Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Musings of a Pissed Off Farmer

Re-opening our farm stand (we had a farm stand open in 2012 but the City told us to shut it down) was a conscious decision made by both Dominique and I. 

We have been at the Farmers’ Market every Saturday, year-round, for the past 2 ½ years. We are well loved there and had a very successful spring selling plant starts. 

Once the plant starts season is over, and produce starts becoming more and more abundant at the Farmers’ Market, not only do we have to compete with 125 other farmers selling similar stuff, but we also lose our prime spring booth location and get moved to the back of the Market. 

But more importantly for us, a farm stand is the most logical and sustainable way to sell our produce. It’s way less work, less wasted time (we can work in between customers) and it’s a marvelous neighborhood hub. People visit the garden, bring their kids and mingle.

Now that the City is preventing us again from operating a farm stand (no, we do not sell under-the-counter drugs!), we decided to engage in a political protest. 

Since 2012, through two administrations, we have asked repeatedly to be granted the rights to operate as every urban farm is able to operate in every major city in the United State. 

We could again yield to the demands of the City and continue selling at the Farmers’ Market but in our view, it is not the right thing to do. 

In these times, growing healthy food, and teaching people how, should be the highest priority for any community and city administration. 

Our political protest is to simply give the food away to people in need. Our friends and supporters at the Food Depot (we collect compost from them) are currently counseling us on how to best distribute the produce that will be harvested in the next 3 months. 

As you may know, we have also been running a CSA for the past 3 seasons.  Today we also cancelled our CSA because it is an equally illegal activity (according to the current zoning codes) as operating a farm stand.

The math?  Our political protest will deprive us of approximately $12,000 in revenues this year. 

You may think I have gone crazy when I could sell our produce at the Farmers’ Market and La Montanita Coop! 

Well, crazy is not always a bad thing. For me, normal is quite boring and the world needs a healthy dose of outrageous civil disobedience if we want things to change for the good! 

In announcing that we are quitting, in protest of the City’s inaction and harassment, we have created a reaction and we’ve bought ourselves $12,000 of free press and radio coverage (we are learning from Mr. Trump!). 

Twenty four hours after announcing our protest, we’ve been offered several parcels of land to farm on. People’s hearts are good, no doubt. 

Our decision to not continue farming will hopefully encourage people to deeply reflect on what they want their city to look like, what they want their kids to experience as they grow up, what kind of food security and food justice they want their City to be known for. 

Right now we are sitting on a gem of a property, set-up as a farm, with a well and irrigation rights (currently being protested in court by the same neighbor who thinks a farm is a nuisance and an eye sore in the City). 

As you may know, the property has been in foreclosure for 4 years. The bank has taken no legal action to repossess the property but it could happen soon. We’ve raised $107,000 to purchase the property and if we are lucky, the property could be purchased for around $400,000. 

Someone needs to come up with the rest of the money...

This morning, as I was harvesting for our last CSA (and having my first burst of grief!), I had a thought that our farm would make a great community garden or community farm (vs. a commercial farm). It’s a turnkey operation. 

When we leave, I will salvage as much equipment as I can and store, sell or give it away to a farmer, but it would be a shame so see all that infrastructure and beautiful soil that we’ve built go to waste. 

Someone needs to save this jewel of a place or it will fall to a developer or a slumlord. 

I will not continue being a commercial farmer in the City. I feel like I have done my work in this community and it is now time to move on. Battling a neighbor and a City administration is exhausting and insane. 

Farming and trying to make a living on that small of a piece of land, while at the same time trying to work with schools and being on the Board of Directors of several non-profits in town is incredibly demanding.

So. I am putting all this out because the future of the farm is entirely in your hands. 

Remember that Ecoversity folded. The Community Farm on Agua Fria is equally vulnerable. 

Get involved. Use your creativity to make a difference in your community. 

Raise some hell. The world needs it and needs you. 

Hugs and Kisses.


  1. So sorry to hear all of this. Thank you for being inspiring and keeping both feet on the soil despite the endless complications. I'm looking forward to seeing what you do next.
    -MaryEllen (former Goodwill friend)

  2. This situation is a sad commentary on Santa Fe and the attitudes of those in power or control. It is also a sad commentary on the State of NM. After 9 years in the yak business I was "driven out" also but by apathy of the Livestock Board and its inspectors and the Sheriffs who stated yaks were the business of the Livestock Board and the Livestock Board which said it had no interest in yaks ....and so this destruction of businesses of hard working people makes NM look very bad indeed. Gaia Gardens was not only an in city farm it was a place of healing and refuge for those who needed to get their hands in the dirt..Callous indifference is exactly what is destroying society and the planet.