As we are coming to the end of the Preferred Produce greenhouse season (he closes down in the summer so as not to compete with field farmers) I wanted to share with you some things about farmer Matthew Stong. He has two degrees – the first in agricultural biosystems engineering and a master’s degree in soil and water science. He was making great money as a consultant to other farmers but wanted to be more hands on with the earth and water so he became a greenhouse farmer. This is of course less money but is more satisfying to Matt. He pays his helpers $12.50 to $15 an hour (considerably above most farm workers) and also feeds them lunch. He said he does this because it this is how he would like to be treated. He didn’t say this, but it is the golden rule…
His greenhouses are contained systems so there is no pollution (nutrients) that go into the surrounding ground and water. We are grateful for his produce that has sustained us through the long winter.
A couple of months ago I got a call from the Santa Fe Council on International Relations. They were hosting 13 farmers from several countries in Africa and were looking to add another farm visit while their guests were in Santa Fe. I knew right away that the best match for them would be Synergia Ranch just off Highway 14. The folks at Synergia have extensive international experience and have two ongoing projects now – one in Puerto Rico and the other in Australia. The project in Puerto Rico involves planting hardwood trees in an existing forest and making and selling beautiful products. (Puerto Rico has had extensive deforestation). Anyway, farmer Mark Nelson set up the visit right away and I got to tag along when it happened a couple of weeks later. There were 10 men and 3 women, 2 State Dept. translators (French) and another State Dept. employee who was handling logistics. There was a wide age range of farmers, mostly young, which is encouraging as the average farmer’s age in NM is in the 50’s. We had tea and chatted, then toured the gardens, the orchard, the dome and the wastewater garden. They were most interested in the way the young farmers (back in the 70’s) reclaimed the arid land, the new companion plantings in the orchard (asparagus and rhubarb under the trees) and the wastewater garden. Mark has just written another book; The Wastewater Gardener. This garden is gravity-fed, uses large gravel and purifies the water with plantings and microbes. The water is also fed to a small patch of lavender. Mark’s book will be published next week. (Mark was the agricultural specialist in the 2-year Biosphere experiment in Oracle Arizona.) His book on that experience is Life Under Glass.
And one last tip about kale – I cut it across in very thin strips and added it to coleslaw with green and red cabbage, red pepper and apple and it was tasty and so beautiful!
This is my final week with the CSA and I want you to know how much I have loved this job; especially working with our awesome farmers, the fun we have every week with the veggie circus, the gorgeous fresh produce, our amazing software developers, and communicating with all of you other folks who appreciate all of the above work and being creative and nourishing your families in your kitchens.
Thank you so much for all the kind words you have sent my way and thanks also for your forgiveness for the inevitable snafus that happen when humans are involved.