Welcome to New and Old Friends of Rio Grande Community Farm!
Whether you attended our Maize Maze Fall Festival, our Lavender In The Village festival, our Spring Plant Sale, or our Classes, or if you are one of our Community Gardeners or MicroFarmers, or neighbors, or if you signed up to volunteer or receive membership information, this newsletter is for you!
To learn more about the Farm and all the ways your participation is vital to what we do, read on.
Rio Grande Community Farm Proudly Announces Our Updated Statement of Purpose
On October 17th, 2023, the Rio Grande Community Farm’s Board of Directors unanimously approved a new Statement of Purpose to replace our former Mission Statement.
Our Former Mission Statement:
“To connect people, earth, water and wildlife in an urban setting by farming sustainably, enhancing wildlife habitat, educating our community and providing fresh, healthy food to diverse populations in Albuquerque.”
Our New Statement of Purpose:
“Providing diverse and underserved communities with equitable access to urban farmland and education in sustainable agriculture prioritizing food justice, biodiversity, and climate resilience.”
By replacing the term “mission” with “purpose,” we are decolonizing our organizational language. By placing those we serve in the beginning of our Purpose Statement, we are centering their needs. By specifying that we provide equitable access to resources, we are establishing an inclusive culture. By prioritizing food justice, biodiversity, and climate resilience in our education program, we are focusing upon the three keystone factors that define sustainable agriculture.
Join us on our more focused direction as we explore new ways to collaborate more deeply with our community!
Rio Grande Community Farm Stakeholder Survey
Please take our anonymous community survey by December 31st, 2023 and help guide us into the future.
Para obtener una versión en español de nuestra encuesta comunitaria anónima, comuníquese con firstname.lastname@example.org
What can we do better? What do we do well? What are your individual needs and hopes for the Farm? We invite all of our stakeholders including Members, Volunteers, Event Attendees, Community Gardeners, MicroFarmers, Newsletter Subscribers, Benefactors, Partners, Neighbors, and current and past Staff and Board to anonymously share your experiences to help us better understand the communities we serve and our effectiveness in actualizing our Purpose. How can we better support underserved and diverse communities? How can we facilitate open communication? How can we further food justice? What advice can you share with us? Help guide us into the future. No identifying information will be shared.
(Estimated time: 5 – 10 minutes)
Giving Tuesday is November 28, 2023
When considering where to make your tax-deductible donation for #GivingTuesday this month, please consider supporting your local community farm.
In 2022, Rio Grande Community Farm
- Hosted four events serving 11,000 people at a cost below $10 per person including our Spring Plant Sale, Lavender In The Village, Harvest Dinner, and Maize Maze Fall Festival.
- Served over 100 Community Gardeners including Albuquerque Master Gardeners and an in-patient rehab.
- Cultivated 38 Micro Farmers, including a seed saver, a flower grower, a grower of plants to dye natural fabrics, a food justice group, four farmers producing for the Downtown Growers Market, four veterans, and six growers identifying as neurodiverse.
- Administered two Farm Incubator Programs, Lutheran Family Services Refugee Agriculture Partnership Program, and Mountain Dojo Mountain Celestial Farm Neurodiverse Agriculture Program
- Coordinated 127 volunteers who provided 10,000 hours of service to our community.
- Established 116 fruit trees in partnership with Sikh Gurdwara and Interfaith Coalition.
- Provided 1200 bales of hay purchased by eight local farmers.
- Collaborated with four students from University of New Mexico Mechanical Engineering Solar Lab.
- Served three-hundred and sixty-six children aged six to 17 in Summer Farm Camp programs
- Conserved 6.75 acres of our urban farmland for wildlife forage and habitat.
Help us reach our new goal of $20,000 to support our important work for a full month
Classes & Workshops
Successful Winter Gardening
Offered either Saturday or Sunday for working families. Farm Coordinator Kelvin Schenk will demonstrate how to use cold frames, Dan’s mini hoop house, and the winter greenhouse. Other techniques include a livestock tank or low tunnel with frost cloth; hay bale grow beds with hoops; and enclosed tomato cages with grow cloth. Discover plants that do well in Albuquerque in protected growing environments!
Sign up on the City of Albuquerque website under Lectures & Workshops
Click on Lectures and Workshops to see drop down menu for individual classes. For problems registering, call Ellie at 505-768-4959
Master the art of composting in our New Mexico desert climate with our certified Master Composter, Rich Adeyemi. Which materials are safe to compost? When to turn? What ratios of carbon to nitrogen are best? How to deal with scavengers? All your questions answered!
Compressors & Air Tools Hands-on Workshop
Registration is mandatory. Only 15 spots available.
Saturday, Dec 2nd
1 pm-3:30 pm
Register at: https://shorturl.at/hAJTY
Thoughts on Rio Grande Community Farm’s Land Acknowledgement
by Nathan Kunkle (He, him)
Social Work Intern at Rio Grande Community Farm
A land acknowledgement is a formal declaration that aims to honor the historical and traditional connections of Indigenous communities to land now used by schools, government agencies, businesses, and non-profits. They are presented in writing, spoken word or visuals and represent solidarity and acceptance that Indigenous communities never ceded their land and are its rightful stewards.On our website homepage, we have a land acknowledgement posted. While these statements have become a more common practice in recent years, they are still new to many of us.
Our land acknowledgement at Rio Grande Community Farm reads,
“We respectfully acknowledge that the lands we farm are ancestral lands of countless, but not nameless, Indigenous Nations, communities, families, and individuals. We offer our respects to the Pueblos that surround Albuquerque today as stewards of these lands since time immemorial: Tsugwevaga (the Pueblo of Isleta), Tuf Shur Tia (the Pueblo of Sandia), Tamaya (the Pueblo of Santa Ana), Ka-Waikah (the Pueblo of Laguna), Haak’oh (the Pueblo of Acoma), and Tsiya (the Pueblo of Zia.) May we all work together to honor these lands that sustain us.”
Navigating the New Normal of Split Growing Seasons
by Bruce Milne, Board President
Rio Grande Community Farm
If you’ve been a grower over the last decade, then you probably have seen your plants stop growing in the middle of the summer and then pick up again. All the water in the world doesn’t help because the problem is due to excessive heat. Back in the 1980s there was a single peak in July. Now we have two bouts, one in spring and then again in late summer. You aren’t hallucinating, the hiatus is real, and I have the data to explain why. Even better, below I share a planting schedule ideal for the new hot world.
As an ecologist, I wanted to translate temperature into something more meaningful to crops so that I could test whether the splitting of the growing season, as predicted from climate change models, was happening yet. My analysis is grounded in a very useful model of plant growth and respiration from Duffy and others’ (2021 Sci. Adv. 2021; 7: eaay1052) compilation of 1500 instrument-years of global ecosystem data. I hacked their model (in a good way) to measure temperature effects on vegetation on Los Poblanos Fields Open Space, as captured by the MODIS satellite, thanks to the Worldview Snapshots application (https://wvs.earthdata.nasa.gov), part of the Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS). Temperatures were reported by the Farm’s own trusty weather station.
The analysis enabled me to diagnose the daily temperatures and find indeed that the growing season for cool season plants such as vegetables, alfalfa, and trees is split in two. In between the two bouts, we have temperatures more suitable to warm season plants such as corn, sorghum, amaranth, and purslane known around here as verdolagas, yummy! Actually, in 2023 there was one day too hot even for them. What happens is that plant respiration gets so high that it cancels photosynthesis, literally starving the plant. Cool season plants start starving at 77 degrees F and warm season at 87 degrees F. These are the average temperatures over the entire day, not the daily maximum.
My wife Diane, who is also a plant ecologist, thought I should skip to the chase and share the fruits of my analysis to guide your crop selection and planting schedule next year. First of all, remember that in Albuquerque you can easily plant five times a year. Anytime from October through January you can plant garlic to harvest in June. The second opportunity is early April. In recent years our last frost has been between April 7 and 15, which begins the first bout of cool season growing. Perfect for greens, radishes, onions, potatoes, and carrots. Plant a second rep of veggies in late May and harvest them before the heat sets in. For the hot season in the middle, celebrate July 4th by planting squash, beans, sunchokes, sweet potatoes, and corn – I’ve reaped bounties from all of these. Then, as fall approaches, hop on the second cool season with more chard and arugula.
In agriculture we use growing degree days, GDD, to measure the thermal requirements of crops. A growing degree day is the number of degrees above a given base temperature; base temperature is the minimum temperature for growth. For example, take April 30 at 19 degrees Celsius. Subtract the base of 10 degrees to get 9 growing degree days for that day. By doing this every day from the last frost forward we get the accumulated GDD. Each crop reaches milestones of flowering, fruiting, and ripening on a schedule of GDD. For example, corn requires a minimum of 800 GDD up to as much as 2700 GDD. Spring vegetables such as radish will be ready to pick with around 400 GDD.
To adapt to our new normal of split seasons, I prepared a chart of GDD schedules. These begin and end at various times depending on whether we are interested in cool season crops or warm season. The chart anticipates which crops we can raise given their GDD requirements.
The chart shows how many GDDs (base of 10 degrees C) accumulated since a given starting day. The green bars at the bottom indicate the two cool seasons while the pink bar is the hot season, according to the Duffy model. For example, as of September 30, the hot season had produced 778 GDD, just barely enough to support corn (maize). It would make sense to plant some corn in June to get it started and then let it rip in the heat. If you wanted dry beans, no problem, over the course of the first cool season and over the entire season, there was plenty of energy available and you probably would have dodged the stress of the hot season. With luck you might have been able to grow three crops of radish or similar crops such as lettuce and arugula.
Everything I’ve written here pertains strictly to the effects of temperature. There are other avenues for adapting your practice, including plant genetics, soil health, moisture management, and fertility. Nonetheless, the Duffy model explained almost 60% of the variation in vegetation responses, indicating that a better understanding of temperature is central to navigating the ever-changing new normal.
It’s a Wrap: Fall Festival Maize Maze
Our Success is Your Success!
Where’s the Maize?
As part of our climate change adaptation program this year, our maze was grown from sorghum (pictured above) – a close relative of corn. Both species of grass are members of the subfamily Panicoideae in the family Gramineae. Sorghum is a gluten-free, non-tGMO ancient grain which is eaten all over Africa and Asia. Sorghum has slightly more protein and less fat than maize and grows well in spite of the extreme heat and drought conditions we experienced this year. When the festival is over, we knock the sorghum down and watch the deer, doves, migrating Sandhill cranes, geese, and ducks feasting in the field! Twenty-five percent of our land is conserved for wildlife forage and habitat! The stalks will act as a cover crop to the ground beneath. The decaying carbon rich material helps retain moisture and becomes a micro climate for invertebrates.Then mold, fungus, and microscopic life feed on the plant material, breaking it down into rich new soil.
Salsa Showdown Winner
Chantelle Wagner won our second Sunday Salsa Showdown with a classic spicy chile blend with great texture that was not too tomato heavy. Thank you to Sadie’s of New Mexico for donating the contest prizes!
It Took a Village
The weather was beautiful, the music was awesome, the food was scrumptious, and the crowd had a blast! Deep appreciation for Scott Rasband for growing our sorghum and leasing us his eight acre field for this event! Huge thanks to our tractor drivers: Head Farmer, Rich Adeyemi, Farm Coordinator, Kelvin Schenk, and Board Member, Chris Sylvan, for keeping the hayrides moving all across the Open Space fields. A heartfelt thank you to our promoters Dean and Loriana of Blue River Productions for organizing another successful event for the Farm! Our deepest appreciation for our neighbors at the Larry P. Abraham Agri-Nature Center for the exciting sheep shearing and cider pressing on Saturday, and to Big Jim Farms for the ristra stringing classes and donating from their pumpkin sales! Enthusiastic appreciation goes out to Enchanted Cinematography for the drone video of this year’s maze linked here. Thank you our wonderful vendors, hard working staff, brilliant musicians, ans generous volunteers for making the day possible! A big shout out to Rio Grande High School’s football team and coaches for their tireless work until the very end. See you all again next year!
Five Considerations for Growing Food At Home
by Rich Adeyemi
In the last installment, we looked at the first consideration for growing food at home: Space. Read Part I linked here.
2. Style of Garden
Before you start a home garden think through on the kind of garden that will suit your person. Just because you saw a garden somewhere that you love does not mean that it will suit you. When designing a home garden, you need to decide how much time you will want to spend working in the garden daily or weekly,what you would prefer to grow, the scale of production – whether it will be subsistence, commercial or both. These will determine the size and layout of the garden and the features you will put in place. I will suggest you visit other home gardens to look at their design, structure and materials used to see what you can incorporate into your style. Examples of garden styles include: keyhole, herb, container, bag, rooftop, raised bed, balcony etc.
A keyhole garden is a form of round raised bed with a keyhole-like cutout in the middle to allow a person to sit or squat while they worked the garden around them. The keyhole shape make room for easy accessibility to every part of the bed. Keyhole garden is suitable for dry, semi-arid climates with poor or compacted soil. This type of garden is ideal for the elderly and people with limited mobility.
Bag gardening is an inexpensive but high yielding food security technology to maximize land and water use. It is a production medium used within the frame of vertical agriculture. It enables gardeners to maximize the use of ground space by using both the top of the bag as well as its sides for cultivation.
Because of its vertical nature, bag garden is most ideal for leafy vegetables (such as lettuce, spinach, kale, Swiss chard etc.), and herbs on both the top and sides of the bag. Leafy vegetables usually allow for several harvests at different times on one single plant.
Growing in beds maximizes the amount of growing space relative to walking space. For example, a 4 x 8 vegetable bed has 32 square feet of growing space, while a single row with walking spaces in between would only have about 16 square feet.
Vertical gardening enables you to make the most of your garden space by growing vegetables and fruits and colorful flowers up on a trellis, on garden netting, in a tower of pots, and over garden structures, while enjoying the benefits of easier maintenance, healthier plants, effortless harvesting, and higher yields.
3. Site Assessment
When starting a new garden or revamping an existing garden, it pays to your take time to familiarize yourself with the site. The fact that it is where you live does not mean you are familiar with some important factors that will contribute to the success of a home garden. Here are some factors to put into consideration when assessing your site:
- Observe the soil structure and the existing vegetation for vital clues about soil condition and fertility. Is the vegetation on it healthy? Does it remain dry or soggy after rain? Is it free of debris and stones?
- Observe the position of sunlight throughout the day. Most plants require full sunlight to grow; vegetables need at least 5 – 6 hours of sunlight per day. However, some vegetables and crops like some shade. Identify the hot spots and coolareas. The hot areas may require some trees for shading and cooling the garden during the hot season. Take note of the prevailing wind direction to see what will be suitable to act as windbreaks. Take note of these features.
- Watch out for cables, pipes and drains and take note of where they are. You don’t want to plant where an underground cable or water pipe is laid just in case you need access to them some day.
(To be continued in the December’ 2023 Newsletter)