Seed Saving In Northern New Mexico
“Mayan Delegates from Qachuu Aloom’s Farmer’s Association” presented today in Dixon. A presentation about the importance of biodervisity and the preservation of the traditional, local, heritage and heirloom seeds of a region was discussed.
It is a typical building in New Mexico – the Mission building in Dixon. It’s an open room, high ceilings, a chalkboard, old and very creaky hardwood floors and metal folding chairs. We waited outside until everyone arrived, cars were unloaded and we helped set up the chairs. I had brought my tea and packed a ton of food, whenever Treska and I fly out of the house early enough, we tend to go without breakfast. Not ideal, and I was sure we would be starving soon.
It’s a beautiful ride to Dixon – it’s tucked in a valley, about 1500 feet lower than Taos. (Taos is 7500 feet above sea level) There is lots of water from acequias, and rivers and therefore a great farming area. Fruit, especially apples grow rampant, although this year there are less, due to a hard freeze in late spring. Treska has her ipod – and her playlists and she played wonderful music for us as a backdrop to the drive down the canyon. Steep cliffs on either side, the Rio Grande to our right, curvy roads and the classic spotted hills of New Mexico. Sunday morning stillness. Oh – and hot coffee for both us. Sunny and good.
There was a nice turnout of people. The presentation was done in Spanish with an interpreter. Treska was enthusiastic as she loves to be around Spanish and is trying to learn desperately. She speaks Spanish as often as she can – and we need to get her into a formal class. The presenters were from Guatemala and gave a wonderful presentation covering such diverse issues including the environmental effects on farming, indigent culture of the Mayan and why corn is so important to them, farming methods and families’ seed saving activities in Guatemala. Lovely photos were displayed and I could feel Treska’s itch to travel being stimulated. (Mine as well.)
There was a demonstration outside of how to gather Amaranth seeds and the method used. I hadn’t realized that Amaranth was a local staple in Northern New Mexico as well as Mexico much earlier. I hadn’t seen amaranth as a plant and was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to collect the seed from the plant. Although it is a tiny seed (about the size of a period on this screen), the steps were simple and effective. Questions were asked and answered.
There was also a second presentation, intelligent and articulate by Richard Bernard, a heavily accented Frenchman discussing the Bio-Region and the process of seed saving to create a cultural identity. He brought politics and legislation into the discussion and stimulated interesting questions. He brought a global outlook to the workshop and encouraged everyone to become involved.
After a short break, and a zooming ride to the highway to make a phone call in the only area rumored to have cell-phone reception (to check on the status of birth action in Taos….) we drove out to Mary and Loretta’s farm. An incredible place. She gave a tour and discussed the breeding and raising of green and red chiles, native to this region. She also grew (among other crops) amaranth, mexican sunflowers (HUGE), corn (native), beans, beans, beans and squash. She sells at the Taos Farmer’s Market as well as Santa Fe. She wasn’t interested in sharing any of her seeds with any interested seed growers, farmers or gardeners, she adamantly, but a bit uncomfortably explained that she had been working on these seed projects for years and wasn’t quite ready to share the seeds yet. Treska was inspired to learn more from her and discussed her fascination with the “intellectual farmers” as she calls them. She likes to be around the discussions and the science. She put her name on the list and thought about applying to work with her this next growing season. Here are some pictures of her farm: