In the year that I’ve been working as the food editor here at Weekly Alibi, I’ve spoken with a lot of Albuquerque-area farmers. The hard working people who provide the produce that winds up at our farmers’ markets and on our plates have all developed the skills necessary to grow food in the high desert. When I ask them how they gained these skills, a lot of them have the same answer: Grow the Growers.
Grow the Growers is a farm training and business incubator program at Gutierrez-Hubbell House, a Bernalillo County Open Space Preserve and history museum in the South Valley. Although similar farm incubator programs are springing up in cities all over the country, the Grow the Growers program is unique in that it doesn’t rely on any federal funding, and it offers land and water at very reasonable rates to the interns who complete the first year of the program. For young or beginning farmers who want to learn the ropes and eventually start their own farm business, it’s an unparalleled opportunity.
Through Grow the Growers, participants will learn how to farm in the Rio Grande Valley through hands-on education, both on the Open Space land and at partnered farms. Not only do you get the farming know-how, but you’ll also learn how to successfully market and manage your farm business, how to negotiate with restaurants and what funding and assistance is available to beginning farmers and ranchers. While it’s not an easy program (what, did you think farming was easy?), everyone I’ve talked to who’s gone through it has loved it. For some, it’s been a life changing event.
Why am I telling you all of this now? Because Grow the Growers is now accepting applications for their 2019 growing season. The program is free of charge to all interns, and those who commit to a full-time internship (40 hours/week) for the first year receive a weekly stipend. The first year of the program lasts 40 weeks (roughly from the beginning of March through November). After that first year, you’ll be eligible for access to some rows of Incubator Land that you can continue farming as you hone your skills and launch your business. Some of the farmers selling produce at the Downtown Growers’ Market are currently farming on Incubator Land.
To apply for the 2019 season, go to bernco.gov and search for Grow the Growers, fill out the attached form, then send that and a resume to firstname.lastname@example.org. Good luck, you green thumbs.