The first Downtown Growers’ Market of the year is this Saturday, 8am to noon on April 14, which also signals the beginning of prime Albuquerque social season. If you have a kid or a dog, this is where you go to sit in the grass with all the other people with kids and dogs, listen to live music and drink coffee in the sunshine. If you have neither, it’s still great people-watching, and, well, there’s also the food.
The fresh produce and prepared treats at the Growers’ Market are always enough to make me drive down the hill and fight for a parking spot. Everyone at the grassy little Robinson Park (810 Copper Ave. NW) seems to be walking on air—including the vendors—all high off the pleasant weather and the cute crowd. Talking with the farmers about what they’re growing in the new season and how they like to cook it is guaranteed to be educational, and ensures they’ll probably remember you the next time you come around. This year promises a few new farms in the mix, including Chispas Farms and Ts’uyya Farm, which is featured in this issue.
If you’re not already a farmers’ market convert, I’m here to lay down a few more reasons why you should be. In the spirit of Earth Day, a lot of these reasons have to do with how environmentally friendly it is to buy from local farmers and producers. Let’s get started, shall we?
A smaller carbon footprint: Buying from local growers naturally means your food travels less between the farm and the market. This not only ensures that your food is much fresher than it possibly could be at the grocery store, it also means that there’s less gas expended bringing the food to you and less packaging needed to ship it.
Supporting local growers equals supporting locally sustainable growing practices: Although not all of the growers at the market are certified organic, most of them do farm according to organic practices—they often just can’t afford the expensive process of becoming certified, which is pretty messed up and a whole other story for another time. These growers are very aware of the particular environmental problems facing the Rio Grande Valley, and they want the land to be farmable for generations to come—so you know they’re going to be responsible with it. This stewardship includes nurturing healthy soil that won’t erode during the next big rainfall, watering from the acequia instead of putting further stress on the aquifers and growing varieties of crops that require less water and are more appropriate to the Rio Grande region.
More farmland and green space in Albuquerque: By buying from local farmers, you’re effectively voting with your dollars to preserve farmland and green space in and around the city. Each purchase helps them support other farmers and fight for policy changes that will protect existing farmland and encourage the county to secure more land for farmers—Bernalillo County has been particularly good about providing land and even start-up capital for farmers.
Food security: Many farmers in the Rio Grande Valley are actively preserving heritage varieties of crops that grow well in the arid Southwest—crops that have developed resistance to native pests and diseases. When the big GMO monocrop farms start falling to new strains of chemical-resistant plant diseases … well, these hardy ancient crops will likely still be standing.