Next Generation of Farmers Supply Local Food to Chimayó Community
Everything that Adán and Pilar Trujillo, two siblings from Chimayó, do on their farm connects with the community.
Their lettuce fed students at the local McCurdy Charter School last year. They sell their rhubarb, rainbow chard and red Russian kale at the community market just down the road in Española. And their chile will be roasted and eaten this fall by children in schools nearby.
Though they can trace their family heritage back to the original agrarian settlers in the area almost 300 years ago, Adán Trujillo didn’t decide to get into farming until he graduated college in 2004. With the help of a local co-op and conservation work, these young farmers are making a big impact in the Chimayó area.
A friend visiting from Vermont helped him see the untapped potential on their family’s almost 20 acres of land and inspired Adán and his family to get started. And that’s where their mission to grow for the community began.
Their family’s El Rincon Farm was left unmanaged for many years except for a small garden plot near the house. They looked to restore the land to agriculture and approached the trade with a respect for the deep traditions of the area and their family history.
The original settlers installed the Acequia de la Cañada Ancha waterway, an irrigation channel extending five and a half miles to supply water to nearly 200 acres along one of the valleys of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The acequia is still the main source of water today, providing each farmer along the channel with a certain water allowance depending on the amount of water available.
Using the traditional watering technique of flooding their fields from the acequia, the Trujillos started growing everything from summer squash and corn to tomatoes, peas and beets – and, of course, Chimayó chile, an heirloom variety cultivated in the small valley for more than 300 years.
In order to be able to sell to the local schools, the Trujillos joined the local La Cosecha del Norte Co-op composed of 10 area farmers seeking to return chemical-free, healthy local fruits and vegetables to the residents of the community.
With the co-op, the Trujillos can sell to nearby schools and businesses, giving them a support network of farmers all growing with the same goals.
Despite the co-op’s success in supplying local food to the local residents, a recent severe and extended drought gripping an already arid state made the Trujillos and other farmers in the co-op look to more efficient ways to irrigate.
“My father started talking to people and heard that USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service could help us get started with drip irrigation,” Adán Trujillo said.
The Trujillos and other members of the La Cosecha del Norte Co-op worked with NRCS to help them design, install, and partially pay for a drip irrigation system that helps deliver water efficiently to the roots of the crops and minimize water loss due to evaporation, a common problem with the traditional flood irrigation technique of the region.
“Drip irrigation has been so much more efficient and easier than flood irrigation,” Trujillo said. “It has saved us through the drought and we’re still able to irrigate once a week.”
Alongside drip irrigation, conservation has helped the Trujillos and the co-op members continue in their community mission.
With NRCS’ help, the Trujillos installed a bentonite clay liner to help prevent water seepage in their small water storage pond and constructed a hoop house that acts like a greenhouse to help grow crops earlier in the spring and later into the fall without the fear of frost.
“Once the hoop house is in, it will practically pay for itself,” said Sharon Elias, soil conservationist for NRCS. “Fresh fruits and vegetables to farmers markets in colder months can fetch a higher price and keep small producers afloat.”
Conservation is popular with co-op members. All of the co-op members are currently using some form of conservation on their farms—whether it be high tunnels, cover crops or drip irrigation. Many have worked with NRCS to receive financial and technical help with these practices.
“For producers trying to get into this field, the financial assistance helps small farmers put in conservation practices that they might not have been able to afford otherwise,” Elias said.
For the Trujillos and other members of the the La Cosecha del Norte co-op, conservation has enabled them to grow healthy produce almost year round in the face of decreasing water resources.
“All I want to do is farm—to get immersed in the rhythms of the land and the daily chores,” said Adán. “Farming is way more captivating than anything I know.”
For the Trujillos and the other members of the La Cosecha del Norte Co-op, it is clear farming is their passion and the community directly benefits.