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New Mexico Farmers Supply Local Food to Community with Conservation

El Rincon Farm’s high tunnel and crops of lentils, corn, Chimayó chile and other crops in Chimayó, N.M. Photo from NRCS.

El Rincon Farm’s high tunnel and crops of lentils, corn, Chimayó chile and other crops in Chimayó, N.M. Photo from NRCS.

Everything that siblings Adán and Pilar Trujillo do on their Chimayó, New Mexico, farm connects with the community. Their lettuce and chile peppers feed students at local schools. And they sell their rhubarb, rainbow chard and red Russian kale at the community market just down the road in Española.

Conservation work helps the brother-and-sister duo make this possible. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is honoring contributions made by Hispanic Americans like the Trujillos to our nation during National Hispanic Heritage Month, an annual commemoration held Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.

Each year, this time is set aside to celebrate the history, achievements, culture and contributions of Americans who trace their roots to Spain, Mexico and the Spanish-speaking nations of Central America, South America and the Caribbean.

Adán Trujillo didn’t get into farming until he graduated college in 2004. 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.

They use a traditional watering technique to flood their fields from an acequia, an ancient irrigation channel. The water helps them grow 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.

Despite their success in supplying local food to residents, a severe and extended drought in New Mexico made the Trujillos look for more efficient ways to irrigate. The Trujillos 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 because of evaporation, a common problem with the traditional flood irrigation technique of the region.

They also received assistance from NRCS to construct a high tunnel that acts like a greenhouse to help grow crops earlier in the spring and later into the fall without fear of frost.

Two USDA strategic efforts helped make this story a success.  USDA’s StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity Initiative addresses high-priority funding needs in rural communities in 16 states, including New Mexico. The Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative coordinates the Department’s efforts to support local and regional food systems.

Supplying fresh fruits and vegetables to farmers markets in colder months for a higher price can help small producers keep afloat. With the help of conservation, the Trujillos have been able to grow healthy produce almost year round for the community even in the face of drought and frost.

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Adán Trujillo works with friends and volunteers from the American Friends Service Committee to create raised beds in the high tunnel at El Rincon Farm in Chimayó, N.M.  The high tunnel is home to rhubarb, rainbow chard and Russian red kale to sell in the nearby community. Photo from NRCS.

Adán Trujillo works with friends and volunteers from the American Friends Service Committee to create raised beds in the high tunnel at El Rincon Farm in Chimayó, N.M. The high tunnel is home to rhubarb, rainbow chard and Russian red kale to sell in the nearby community. Photo from NRCS.

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