Recently Allen Richardson, an employee at Cerro Vista Farm, near Cerro, said that chile is being grown in northern Taos County.
A visit to the farm north of Questa, managed by Daniel Carmona, revealed that a few varieties of chile are indeed growing there on acreage and a green house, including strains of jalape-o, sweet peppers and New Mexico chile, along with several other vegetable crops.
Richardson and Carmona teamed up this past year with the Taos Youth Farm Internship Program, which is for young people who want to learn organic farming skills at Cerro Vista. Volunteers are still working at the farm, which is concentrating on harvesting varied crops.
“There were five students this past season, including Adam Romero and Mateo Cárdenas from Taos, who learned hands-on what organic farming is about,” said Richardson.
“I need workers, especially during the harvest, and the internship is a great way to get help. It’s a great opportunity for young people or anyone who wants to learn,” added Carmona, former manager of Amigos Coop in Taos.
Among the volunteers helping Friday (Sept. 12) was Mayo Archuleta, of Cerro. “My husband and I used to make gardens every year. We grew varieties of New Mexico chile on our land, and we could also grow all our own vegetables. I come to help out because I have always liked growing and harvesting crops.”
Archuleta explained that she and her late husband worked together canning all their own vegetables for their family needs.
Carmona has four acres of vegetables and two acres in cover crops. He plans to grow winter wheat and winter rye, which not only helps hold the soil, but also adds great organic matter to the ground.
Carmona, Richardson and volunteers will be harvesting a variety of white corn that Carmona has grown there 25 generations, next to some buttercup squash plants that are in their 26th generation.
“The seed for the white corn originally came from Taos Pueblo,” added Carmona, “and the corn does very well here.”
Vegetable crops at Cerro Vista, include varieties of organic lettuce, carrots, corn, chile, tomatoes, beets, cabbage, broccoli, kale, squashes, eggplant, basil, onions, and fennel, among others. “My wife, Micah Roseberry, has worked with me on the farm all along, and now concentrates on the marketing, since her job at the Taos Country Day School doesn’t leave much time to farm,” said Carmona.
There was no shortage of grasshoppers in and among the crops, proof that this operation is organic and pesticide-free. Considering the great quality of vegetables produced this season at Cerro Vista, much hard work has gone into growing such a healthy harvest.
Carmona has many years of experience with agriculture in Taos County, and used to be the mayordomo of the Atalaya Acequia when he was farming in Arroyo Hondo.
“It was the best time of my life in those years, walking the acequia in the 1980s when there was plenty of water,” he said.
He hopes to have up to 10 acres planted next year, including some with spring wheat for bread production. “I also want to try some oil crops, like sunflower, canola, and carabina. There is a biodiesel operation in Mesita, Colo., some 20 miles away that was started with a grant. Gonzalo Gallegos has a flour mill in Questa, so there is great potential for successful farming here. There are 2,002 irrigated acres in Cerro,” said Carmona.
“Until the late 1950s everybody here had big gardens growing their own food,” added Archuleta.
Carmona explained that when the highway came through in the late 1950s, there was a shift to cattle raising. When he first came here, cattle were everywhere, but many of the ranchers are retiring.
Cerro Vista Farm operates as CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture), “which means, I get area contributors, and as certain crops in demand are in season, I deliver the crops they need for their businesses. It’s a cooperative effort that helps me afford to farm,” Carmona said.
Cerro Vista’s clients include Cid’s Market, and Taos Inn, among other private individuals. Carmona and Richardson are regulars at the Taos Farmers Market also. They deliver on a weekly schedule, and certain flower varieties are also provided to contributors.
“In order for sustainable farming to occur in this region, we need to be able to produce our own seed, fuel, fertilizer and animal feed,” said Carmona. He explained that alfalfa, which is grown locally, “is the best fertilizer.”
Richardson has been very involved in efforts to help protect New Mexico native chiles from becoming contaminated by genetically engineered seed. Look for future information about the topic and Richardson’s work on that subject in The Taos News.