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