I'm glad that eating organic is easier than it used to be. Conventional supermarkets offer some organic produce. Natural food markets abound. It might be time to join a community farm program such as Beneficial Farms CSA, which has been active in Santa Fe since 1994 and is now enrolling members in Albuquerque.
Priscilla Remke meets me over red drinks at Flying Star. Her new position as Beneficial's Albuquerque Operations Manager uses her talents as a proponent of Albuquerque's local agriculture movement. Remke was gardening organically and shopping locally long before it was fashionable, and she recognizes the importance of this approach. She explains that CSA is a mutually supportive system—in effect, members give farms an economic base, and farmers reward members with a tasty cornucopia on a weekly basis.
Remke tells me about Beneficial Farms (also known as Mesa Top Farm) located near Glorieta. Mesa Top's owner, Steve Warshawer, has been on the forefront of the collaborative farm movement in New Mexico and uses sustainable techniques of biodynamic farming developed by Dr. Rudolph Steiner. (Many will recognize Steiner as the creator of the Waldorf education system, Anthroposophy and other groundbreaking concepts.) Beneficial shares Steiner’s approach to farming by offering work/study and exchange programs for folks who want to learn these Earth-friendly methods. As the Co-op's Enterprise Development Specialist, Warshawer found the Co-op to be a natural ally in making the Albuquerque Beneficial/CSA a reality.
Mesa Top is one of 40 family farms in the CSA. All farms use sustainable, chemical-free methods, and natural fertilizers and pest management. Primary suppliers are located within La Montañita Co-op’s defined local foodshed (within 300 miles of Albuquerque) and range from the Southern Rockies to the Mid and Lower Rio Grande. While greens, root vegetables and fruits are always available, the varied climates extend the growing season, thereby increasing the variety of items—flours, quinoa and grapefruits are a few. Beneficial’s year-round program augments winter selection with some fair trade items such as bananas from the Co-op. Anchor farms include Mesa Top, Vida Verde in Albuquerque and Shiraz Vineyard in La Luz. (Shiraz is popular for its figs, apricots, plums, persimmons and pomegranates in summer and frozen peaches and cherries in winter.) Many farms grow experimental crops and small-batch products that aren't yet available to large markets.
Organic, raw, aged and soft cheeses are made with milk from pasture-fed goats and Ayrshire cows. Eggs are the product of years of on-the-farm research to re-establish small-flock egg production in the Southern Rockies. Regionally grown grains and seeds comprise most of the chickens’ diet. If you've never eaten an egg from a well-raised chicken, you must. The dark orange yolk and rich flavor make a spectacular scrambled egg. In this happy food chain, everybody eats well.
The Co-op truck brings the crops from the farms to the Co-op warehouse on Comanche where members pick up the weekly shares. Priscilla heads there to get things ready for the next distribution. We stop in the parking lot where she has a sample share in the back of her car. I spy fresh figs and a colorful assortment of greens ready for the kitchen. Time to get cooking.
For complete membership information: beneficialfarm.com
Questions? E-mail Priscilla Remke: firstname.lastname@example.org
Due to popular demand, P'tit Louis Bistro is now open Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Reservations strongly recommended.