Jennifer Dwyer launched the Albuquerque Chicken Coop Tour two years ago. Her idea was to connect people who raised chickens with people who wanted to know how to do it themselves. That first year, a handful of curious people visited around a half-dozen locations. By 2009 some of the visitors had become chicken ranchers, and new visitors numbered nearly a hundred.
The original idea has blossomed into the 2010 Albuquerque Coop and Garden Tour, showcasing not only the city’s coops but small farms and home, school and community gardens as well. I visit the Dwyers’ roost to meet some of this year’s planners. East San José Elementary teacher Lisa Silva, Zia Elementary teacher Sara Van Note, Chery Klairwator of The Source community wellness center, Melanie Rubin of Albuquerque Backyard Farms Collaborative and Yvonne Scott, self-described garden groupie, join me out back. A full-sized windmill rises over Dwyer’s spacious yard, and a dozen chickens and one rooster come out to meet us. Dwyer shows us the coop where she collects eggs every day. During this visit, I learn that anyone can keep chickens in the city as long as there are no active covenants or restrictions at their location and as long as roosters don’t create a noise problem.
It’s evident that people are excited about food they grow themselves. And what could be more satisfying than vegetables that moments ago had roots in the soil, or eggs plucked from a warm nest? Kids really take to food in a friendly way when they’ve seen it grow from beginning to lunch.
Kids really take to food in a friendly way when they’ve seen it grow from beginning to lunch.
Van Note tells me about Zia Elementary’s afterschool club, in which kindergarten through fifth grade students grow a courtyard garden. The school hopes to expand the program up through seventh grade next year. In school programs, the harvests are small, but the rewards are huge. Van Note tells me about a student who protested when his mom came to pick him up from school: He wanted to continue working in the garden.
On a visit to East San José Elementary School, I see a garden planted in the shape of a gecko. I watch as Silva greets her fifth-grade class, quickly assigning tasks. Students set to watering and moving compost. All of the school’s students have dug, stacked paving stones, built compost and planted their bounty under Silva’s energetic supervision.
Klairwator has developed the community garden program at The Source where 20 families pay for garden shares and participate in tending the crops. The garden and its harvest are not strictly parceled out. Rather, families pick what they like as produce matures.
These are a few of the dozens of stops on this year’s self-guided, citywide tour taking place on Saturday, July 31, and Sunday, Aug. 1, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day. A tour map and information will be available on July 30 at albuquerquecooptour.com. Walking and bike maps of tour stops in the Nob Hill area will also be available at the Nob Hill La Montañita Co-op (3500 Central SE) and at The Source (1111 Carlisle SE).