On September 23rd six South Valley farms opened their doors to the public for the first Regenerative Agriculture Farm Tour. 90 participants explored Speakeasy Gardens, Chispas Farm, Valle Encantado, Ironwood Farm, Whole Heart Farm and the Gutierrez Hubbell House Farm. 100% of participants reported learning something new about regenerative agriculture from the farm owners and managers they met!
Valle Encantado, owned and operated by Joseph Alfaro, is one of the original Agri-Cultura Network farms in the South Valley. Joseph is a cofounding member of the network which provides local families with produce through their community supported agriculture (CSA) program called La Cosecha (the harvest). Sixty-five percent of families receiving weekly food shares do so at subsidized rates.
At Valle Encantado their goal is to train local families and individuals about regenerative agriculture and why nutrient dense, organic food, is important. They also strive to explore different methods of produce distribution with the end goal being to support at-risk families with children. It is important to Joseph to use their farm as a showcase for others to follow his lead and contribute to their local communities in a positive way.
Visitors to Valle Encantado were encouraged to purchase a variety of produce while saying hello to the rabbits, turkeys, chickens, and farm dogs.
Berenika Byszewski runs SpeakEasy Gardens, a one-acre farm located in the historic don Telesfor de Armijo property which was part of the Atrisco land grant. They grow vegetables, herbs and flowers for the local community and are committed to organic, sustainable and Holistic Management practices for cultivating high-quality, year-round crops. They believe in creating an environment where the connections between history, land, labor, health, and community can thrive through the growing of food. SpeakEasy Gardens is a member of the Agri-Cultura Network. Berenika is building a space where collaboration and community engagement can grow through the growing of food. She is particularly interested in fostering new farmers and women farmers through collaborative projects, and hosting student groups and service days on the farm.
Tour visitors were shown Berenika’s current projects where she is increasing ground cover and creating wildlife habitat. They were also encouraged to pick their own bouquet of marigolds and sunflowers.
Ironwood Farms grows delicious food that is good for us and good for the planet. They farm 20 acres of land just a few hundred yards from the Rio Grande River. Family is the heart of their farm and they love feeding their family the best and most nutritious food possible while inviting others to do the same. They grow chemical free food going beyond typical organic practices to ecological methods and permaculture concepts that build soil health, integrate livestock and support native wildlife.
Ironwood Farm’s carbon footprint is light. They evaluate every purchase or project in light of its lifetime cost to the environment. Their off-grid strawbale farmhouse is energy efficient, made with local materials and help from friends. Visitors were shown their solar-powered pump that moves water for the farm home and some irrigation and their re-purposed and refurbished old materials and equipment like a “John Dear” tractor that runs on fryer grease biodiesel, and a wood-burning steam engine!
Whole Heart Farm is an urban farm/market garden in the heart of Albuquerque. The property had been used as a small CSA farm for 8 years and changed management in January of 2018. High rotation beds with high value crops is a goal, along with building systems to be more efficient and profitable while focusing on soil health.
Joshua Shelburne is the owner and manager of Whole Heart Farm. He has been farming in the Rio Grande Valley for almost five years working with the Agri-Cultura Network, managing Granja Para Mañana and now leasing his own land. He also spent some time managing agricultural operations at the South Valley Academy in conjunction with Dragon Farm providing education to middle schoolers and an agricultural space for the high school. Originally he thought he would be a “part time” farmer but he is excited to be living on the farm property and has made it a full-time endeavor.
Joshua bases a lot of his techniques on Jean-Martin Fortier’s high yield, low tech organic market garden model for small scale farms. He uses low-till processes in his specialized veggie farm always striving to make decisions that will increase the organic matter in the soil. Joshua doesn’t use any pesticides or herbicides on his land. Whole Heart Farm is a great example of how a small area of land can produce an abundance of food.
During the farm tour they offered visitors carrots, beets, peppers, radishes and turnips!
The Gutierrez-Hubbell House (GHH) is a cultural and historical museum surrounded by public open space and farmland. The Grow the Growers Program is a comprehensive farm training and business acceleration initiative designed to attract new and emerging farmers into professional food production.The Program participants manage the farm at the Gutierrez-Hubbell House and explore and test different regenerative agricultural techniques. Despite its rich agrarian history, the South Valley is home to many families in need of better access to locally grown, healthy food.
The Grow the Growers Program grows food that is distributed to 350 local families through La Cosecha. Proceeds are returned to the Grow the Growers program to support future cohorts of interns.
During the event a few of the program participants, who manage plots at the GHH, led tours of their property and sold various produce from their plots. After visiting the farm, attendees enjoyed walking around their wooded paths along the acequia madre.
Chispas Farms is located in the heart of Albuquerque and on the edge of the South Valley along the Bosque. The farm has been in production since 2001. Certified organic in 2006, Eli Burg and Amanda Mione were the co-head farmers at Chispas from 2004 to 2016. Casey Holland and Ian Colburn began farming at Chispas in 2017 and 2018, respectively. They specialize in growing over 120 varieties of heirloom fruits and vegetables and use regenerative practices such as crop rotation, cover cropping, integrated pest management, seed saving, and lots more.
Casey Holland and Ian Colburn have been involved in the local food scene in Albuquerque for many years, at many different farms and community organizations. This is their first year farming and growing food at Chispas farm and they are excited to see what the future holds. Casey is also involved with the Grow the Growers Program as an instructor and farm manager.
All in all we had six farm owners, 15 farm managers and over 90 attendees of all ages participate in the day. We created a small evaluation so attendees could give us feedback on the event. The feedback we heard the most was “do this again, loved meeting the farmers and seeing how they work with the land!”. When you know your farmer, you can feel good that your dollars are supporting local small business. These farms carry local support even further by sourcing their supplies as close to home as possible, helping to create community and working together to regenerate the land they farm.
Thank you for joining us!
Special thanks to Leigh and Charlie Merinoff for funding this event.
Thank you to our Collaborators on this event: