by Kahneratokwas

The Tesuque Farms Agricultural Initiative has been reviving agricultural traditions for the last 6 years with a Pueblo-supported project that has turned 40 acres of mostly fallow land into a productive farm serving Tesuque Pueblo and surrounding communities.  Under the direction of plant geneticist Emigdio Ballon, Quechua of Bolivia, and Governor Frederick Vigil, the farm is producing traditional crops, herbal medicines, many varieties of fruit, grains, and several non-traditional crops including over 10,000 asparagus plants. Ten beehives provide the necessary pollination, as well as honey and beeswax for the community.

Full time farm workers Randy Moquino, Gailey Morgan and Eberth Reynolds toil almost year round beginning in February by starting seedlings in an 1,100 square foot greenhouse. In early spring they begin transplanting over 60,000 seedlings to the fertile, certified organic fields, which have been treated with organic matter and biodynamic practices. By early summer the farm is fully operational, and provides jobs for about six seasonal workers and several college and high school interns.

Tesuque Farms is a great source of research and education for the Pueblo, surrounding communities and students from around the world. Every year the project typically hosts groups of students from the Pueblo’s Head Start and Day School, as well as area schools such as Santa Fe Indian School, The Waldorf School, and Taos Roots & Wings Program. Colleges who have had interns participate in the farm program include the Institute of American Indian Arts, Colgate University, Prescott College, and others.

Last year the farm also hosted a group of international students from North Africa and the Middle East. These students were on a mission, traveling the United States to create better relations between the US and their respective countries. Tesuque Farms has also hosted the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers.

“The goal of Tesuque Farms is to help the community become more sustainable, preserve traditional seeds and foods, and maintain a healthier lifestyle,” says director Emigdio Ballon. Increasing the varieties and volumes of crops each year, improving water conservation and irrigation, and reducing soil erosion are helping accomplish this mission.

Seed saving is an important part of the activities. The project caretakes many varieties of traditional seeds including Hopi blue corn, Anasazi beans, pinto beans, and many varieties of squash, chile and herbal medicines. A major project being planned is to build a permanent seed bank and processing facility to preserve the seeds, which are an important part of the pueblo’s history, for future generations.

Tesuque Farms has been awarded the Santa Fe Community Foundation’s 2010 Pinon Award for Environment. The project’s success is due in part to generous funding from Tesuque Tribal Government, USDA, Christensen Fund, Lannan Foundation, Santa Fe Community Foundation, McCune Foundation, and many other organizations, schools, and individuals who believe in Tesuque Farms’ important work.

Kahneratokwas, a Mohawk freelance writer from Akwesasne, New York, now lives in Santa Cruz, New Mexico. She has written for Indian Time, The Akwesasne Phoenix, and The People’s Voice, where she had a weekly column “The Medicine Bag,” about the uses of traditional herbal medicines.