¡Qué Viva Mujeres!
Most New Mexicans know the legend of San Isidro the Laborer and Santa María de la Cabeza, peasant farm workers in Spain who were devout Catholics and had the assistance of an angel in the fields. We celebrate the holy couple every May with the blessing of the acequias on the feast day of San Isidro. During times of drought in Spain, Santa María’s skull was carried in processions to pray for rain, so she became known as Santa María de la Cabeza.
Although many people picture a man when we use the word “farmer,” women are the world’s primary food producers.
“Northern New Mexico was its own food hub in the 19th century, producing meat, wheat, corn, chile, beans and alfalfa for our livestock. That was our strength,” says farmer Camilla Trujillo. “But, over time, especially when the Los Alamos labs were built, that was taken away from of us, and we were offered jobs at the labs. But now we are trying to come back.”
Trujillo farms in the Española Valley, carrying on the centuries-old traditions of her family to grow healthful food and healing herbs. She is also part of La Cosecha del Norte: A Growing Co-op, the farmer co-operative founded in 2013 with nine other family farms in the Española Valley, with support from the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). La Cosecha del Norte Co-op grows organic vegetables and herbs year-round in passive solar coldframes. The co-op sells to local grocers such as the Española Community Market, the Los Alamos Co-op, La-Montañita Co-op in Santa Fe, Cid’s in Taos, and the Española Public Schools. The farmers also sell to the local growers’ markets in Española, Pojoaque and Santa Fe.
Although the food hub that Camilla describes was dismantled, small-scale farmers are slowly rebuilding it with support from the community. ¡Sostenga!, the Center for Sustainability Studies at Northern New Mexico College in Española, is a partner to her co-op and a site for aggregation, offering cold storage and a commercial kitchen. Dr. Patricia Trujillo at NNMC helps put on the annual Garlic Festival at ¡Sostenga!, a cultural and community celebration of farming in early July. AFSC has a farmer-training program at the college with ¡Sostenga!, so the farmers, farm trainees, and apprentices in the program also support Camilla’s co-op.
This method of community members collaborating to feed the community is part of the long history of the Española Valley and is key to rebuilding the food hub.
Sayrah Namaste is co-director of AFSC-New Mexico.