Soil Restoration in the Southwest


By Amanda Bramble, Ampersand Sustainable Learning Center

One doesn’t have to go far anywhere in the Southwest to see that soil erosion is a problem. Roots are exposed, head cuts start then grow, any organic material that could develop into topsoil is removed, water doesn’t soak into the ground but rather, picks up sediment and deposits it into rivers and streams. It’s not just the soil we are losing, it’s the vegetation too that which feeds us and our wild relatives. We’ve been working on solutions.

In 2011, Ampersand Sustainable Learning Center initiated a restoration project to mitigate erosion just outside Madrid, NM.  A crucial element in our work was creating a new flood way that cuts through a hundred year old railroad bed.  We installed water harvesting and erosion control measures in an area where the water historically flowed before the railroad was constructed.  So we created a new path for the water, but restored the natural flood patterns of the watershed.

For a while, the rock and brush structures did their job, collecting sediment, encouraging the establishment of vegetation, and creating a stable location for this side channel to meet up with the main floodwater drainage.  But this project was constructed during a period of drought, and no one knew the extent of the flooding that was still to come.

On September 17, 2013, a record flood blasted through the town of Madrid.  It was part of the same weather pattern that caused so much damage in Colorado.  It damaged the work done here, too.

Now we have the  opportunity to upgrade the design of these flood structures.   In this new design (by land restoration guru Bill Zeedyk), we account for the extreme storm events that we can expect more of.  We will install new combinations of storm water harvesting and grade control structures.  And we’ll host dozens of volunteers to help implement this project while learning how to restore their own lands.

You are invited to come learn specifically what works and what doesn’t when it comes to erosion control design.  It will be a great time to learn by doing, and get the satisfaction of healing the watershed with elements you can find right on the land.

We’ve been fund-raising to support this project.  The donations go towards heavy equipment and for food to fuel the volunteers.  Come join us.   We are still accepting financial donations as well. It’s all about learning which designs work best in what situations, getting water into the soil, and together, re-growing our native wild lands!

Please visit our website to find out more about our community events (Rock On and Rock Out!) where you can learn about this important work, get fed well, meet good people, and be entertained with music afterwards.  You can contact us at

Ampersand Happenings

Geology Hike: March 16, 2014, 2pm to 4:30pm

Join us for a hike around the Ampersand’s 38 acres to explore the geologic influences that make this place so stunning.  We have layers of standstone outcroppings, petrified wood, a ridge of blocky basalt, and ancient petroglyphs to look at on the way.  Local geologists Mary Morton and Scott Renbarger will help us gain an understanding of the Earth’s history and the alchemy of rock formation. $10 suggested donation.

Rock On and Rock Out!: March 8, 2014

Lend a hand to our watershed restoration project and learn about erosion control structures made with rock.  Then relax and enjoy dinner and music. Come for the whole day or just to chow and jam out with us and celebrate our accomplishments. Learn building and design of erosion control structures in a hands on project that will contribute to our watershed restoration program from 2-5 PM, and then enjoy music and a potluck. Bring food and your favorite instrument.

Please RSVP!  That way we will be sure to have enough food for all of our rock work

What’s on Your Plate?


What’s on Your Plate?

By Eleanor Bravo, Food and Water Watch

Santa Fe Passes GMO Labeling! Now its Albuquerque’s Turn

What’s on your plate? Because there are no laws requiring genetically modified organisms (GMOs) be labeled, we don’t know. Right now we have an opportunity in Albuquerque to support labeling in the State of New Mexico.  A resolution was introduced into the City Council just for this purpose.

What exactly is genetically modified food? GE crops are engineered by transferring genetic material from one organism into another to create specific traits, such as making a plant resistant to treatment with herbicides, or enabling a plant to produce its own pesticide to repel insects.  Chemical companies such as Monsanto sell these modified seed as well as the accompanying herbicide Roundup. They also make false claim to a greater crop yield.

Over 50 countries already require labeling. In order to ensure that US citizens can make informed decisions regarding what they eat, the US must do the same. Long term effects of GMO’s on our health and environment are unknown. Yet they exist all over the world. Not only in many food products but livestock bred for human consumption are fed GMO feed.  There is no way to tell if we are eating GMO or something that has been fed GMO. Limited studies on the health risks have shown increased and abnormal tumor growth in rats. Humans are not lab rats; yet we are participating in a large scale science experiment without knowing.

Agribusinesses would like you to think that the cost of labeling will drive up the cost of food.  Labels tell the number of calories, amount of sugar, carbohydrates and other ingredients without raising the cost of food.  Labels are altered on a regular basis without impacting grocery costs.

Santa Fe City Council unanimously passed a GMO labeling resolution. Now the largest city in New Mexico has the opportunity to do the same. On Feb 19, City Councilor Isaac Benton (Dist. 2) introduced a resolution which supports the mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods. The full Albuquerque City Council is expected to vote on it in early April.

If you want to know what’s on your plate and what you are feeding your families, contact your city councilor to tell them to vote YES on this resolution. Find your city council district by visiting and type your address.

Our work for labeling of genetically modified organisms has just begun. In 2013 the New Mexico Senate voted down a bill that would have required labeling in the State. With resolutions that call for labeling in the 2 largest cities in NM and numerous other communities, we will continue calling for mandatory statewide labeling. For more information about GMO labeling visit To get more involved in passing this resolution, contact Lars at Food and Water Watch at 505-750-4919 or send an email to

Food Value Chains Redux


This month as we look at the Co-op Distribution Center’s activity, we revisit a topic touched on in our first installment—food value chains. Part of what makes the CDC unique is their approach to their suppliers and to their customers. Rather than simply moving commodities from point A to point B (the basic definition of a supply chain), the CDC actively works with local and regional producers by paying attention to every step a particular food item takes from farm to fork. Further, they work with their partners at every step of the way to ensure each party’s values are respected, and needs are met. Or in other words, they use a value chain approach to make the CDC, its suppliers, and its customers successful. They recognize that to succeed, their partners need to succeed also.

Regional distributors like the CDC must compete with national and multinational companies—and often customers’ expectations are based on the standards and services these larger companies can provide because of their volume of business. Regional distributors like the CDC must find ways to create a valuable experience for their customers and their suppliers based on a different set of expectations. Where a large company might be able to discount their goods because of volume, the CDC might add value for a customer by providing information about where and how it was grown, and a producer profile. In turn, this information might mean that a restaurant can advertise a dish as local or humanely raised and charge more based on the value added from the details about the food’s origin.

The relationship the CDC has with each partner in processing an item helps them identify where value might be added. For example, a restaurant loves the Kyzer Farm pork chops is gets from CDC, but uses sausage in more of their dishes and only offers pork chops as a weekly special. The CDC then works with its meat processor to create the cuts and products the restaurant wants. This means the CDC will be able to use more of the whole animal, which means they will make more per animal, and their customers get what they need. Ultimately, this makes it a more sustainable program.

In addition, for the CDC making the most per pig means that they can pay top dollar to the farmer and the processor. It also means they can work with Kyzer on his feed program and the processor on their food safety regimen. Ultimately, everyone is able to uphold high quality standards and good ethics when in comes to food production.

Because the CDC has relationships with most of its suppliers and customers, they are able to facilitate a dynamic market that adapts more quickly to customer and supplier needs based on direct feedback, collaboration, and more communication.  In addition, this adaptability is at the heart of how regional distributors and distribution networks not only create and add value to their goods and services, but also help each other build more sustainable businesses.

24th Annual Earth Fest


For two dozen years it has been our great pleasure to create a community celebration that, in keeping with the cooperative principle of community education and concern for community, provides an opportunity for us all to come together.  The 24rd Annual Celebrate the Earth Festival in Nob Hill is a chance to get your bedding plants, talk to and learn from the farming and gardening experts in our midst, get educated on the important environmental issues we face, get active and take action to make our community  and the world a better place for us all to share.

As always you can expect a fun and inspiring time filled with information and education booths from dozens of environmental, social and economic justice organizations, local farmers, seedlings, drought resistant plants, beautiful art from fine local artists and crafts people, inspiring performances from some of our favorite local artists and of course great Co-op food.

At the Celebrate the Earth Fest in Nob Hill, this year held on Sunday April 27, our little street fills up quickly so please reserve your booth space early.  We do give first priority to environmental, social and economic justice non-profit organizations and farmers and farming organizations. Artists and crafts people must, make and sell their own art (no kits or imports allowed), be Co-op members, be juried if they have not set up with us before and be willing to participate in the “placement lottery.”  Some of our artists, activists and farmers will be setting up in front of Immanuel Presbyterian Church, our long time community partner and Earth Fest co-sponsor.

Watch for more information in our April Coop Connection News on the Co-op’s

24th  Annual Celebrate the Earth Fest.

For more information or to reserve your FREE space contact, Robin at 505-217-2027 or toll free at 877-775-2667 or e-mail her at

Connection News February, 2014


February, 2014

Happy Valentine’s Day! It’s volume discount month, and we have great recommendations for cut flowers, sweet deals for your sweet heart, tips for clean eating, news on the New Mexico Organic Farming Conference, class offerings from the Veteran Farmers Project, and more…

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