Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Jan. 2013 Letter to Mayor Coss asking for Help to Legalize our Farm Stand

2012 "Best Recycler" Award Ceremony at City Hall with Mayor Coss in the backgound

In anticipation of a meeting with Mayor Gonzalez next week, to discuss the Gaia Gardens situation, I am releasing the following letter sent to Mayor Coss in Jan. 2013.  I sent the letter twice and never got a reply from Mayor Coss.  

Jan. 18, 2013

Dear Mayor Coss,

I most recently met you at the City Council session of Nov. 14, 2012, where Gaia Gardens received the "Best Recycler" award from the Santa Fe Green Chamber of Commerce, and two weeks ago at the Carbon Economy Series on Sustainable Tourism.

Gaia Gardens, a new urban farm in the City limit, received many praises from the Santa Fe press in 2012 (see press coverage here)

I am writing to you to seek your guidance and support on two issues having to do with urban farming in residential zoning.

With Gaia Gardens being located next to the Arroyo de los Chamisos Trail, many neighbors, bicyclists and walkers stop by to visit our beautiful garden.  Upon their frequent requests in the Spring, we opened a small farm stand and sold produce three mornings a week during the summer months.

Being a new non-profit, having that farm stand was an economic life saver since we were on a waiting list with the Santa Fe Farmers Market and could not get a booth on Saturdays until later in the summer.  The farm stand sales accounted for nearly half of our income in 2012.

Quandary #1 : According to city zoning codes, the sell of farm produce is apparently not allowed on our premises.  I understand that one of the reasons for not allowing retail in residential zoning is related to noise and parking issues.

In our situation, 90% of our customers come on foot and access the farm stand via our garden gate situated off the Arroyo de los Chamisos Trail.  Most are neighbors and enthusiastic about being able to purchase fresh organic produce from their neighborhood farm.

Our farm is part of the Wwoof-USA organization (Willing Workers on Organic Farms), and we welcome young people the world over, who are eager to work and learn at organic farms.  We host these young people in 4 small tents, have built an outdoor kitchen and have bathrooms and showers for them in one of the buildings on the property.

Quandary #2:  According to Code Enforcement Officer James G. Martinez, whom I spoke with recently, city codes don't allow camping on our property.

Wwoofers, along with volunteers that we welcome three days a week in the garden, are the labor force that makes the operation of our farm possible, just like many other organic farms selling at the Farmers Market.

Question #1:  Is it possible to get a variance to be allowed to sell produce at our farm stand?  We get an average of 20 people between the hours of 7:00am and 11:00am on Mon., Wed. & Fri., with sales ranging from $75 to $200.

Question #2:  Is it possible to get permission to have up to 4 people at anytime camp on the land.  Most Woofers stay for a couple days to a couple weeks as they tend to visit several farms while in the area.

Our farm is flanked on two sides by the Chamisos Subdivision, an association of 53 homes.  We are frequently featured in their newsletter, many of the association members are our customers and we recently agreed to host their chicken co-op on our property.  

Growing food in our city seems essential to developing a sustainable Santa Fe. Selling that food on site is not only the most sustainable solution but also helps build community and neighborhood resilience.  In addition, farm stands are, according to Selena Marroquin, Agritourism Coordinator for Global Center for Cultural Entrepreneurship, "a vital part of agritourism".

Earlier last year, I wrote to you seeking your advice on water rights issues related to starting a farm in the city.

You were very kind and responsive in referring me to Heather Lamboy and Tamara Baer.

I would appreciate hearing any suggestions that you may have on the above mentioned topics.


Poki Piottin
Executive Director
Gaia Gardens 

Gaia Gardens is fiscally-sponsored by the New Mexico Community Foundation, a 501(c)3

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