DIY Scavenger Hunt
Are you looking for a fun way to explore your community farm? Try the official Rio Grande Community Farm scavenger hunt! It’s a great activity for families, friends, or anyone who loves to discover new things. As you walk the trails, jot down what you find that fits each clue.
- Rows of alliums (see the artificial intelligence article below for definition) growing in a field near the well house.
- The Gallegos Lateral, an historic and unusual east-to-west acequia that helps water the crops.
- Squirrels, which scurry around in the big brush piles. Do they have a tail or no tail?
- The well house, where we get some of our water for irrigation (the water is only 26 feet down). How many fruit trees are in the orchard to the east side, toward the mountains?
- The hoop house, where we grow some of our crops. Notice the Johnson Su compost system tanks in front.
- Nesting birds, which love the quarter-acre pollinator garden.
- Cattle egrets, which are looking for cattle that don’t exist! What color are their legs?
- Artistic signs identifying Ashokra Farms and Space Dog Farms.
- The sculptural geodesic hut/sculpture made of recycled pallets, near the community garden, serving 97 people this year.
- Cattle tanks, which never provide water for cows because… no cows here! Can you figure out what the tanks are for?
- Plowed fields? Hint: We never plow! Instead, look for our cover crops — their roots do the plowing and feed beneficial bacteria and fungi, saving us fertilizer and help to fight drought.
As you search, take the time to appreciate the beauty and diversity of the farm — the sky, the breeze, bird calls, curious bugs, shady spots to rest, the thumping of your feet on the ground, maybe even a friendly gopher snake. You may discover things you’ve never seen before and learn more about how we grow our crops. We hope you have a memorable experience at Rio Grande Community Farm.
Imagine, it isn’t hard to do…
Our Solar-powered Farm
We’re excited to announce that we’re seeking $5,000 in donations to complete our mobile solar generating system! Volunteer Brian Naughton, farm manager Kelvin Schenk, and a team of UNM engineering and CNM solar photovoltaics students refurbished the frame and wheels from an old manure spreader, added some donated racking from Tamarack Solar, and surplus solar panels to get halfway towards our vision of a mobile solar power trailer. We’ll use it to power summer farm camp, the Lavender Festival, and bands at the Maize Maze. The 4-panel (1200 Watts total) solar trailer is awaiting funding to add a controller, batteries, and an inverter. Once completed, it will power the audio system at events, charge the electric-BCS walk-behind tractor in Field 4 for our micro-farmers, power the electric grain thresher, recharge power tools, power lights and ventilation in the hoophouses, and more.
“Farms used to be 100% solar powered, converting sunlight into food for humans and animals to grow a surplus for others. I think we can get back to 100% solar powered farming with new technologies like solar panels and electric tractors for a more resilient local food source. That’s my motivation for these projects”, says Brian.
There are many other active solar-powered projects. The cistern at the wellhouse has 2 panels (200 Watts total) to run the automatic watering system for the fungal compost system and a Dewalt battery charging station for farm power tools — peacefully quiet, no pollution. The real-time weather station data from instruments at the barn are also solar powered. Finally, we are in the final planning stages for a barnyard solar structure that could generate up to 20 kilowatts of power for the barn, office, greenhouse (goodbye propane heater!) and a future electric tractor. We’re committed to sustainable energy solutions, and hope you’ll join us in supporting our efforts to build out our solar trailer generating system and other solar-powered projects! Your much-appreciated donation can be placed here. Thank you so much!
Ultimate Garden Planning
(with Help from Artificial Intelligence)
Spring is here, and it’s the perfect time to plan and plant your garden! Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a first timer, we have some tips to help you make the most of your garden for years to come. By the way, New Mexico is great for planting three, four, even five times a year. We’ve seen astounding yields of beans, sweet potatoes, and sun chokes that weren’t planted until July fourth.
In this article you’ll see how to use artificial intelligence to design a crop rotation plan. The accompanying image of lettuce and allium beds was generated from scratch by Dalle-2, another AI tool, beginning with a swarm of random pixels!
Last month we considered basic factors when planning your garden, namely sunlight, soil type, drainage, and choosing plants that are well-suited to our growing conditions; you can still see recommended plants on this website.
If you are a serial gardener (year after year), consider making a crop rotation plan. Crop rotation helps break disease cycles and leverages certain crops to help the ones that follow, kind of like paying it forward. For example, by moving tomatoes around you can break the root nematode cycle. By planting greens after a year of legumes your future salad will get plenty of nitrogen, thanks to the beans.
First, map your garden space into sub-units, which could be plots or rows, with separate beds within. You’ll use the same geometry year after year, but the plants will shift around. Number each bed. Then, make a list of your main types or crops:
- Tomato family (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, potatoes, tomatillos)
- Legumes (beans, lentils, garbanzos)
- Greens (lettuce, chard, spinach)
- Cucurbits (cucumbers, squash, pumpkins)
- Alliums (onions, garlic, chives)
- Grasses (primarily corn or maize)
- Herbs (mint, basil, oregano, cilantro, parsley, thyme, etc.)
Here’s the fun and ridiculously easy part. Go to openai.com and use Chat-GPT to create your rotation plan. Warm up with the following example “prompt” and get the AI’s response within seconds. For your actual garden, just modify the prompt to fit your needs. Notice how grammatically sloppy the prompt is, yet it works nonetheless! You can ask it to format for a spreadsheet as well.
By following these tips, you’ll be well on your way to a successful spring planting season. Happy gardening!
Volunteer Opportunities in May
- May 10, Landscaping Around the Greenhouse, 10 am – noon. RSVP email@example.com
- Rich, of the Bernalillo Master Composters, will lead a hands-on session, Building a Compost Pile, May 13, 8 am to 10 am at the community garden, 1630 Solar. RSVP firstname.lastname@example.org
- Inter-cropping in Hedgerows for Biodiversity, May 17 and June 14, 6 pm-8 pm at the community garden RSVP YURI@RIOGRANDEFARM.ORG
Last year, volunteers provided over 10,000 hours of service that really made the farm sing. We are so grateful for everyone who spent time on the farm. If you love to be outdoors and want to get your hands dirty, please join us on the farm. We host volunteers by appointment. During your time volunteering, you may be asked to weed, water, plant and harvest, or work on a special project. We welcome individuals and groups for one-time visits as well as ongoing commitments; however, volunteers must be 18 years or older or be accompanied by an adult. Sign up here.
Rio Grande Community Farms – Since 1997
Los Poblanos Open Space (north side of Montaño, west of 4th Street)
Trails are open dawn to dusk every day. For sanitation reasons, no pets in farm fields please.
Permitted farm vehicles on site will display special hang tags.