Veteran Farmer Project Update: Growing with Rio Grande Community Farm

By Robin Seydel

Last December, after farming at the Alvarado Urban Farm across from the Transportation Center for three years thanks to the generosity of the Downtown Action Team, the Veteran Farmer Project (VFP) packed up the farm. This is not an unusual occurrence for urban and next generation farmers that don’t own their farm or have long-term leases on their land. Developers needed our lot to create the mixed income and use building where in 2017 we will have a rooftop garden. For over six months, we wondered where we would land for the next two years until our rooftop garden was ready.

In early February, after a series of discussions with Jon Ashe, owner of Thunderhead Farms and a Board member at the Rio Grande Community Farm (RGCF), we agreed to collaborate with RGCF for mutual aid that will benefit both our projects. This new partnership is exciting on a number of levels. It provides a wonderful community-based home for the VFP and the human energy needed to help newly hired RGCF farm manager Sean Ludden with all the activities farming at RGCF requires. RGCF has just contracted with the City of Albuquerque’s Open Space Division to farm the 16 acres of Field Four which includes the community garden site. The overall vision of RGCF for this publicly-owned space is to improve the soil’s carbon content and to expand food production for people and wildlife, as they make a beautiful and productive urban farm for all to enjoy. The RGCF vision for this publicly-owned farm land is one that the VFP is excited to share. The opportunity to work with and learn from Sean, an experienced and knowledgeable farmer, adds a dimension to our educational efforts that will benefit our veterans individually as well as the program as a whole.

As a starting point, members of VFP will be organizing several community work days to help Sean get the community garden area ready for the growing season and work on several other RGCF projects to grow more food there as we hone our farming skills and tap his know-how. Over the coming months, in conjunction with Sean’s work to expand RGCF production and tapping into his extensive experience, we hope to share in the cultivation of an approximately 1/2 acre area to the south of the community garden, producing food for our Veteran families as well as other families in need, and to sell at the VA Grower’s markets and retail outlets in our community, including the Co-op.

Thursday is our usual VFP work day and on Thursday, March 12, we will do an expanded afternoon from 1-5PM to clean and ready rows. As many people from the larger community are interested in working with and helping the VFP, we are also scheduling a work day on Saturday March 21 from 10AM-1PM. Volunteers, both veterans and non-veterans, are welcome to work with us on these days. As RGCF has been a non-profit organization long associated with the Co-op’s volunteer program, and the VFP is a project of La Montanita, Co-op members can get 18% discount cards for participating in these work days. Volunteer positions are somewhat limited; Co-op members interested in helping, please contact JR at 505-217-2016 or J.Riegel@lamontanita.coop to reserve your spot.

For more information about the Veteran Farmer Project, please visit www.lamontanita.coop/vfp/