Monday, December 26, 2016

Goodbye Santa Fe


I wish to begin with a Big Thank You to all the people who contributed to making Gaia Gardens, and my initiation as a farmer, one intensely profound experience.  

First and foremost, my co-conspirator and dearest friend Dominique, who makes beauty of whatever she touches and helped hold a loving space for all the people who came to the farm. 

To the volunteers who made us feel like a family and fed the holy fire of community. 

To all the sweet people at the Farmers’ Market, who cheered us on all along, whether they were our customers or not. 

To all the farmers I befriended and fell in love with. 

To all the organizations and sponsors who understood our worthy and noble cause. 

To my cat, who constantly made me laugh and reminded me to always stay somewhat feral. 

To the teacher who inspired me to look at soil as what a farmer really grows. 

To our neighbor, who through her determination to destroy the farm, helped make us popular and successful.

To all the city officials and food justice activists who helped bring more food security awareness to the community.

To the Gaia Gardens property owner, who offered his land for farming so generously and stood by us all along. 

To the local Press who did mostly a very good job at covering the issues and standing up for what’s right. 

To all the attorneys who helped us fend off an administration and neighbor bent on keeping the farm from operating.

To all the residents of the Los Chamisos Homeowners Association, our direct neighbors, who saw the farm as an asset to the neighborhood and showered us with kindness.

And finally to all the seed growers and seed keepers without whom this would not be written.  

Many people expressed their sadness at the farm closing and my relocating to Colorado.  Of course it is sad when a beautiful community hub like Gaia Gardens disappears.  Many of us understand how beneficial a vibrant and welcoming farm can be to a neighborhood.  Of course it is sad to have so many people are deprived of the opportunity to stop by the farm and dip into a dynamic oasis of fertility and human interactions.

It is sad for me to no longer be able to hold a place for community to gather.  For me the farm was way more than growing food. Just like a Café is more than just about coffee.  These places always serve an essential function in the building of community.  People need to interact socially for some fundamental soul nourishment.  On a farm, people also get to interact with a vibrant and self-reflective ecosystem.  Together with the farm, we learn.  How to grow food.  How to grow as people.  How to grow as community.

I am personally pleased with the amount of human relationships we helped weave.  Through our community potlucks, open-house policy, volunteer time and at the Farmers’ Market.  For me it is probably the most important measure of our success.  We made friends and felt very loved.

It is my hope that what we accomplished, with community cooperation and very little resources, will inspire others with vision and passion to keep re-greening the city with a tapestry of “farm-gardens”, where people trade their crops or buy from their neighbors.  Where paths connect gardens so children can play and the wildlife has a home in the city.

Over the course of four years of farming near an arroyo, I experienced a connection and communication with birds that I wish every child on Earth to have.  Birds seem to know who the farmer is, the one who cultivates plants and supports the birth of seeds, season after season.  They see you everyday in the garden.  They always hide in the bush near where you pee in the morning, and seem to chirp you up for a good day. They come for food and water but stay around the farm-their home.  

After we closed the farm, Dominique and I committed to planting the next season for the wildlife.  And we did.  And that makes me very happy to have made so many friends with so many birds.

The difficulties we encountered from a neighbor’s opposition and a less than enlightened City administration dramatically increased my workload and stress level.  Farming in itself is difficult enough without having to spend countless hours in meetings with attorneys, and being seriously impaired in our ability to operate freely as an educational center.

When I started Gaia Gardens, I already knew that the property was in foreclosure.  I was willing to take a chance, and attempt to make a positive impact on the City, even if I only had a year to do so.  Circumstances made it so that we were able to farm for four seasons.  The uncertainty about the future of the property was a strong factor in making the decision to close the farm.

But it was not the only reason.  My stress level made me brittle.  I wasn’t operating at my best.  My workload-farming year-round, writing grants, working with school gardens, dealing with a bureaucratic firestorm, helping draft an urban farming ordinance and managing the 7-unit rental property that the farm was located on, was an initiation of tough proportion.  My nervous system and Soul were ready for a break. 

When we began working together, Dominique and I had just met.  She rented a studio on the farm.  She jumped right in while also finishing her Masters degree and working as a Massage Therapist.  The farm workload and stress increased for her as well.  Without her complete devotion to people, plants and animals, the farm would have never been what it was.

As much as the economics of Gaia Gardens were successful by all standards, we also depended on small grants, donations and paid work at school gardens.

For me, it became increasingly difficult to work so hard while making so little money.  I had to be honest with the imbalance in my life.  I was working to nourish people yet felt depleted.

Dominique and I assessed that we had done our best, learned a lot, touched a lot of people, fed an abundance of wildlife and survived our friendship. We both intuitively knew that it was time to wrap it up and move on to new creative endeavors dear to our hearts.

I took a year off, went traveling, promoted a documentary that was made on the farm, got immersed in the Bernie fever, started dancing again, went to Standing Rock and began exploring where I would be drawn and inspired to acquire land for the MilAbrazos Community Land Trust, which was birthed out of the farm momentum.

After six months of looking for land, I have chosen to relocate to Paonia, on the Western Slopes of Colorado.  It is and adorable and creative agricultural community that has welcomed me with a warm heart.  Should your whereabouts take you to this part of the West, feel free to stop by for a visit.

I will miss my friends in Santa Fe and will visit once in a while.  

Thank you again for all the Love and support you gave us!

With immense gratitude,

Poki