have invited several respected permaculture teachers (Joel Glanzberg, Tom Watson, Derk Loeks) to come take a look at the property.  My sense is that we ought to demonstrate that food production in the city is not only feasible, but also that it can be done in a way that nourishes the land, its animals, birds and insects, the children and the elders, while also creating ripples of joy and goodness throughout the neighborhood and beyond.

So don't be shy.  Please come visit.  Take a walk on the property and see what the land whispers to you.  Bring a prayer with you to cheer all the soil micro organisms creating the soil that our vegetable starts will soon be planted into.  Bring your food waste and make an offering to our giant compost pile (in our Mexican project, the enormous compost pile was names "Compostlan" by the tribe of sundancers living next to the community garden.  see more)

Our "farm days" are held regularly on Thursdays and Sundays from 1:00-4:00pm.  Please come at anytime during these hours.  Bring your kids or elders.  There is no obligation to do anything unless you feel inspired to do so.  If these days and hours don't work for you, I am at the farm on other days.  (Contact me to see when)

At the community meeting, we decided to begin crafting a mission statement as well as to assemble a governing council.

We will continue holding a regular 11:00am-12:30pm community meeting every Sunday at the farm.

Our regular farm days for volunteers are held every Thursday and Sunday from 1:00-4:00pm (winter schedule)

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

Thank you Ellen and Terry for your donation of yummy moldy straw for our compost operation!

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