Every summer, Max and I head to Cape Cod for a few weeks to visit with my aunt and uncle in East Falmouth. We swim, bike, kayak, read, eat fresh seafood (and ice cream and fresh fruit and grilled vegetables and hamburgers and, you know, summertime-etcetera), and generally wander the Cape; and every summer, one of the consistent highlights of that (obviously glorious) trip is a visit to Coonamessett Farm, a nearby “farming and research enterprise.”
That rather dry description very much belies the actual Coonamessett experience: just some of their offerings include a weekly CSA, pick-your-own food and flowers, a farm cafe, an ice cream stand, a petting zoo, and Friday night farm dinners with a Jamaican buffet. They also have a farm store, a shellfish division, a wind turbine, and solar panels; and they offer farm internships, educational programming, a children’s gardening program, and more.
Needless to say, it’s a beautiful experiment in changing a community’s relationship with food — there’s nothing like the sight and sound of strawberry-sticky children, giggling hysterically as they reach under indignant chickens and shrieking happily when they emerge with a warm egg, to restore some of your faith in humanity (actually, this applies to giggling/shrieking adults as well). I don’t need to berate you with statistics and stories about how screwy our relationship to food has become in this marvelous modern world of ours — all that is old news. What’s newsworthy to me now are the people and places, like Coonamessett, who see the way things have become, don’t approve, and are getting down in the earth and doing something about it.
So naturally, I was over the moon when I heard through the Taos grapevine that Kirry Nelson, Robin Shawver (formerly Powlesland), and Lee Shawver were embarking on a mission to acquire the property formerly known as Blossoms Organic Garden Center (down in Ranchos, closed since 2011) and convert it into a working, educational, community-oriented, all-around-kickass farm project. The 5-ish-acre property abuts the Rio Grande del Rancho, and has access to both an acequia and a well; it’s fully fenced-in; it gets great, unobstructed sunlight; and it still has a number of sturdy, shockingly un-tampered-with structures, left over from its former life as Blossoms.
In short, it’s a farm just BEGGING to happen.
I met up with Kirry a couple weeks ago, and she showed me around the property as she explained their vision. Kirry, Robin, and Lee bring shared passion and diverse skills to the table on this project; as for division of labor, Robin will handle the farm store and the program of events, Lee the on-site woodshop, and Kirry the farm. “We’ll open our doors to the public two days a week, so people can buy their produce and locally-crafted things; hopefully, if we can get all the permits we need, we’ll eventually sell farmer’s cheeses, and meats, and stuff like that,” said Kirry, as we sat on the empty deck of the former, and soon-to-be, store (they’re keeping and repurposing all the existing structures — if it ain’t broke…).
They’ll grow and sell plant starters; offer on-site farm to table dinners; develop a wide variety of gardening/ag-related workshops and classes; grow a children’s garden; invite you to rummage through pick-your own flower beds; and much, much more. All three are or have been educators, so they intend to create a major, ongoing, all-ages education component. “We want to build a working farm that also is kind of exemplary of the new urban farm — which is happening all over the rest of the country, but hasn’t really come to Taos yet,” Kirry explained.
It was a chilly day in February, with snow still covering much of the ground, but if you squinted a little you could already see the flowers, plant starters, herbs, and happy, dirt-dusted people that will soon coat this beautiful property — if the three entrepreneurs can raise $20,000 by March 7 on Indiegogo. The money will help them secure the property, and will cover the purchase of a tiller, compost, seeds, things to stock the store, and all the other fiddly things it takes to get a farm-business rolling.
The soil has been compacted some over a year and a half of disuse, and there are plenty of weeds to clear away, but Kirry is hopeful that they’ll have a good first growing season. “We definitely want to focus on plenty of salad greens, to get to market and restaurants; and then we of course want to do a full spectrum – beets, carrots, kales, squashes – and we really wanna have a pumpkin patch, so you can pick your own pumpkins!”
At the time of this post, they’ve raised a truly impressive $15,537. That means that if only 223 more people donate 20 bucks — or 111 people donate 40 bucks — or one generous person (coughJuliaRobertscough) donates $4,463, Taos is well on its way to a wonderful summer filled with fresh produce, farm dinners, Shree-yoga-and-lunch parties, hands-on ag classes, and much more — all grown in our own backyard, by people we know and love. But there are only THREE DAYS LEFT, so if this project speaks to you in any way, please donate right away!
In case you’re wondering why, exactly, you should give these people your money, I think it’s important to note that these folks are not merely food aficionados, and this project is not merely some hackneyed idea limping along with a ton of passion but no real planning or expertise: Kirry has lived in Taos 14 years, is deeply invested in this community, and, with a permaculture certification and a degree in Sustainable Community Development (with a focus, naturally, on food), it’s clear that she actually knows what the hell she’s doing. Robin and Lee, likewise, are longtime, well-known Taos community members. Robin is a department chair in both English and Tech at UNM-Taos; and Lee, whose background is Outdoor Education, teaches at Vista Grande.
Kirry is also the current manager of the Taos Farmer’s Market, so the project is well-connected to the existing Taos growing-community — a relationship that will undoubtedly prove essential to Blossoms & Sprouts’ success.
If we all chip in just a little, this could be a truly gorgeous community farm project — the kind of thing locals and visitors alike will go home beaming about. I, for one, can’t wait to get into that pumpkin patch.
Want to learn more, or find out how you can get involved in a larger way? Find more details and contact information at their website, www.blossomsandsproutsfarm.com.
UPDATE, 3/7: Blossoms and Sprouts not only reached their goal, they exceeded it by more than $1,000. We can’t wait to get down there — until then, we wish them happy growing!