Douglas Conwell

 

As four-year-old Amy Hetager watched her Minnesota great-grandmother Sarah compost scraps from the kitchen, she thought, “She’s crazy—throwing trash in the yard!” Forty years later, Amy heads up the Santa Fe-based HomeGrown New Mexico organization, which teaches people how to do just that, and much more.

 

HGNM represents an alliance of backyard “urban homesteaders,” community gardeners, container gardeners and larger farms, with over 1,000 friends on Facebook and other social media contacts. The heart of the organization, however, is the monthly potlucks held at the community room donated by Whole Foods on St. Francis Drive.

 

The more I watched Grandma grow her own food, make her own soap and raise chickens, the more I came to realize that hers was a better, healthier life,” said Amy, who was “homegrown” in Colorado and has lived 20 years in NM. In 2008 she met Duskin Jasper in Santa Fe, and the two started offering “how-to” classes in organizing community gardens. She also served for a time as manager of the Community Sustainable Agriculture (CSA) Beneficial Farms. CSA members, or subscribers, pay at the onset of the growing season for a share of the anticipated harvest; once harvesting begins, they receive weekly shares of food.

 

Funding for HGNM’s start-up classes was an issue, so they invited an enthusiastic group to join their efforts as a board of directors. With “local food” as their mantra, they held a meeting for the general public, which 55 people attended. Like seeds sprouting in spring, collaborations started happening with organizations like the Railyard Stewards, and individuals such as Sam McCarthy and many others. After two short years, the group has an impressive list of regular participants, followers on related blogs, dozens of classes, seed and plant exchanges, and the popular monthly potlucks. The biggest annual fundraiser for HGNM is the Kitchen Garden Tour, co-sponsored by Edible Santa Fe magazine. During their first tour, over 350 people visited six gardens of various sizes. Annual memberships are now available, which come with two tickets to the garden tour, all classes and potlucks—a $250 value for only $35.

 

With boundless energy and optimism, and a professional background in technology and retail-store management, Amy acts as organizer and cheerleader, along with a host of volunteers. She is backed by a hard-working board of directors: Ken Bower, Janine Cabossel, Jennifer Fresquez, Duskin Jasper, Mike Warren and Molly Prewitt, whose enthusiasm and dedication to community service is what has made it all so successful. HGNM anticipates being a certified nonprofit by May.

 

There’s something for everyone at HGNM, whether you garden in containers on your patio or are a Master Gardener who sells at the farmers’ market. The group provides inspiration and education as well as facilitating positive relationships among gardeners, plants and the environment. Rather than going it alone in a garden, folks now have a way to connect in person and online to share resources, ideas and best practices.

Here are some of Amy’s own “best practice” suggestions:

  • Start plants from seed for early greens like lettuce, arugula, kale and others, indoors where there is plenty of sunshine or grow-lights
  • Buy from local nurseries and as organic as possible
  • Use a permeable (not ceramic) “olla” or clay pot buried in the soil to water plants gradually and deeply.

 

 

 

Douglas Conwell has lived in Santa Fe for over 30 years. He is director of EarthWalks, a Santa Fe-based organization that sponsors retreats, classes and travel programs exploring the healing traditions of cultures in the Southwest and Mexico. earthwalks1@yahoo.com, http://earthwalks.org

 

 

[SIDEBAR:]

HomeGrown NM is offering a wide variety of free classes over the next few months:

April 6, 10 am-12 pm 


Backyard Chicken Basics

Mike & Molly’s House, 747 Old Las Vegas Highway


Learn how to start your own flock and build a proper brooder. Includes best breeds, healthy diet, types of coops and predator issues


 

April 13, 10 am-12 pm


Seed Starting with Erin O’Neill

Community Garden, 6600 Valentine Way (near Southside Library)


 

April 13, 10 am-12 pm

Season Extension and Row Cover with Jannine Cabossel

Railyard Community Room (behind Site Santa Fe)

 

April 28, 1-3 pm

Seed Saving and Garden Planning with Kirsten Szykitka

Santa Fe Community Farm, 1829 San Ysidro Crossing


 

Home Grown New Mexico Potluck

April 30, 6:30 pm


Whole Foods on St. Francis (Community Room on Cordova)


 

May 4, 10 am-12 pm


Grow a Tomato Garden with Master Gardeners Duskin Jasper and Jannine Cabossel

Milagro Community Garden (corner of Rodeo and Legacy)


Maximizing tomato harvest

 

May 11, 10 am-12 pm

Solar Cooking with Amanda Bramble of Ampersand

Frenchy’s Community Garden (Osage and Agua Fria)


 

May 25, 10 am-12 pm


Pumpkin Planting with Jannine Cabossel

Community Garden, 6600 Valentine Way (near Southside Library)


 

May 28, 6:30 pm


Home Grown New Mexico Potluck

Whole Foods on St. Francis (Community Room on Cordova)

 

For more information, contact Amy Hetager: 505.473.1403 or homegrownnewmexico@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

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