REDUCING HUNGER IN NEW MEXICO

ONE GARDEN AT A TIME

About Seed2Need

One out of every five New Mexico families face uncertainty about their next meal.

A landmark study released in 2010 by the New Mexico Association of Food Banks and Feeding America, our nation's largest domestic hunger relief organization, reports that nearly 40,000 New Mexico families seek food assistance each week. 40% of the members of households served are under the age of 18.  With limited financial resources available to organizations providing hunger relief, there is little available to invest in perishable commodities.

 

According to the most recent Census Bureau Report, New Mexico ranks #1 in terms of poverty. High unemployment, underemployment and a slow  economic recovery have increased the number of families seeking emergency food assistance. Federal and state funding has been cut and charitable contributions are down nationwide. 51% of our food pantries have reported turning people away due to a shortage of food.

 

A USDA study found that under-nutrition experienced by children during periods of growth impacts their behavior, their school performance, and their overall cognitive development. Studies relating to food insecurity amongst the elderly found significantly lower intakes of protein, carbohydrate, saturated fat, niacin, riboflavin, vitamins B-6 and B-12, magnesium, iron and zinc, as well as lower skinfold thickness, resulting in lower body weight and increased immunological vulnerability.

Growing Produce

We grow approximately 2 acres of vegetables in 4 gardens on Manierre Road in Corrales. Land and water is donated by local property owners.

Gleaning Fruit

We work with several individuals with large orchards, coordinating volunteers to harvest fruit on behalf of local food pantries and soup kitchens.

Supporting Food Pantries

We arrange for the pantries to pick up on-site to expedite delivery of produce from the field to the families who need it.

Familiar Faces in the Garden

Penny started the project to generate produce for a couple of food pantries in Rio Rancho. What started as a small garden in a neighbor's horse corral has grown substantially thanks to the support of many locals and the Sandoval County Master Gardeners.

At various points in time LD has been a pilot, a racecar driver, a wrangler and a safety engineer. He brings decades of experience and irascible wit to the gardens. He is the chairman of the board, our on-site safety expert and quality control. Basically he keeps us in line.

Brad wears many hats, including the one above. He coordinates the many Eagle Scout projects that occur each year. Without these initiatives it would be difficult to plant quickly or harvest large orchards. He also helps raise funds to keep us planting.

Warner is our resident agriculture expert and a member of the board. With expertise in pruning and tree care, he has adopted the orchards and can be seen in the spring pruning, arms guiding like an orchestra conductor, with the trees providing music that only he can hear.

Involved from early on, Teresa brings insight from her work with Roadrunner Food Bank, her network, her understanding of the hunger issue in New Mexico, her innovative ideas for making an impact, and the practical skills associated with growing up on a farm.

Sandy is the all around fix it guy, whether that is fixing the irrigation system in the spring, coming up with a tomato cage design and bending apparatus, making nifty hole punchers for the plastic mulch or countless other MacGyver solutions to the garden problems that arise constantly.

Kate is a team lead when there are large groups as well as one of our go-to people for general questions about what to do, how or why. She may or may not know, but she's friendly, she can point you in the right direction and will probably make you laugh.

Nancy has been working with Seed2Need for several years and knows the process and steps from April to November. As a retired teacher, she can usually be found hanging with the kids who seem to realize that she is eighty something years young.

Leslie can often be found at the garden with a camera in one hand and a shovel in the other. She provides most of the photography and admin for the website and social media channels in addition to pulling weeds, picking vegetables and dangling from ladders in pursuit of fruit.

Seed2Need hires two interns to help at the gardens from May - October. Students of agriculture and horticulture are encouraged to apply. If you, or someone you know, would like to work with a great organization, please have them contact us.

Seed2Need hires two interns to help at the gardens from May - October. Students of agriculture and horticulture are encouraged to apply. If you, or someone you know, would like to work with a great organization, please have them contact us.

John is a Master Gardener and Master Composter. He has built a composting operation at the back of the gardens that allows us to use our weeds and other plant material to generate compost for the gardens. He usually has a beagle cohort and is happy to answer questions.

Contributing Properties

The Scherzinger garden was the first garden on Manierre Road, with Victor Scherzinger becoming our biggest advocate. Victor introduced us to the Lynn's, talking them into participating, and launching the enterprise that became Seed2Need.

The Lynn garden is the largest of the four gardens, encompassing almost an acre without taking the orchard into consideration. The property and water is provided by Dr. Robert Lynn and Janet Braziel. Ziggy (pictured) is a frequent participant with an affinity for children.

The Sageser garden is the newest of the four gardens, with approximately 1/2 acre added in 2015. This allows us to rotate crops while keeping equipment and volunteer activity centrally located. Ken & Jane added a gazebo overlooking that makes this one of the prettiest gardens.

With land donated by Richard and Judy Jacobs and a grant from Keep New Mexico Beautiful, we planted an orchard on Corrales Road near the greenhouse. As the orchard matures, we will be able provide additional variety and resources to our partner pantries.

Our Crops

Community gardening

by the community

for the community!

Picked fresh. Distributed fresh. Consumed locally by families facing food insecurity.

 

Seed2Need is a non-profit, collaborative effort between the Sandoval County Master Gardeners (SCMG), property owners in the village of Corrales, volunteer groups and hundreds of individuals from Corrales, Rio Rancho, Placitas and Albuquerque. Our mission is to reduce hunger and to improve the nutrition of families facing food insecurity within our community.

 

Since 2008 we have been planting gardens in Corrales to generate fresh produce for local food pantries and soup kitchens. With the support of incredible volunteers, and sponsors from the community, we donated over 70,000 pounds  of produce to 17 food pantries and soup kitchens in Bernalillo and Sandoval counties in 2015.

 

Most of the food pantries served pick up vegetables directly from the gardens. Many send volunteers to help harvest. As a result, the produce distributed is "farmer's market" quality, often in the hands of the families who need it within hours of harvest. During peak harvest, when tomatoes and apples are available by the ton, Roadrunner Food Bank sends trucks, distributing the excess to other food pantries in New Mexico. Over the last six years, Seed2Need has donated over 316,000 pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables.

 

The Seed2Need project is a non-profit, volunteer based initiative, with minimal administrative payroll. As of 2015 we implemented an intern program, hiring two university students with agriculture or horticulture interests, to help maintain and oversee the gardens. Otherwise all labor associated with planting, maintenance and harvest is volunteer based. Our overhead is low. Marketing costs are nominal. Donations received are utilized for garden supplies, seed and infrastructure. The impact is substantial, with tons of fresh fruits and vegetables going directly from farm to plate.

Pamela (Penny) Davis

Founder, Seeder, Weeder, Info Booth

LD Alexander

Board Member, Safety Guy, Overseer

Brad Haslam

Board Member, Volunteer Wrangler, Fundraiser

Warner Orozco

Board Member, Pruner,  Horticulture Expert

Teresa Johansen

Board Member, Idea Oracle, Food Bank Liaison

Sandy Davis

Figure It Out & Fix It Guy, Tractor Expert

Kate Banks

Team Lead, Backup, Best Laugh

Nancy Butler

Team Lead, Swag Connection, Motivator

Scherzinger Garden

Victor & Nora Scherzinger

Lynn Garden

Dr. Robert Lynn & Janet Braziel

Sageser Garden

Ken & Jane Sageser

Orchard & Greenhouse

Judy & Richard Jacobs

Leslie Davis

Volunteer, Shutterbug & Marketing

2016 Intern #1

Chief Weeder, Garden Overseer & Organizer

2016 Intern #2

Chief Weeder, Garden Overseer & Organizer

John Zarola

SCMG Volunteer and Master Composter

Primary Crops in 2015

28%

35%

12%

9%

15%

Tomatoes (19734.5)

Gleaned Fruit (24402.5)

Cucumbers (6181.5)

Chile (10593.5)

Zucchini (8068.5)

Q
70,034
# Donated 2015 C
17+
Pantries Served
a
24,402
# Gleaned L
6+
Seasons Donating
A
8069
# Volunteer Hours e
316,000+
# Donated

A local solution to a community issue

Primary Crops

 

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are grown from seed, usually 3-5 varieties based on disease resistance and productivity for the area.

 

Green Chile

We grow a combination of Sandia and Big Jim chile to cover the medium to hot preference. Chile is always a favorite.

 

Fall Crops

Broccoli, cauliflower, sprouts, cabbage and beets planted in July yield a fall harvest beyond the first frost date.

 

Zucchini

Using row cover to keep the squash bugs off of the early season zucchini seems to have made a difference in the 2015 crop.

 

Cucumbers

We grow Marketmore, using cages and row cover to keep the squash bugs and cucumber beetles at bay.

 

Fruit

Orchestrating gleaning at local orchards allows us to introduce fruit into our donations until our orchard matures.

Harvest Results

2015 |

We added a third property (4th garden) on Manierre Road, which will allow us to rotate crops more effectively in the future while keeping equipment and volunteers centrally located. Though our tomato production was lower than prior years, the use of row cover allowed us to generate a healthy zucchini and cucumber crop to offset the difference. Fruit continued to be a big contributer, with almost 1/3 of our season total coming from local orchards. As a result 2015 was a record year, with over 70,000 pounds of fruit and vegetables harvested for 17 local food pantries and soup kitchens.

| 2014

We got the root knot nematodes and broad leaf weeds under control only to experience herbicide damage while using alpaca manure. We built a shed at the Lynn garden early in the spring of 2014, allowing us to keep more equipment and supplies on-site. We upgraded the weighing system to accommodate pallets. The squash bugs, which had been steadily increasing in number from year to year, overwhelmed us entirely. All melons, zucchini, squash and cucumbers were lost. Fortunately the local orchards provided a lot of fruit and we were able to donate almost as much as 2012.

2013 |

We finished planting the fruit trees purchased with the 2012 Keep New Mexico Beautiful grant. We purchased a plastic mulch layer attachment for the tractor, allowing us to put down the t-tape irrigation and plastic mulch faster and more efficiently. The ongoing drought made the year challenging. We realized that the plastic mulch was useful to inhibit weed growth and to conserve water. Root knot nematodes were discovered at the Scherzinger garden when the plants failed to develop properly. Despite setbacks we donated 41,199 pounds of produce.

| 2012

After two years working with a non-profit as our sponsor, Seed2Need officially became a 501(c)3 in June, 2012. With a generous donation from PNM we constructed a greenhouse on the property of Richard and Judy Jacobs. The fruit crop overwhelmed everyone with trees. Many orchard owners contacted us to harvest their trees for donation. This has become an ongoing initiative, augmenting the vegetables provided with a variety of fresh fruits. More land was cleared at the Lynn garden by Eagle Scouts. Keep New Mexico Beautiful gave us a grant to plant an orchard.

New Mexico's weather was volatile in the spring, with an unusually late frost at the end of May followed by record heat three days later. The newly sprouted green beans froze and the spring crops bolted. However, expansion at the Lynn garden allowed us to plant more than 2010. As the tomato harvest peaked we overwhelmed the pantries we serve. We sent the excess to Roadrunner Food Bank for rapid distribution to other food pantries in the area. In turn Roadrunner provided us with crates. The crates can be cleaned, transport well and weigh under 50 pounds consistently.

2011 |
| 2010

Victor and Nora Scherzinger donated their land in 2009, but it was only about 1/10th of an acre. It generated just over 1600 pounds of produce. That garden was expanded to almost 1/2 acre in 2010. Victor talked his neighbors into donating 1/2 acre on their property as well, with a total garden space of about .8 acre planted in May, 2010. The Master Gardeners got involved. Rio Grande Food Project was our non-profit sponsor as we raised funds to start building the infrastructure needed to grow on a larger scale. Over 30,000 pounds of produce was generated.

  • 2015 Year End Report

    2015 Year End Report (PDF Download)

    Highlights: Covering the squash and cucumbers allowed us to get a good harvest before the squash bugs killed the plants. We added a 3rd garden. Tomatoes were disappointing, but working with local orchards offset the shortage resulting in our best year ever.

  • 2014 Year End Report

    2014 Year End Report (PDF Download)

    Highlights: We got the root knot nematodes and broad leaf weeds under control and built a shed on site for storage of equipment. The squash bugs annihilated all squash, melons and cucumbers. We also experienced herbicide damage as a result of contaminated alpaca manure used in the compost.

  • 2013 Year End Report

    2013 Year End Report (PDF Download)

    Highlights: A disappointing year due to drought, hail and root knot nematodes. The greenhouse was completed and put to use. We purchased a plastic mulch layer for the tractor. Keep New Mexico Beautiful gave us a grant to plant a fruit tree orchard around the greenhouse. Over 100 trees of different varieties were planted.

  • 2012 Year End Report

    2012 Year End Report (PDF Download)

    Highlights: Officially became a 501(c)3. Successfully used plastic mulch to inhibit weed growth. Harvested a bumper crop of fruit, resulting in the implementation of gleaning as an ongoing initiative. Built a greenhouse. Donated 65,238 pounds of produce to 15 pantries.

  • 2011 Year End Report

    2011 Year End Report (PDF Download)

    Highlights: A late frost followed by record heat complicated the spring; however, 45,400 pounds of vegetables were donated to 10 food pantries and 1 soup kitchen, representing an improvement of almost 15,000 pounds over the 2010 total of 30,701 pounds donated.

Seed Starting

Building Tomato Cages

Starting Your Own Garden

We start our plants from seed, with thousands of tomato and chile plants seeded in early March. The seedlings are transplanted in April by Bosque School 7th graders and hardened in early May before the gardens are planted. Usually the seeds for the fall garden are planted soon after the greenhouse is emptied by spring planting.

 

Sandoval County Master Gardener, Judy Jacobs, provides a tutorial to the volunteers that help us seed. It is helpful for first time gardeners or experienced gardeners who are trying to successfully seed new varieties.

Curly top virus is a common issue in New Mexico. Often it wipes out tomato plants before they produce. With 80 foot rows and thousands of plants, we needed a way to cover them on a tight budget, with minimal storage space and volunteer labor. The design that evolved has been incredibly effective. For building instructions and a diagram, click here.

 

We use concrete wire, cut into two pieces, bent using a frame. The prongs hold the cages in place. They are lashed into rows with zip ties and covered with Agribon. The Agribon allows moisture and air to circulate while keeping out the beet leaf hoppers.

Seed2Need is a small, community based non-profit started by a handful of people with a plot of land. We have grown steadily since our inauspicious kickoff in a neighbor's well fertilized horse corral.

 

There are many ways that a community garden can provide aid to local food pantries, but we have documented our model so that others can use the information that works for their organization or objectives. Modify as needed. If you have additional questions regarding starting a food pantry garden, please email seed2need@gmail.com or see our Resources page for a list of New Mexico food pantries.

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Sponsors

FAQ

  • When was Seed2Need started?

    Seed2Need was started in 2008 by Sandy and Penny Davis in a neighbor's horse corral. Originally it was a small garden intended to provide produce to Storehouse West in Rio Rancho. In 2009 Victor and Nora Scherzinger offered some of their land to enlarge the garden to 1/10th of an acre. A handful of Sandoval County Master Gardeners helped with the garden, generating 1650 pounds of produce.

     

    In 2010 the Sandoval County Master Gardeners decided to sponsor the project, allowing for a larger volunteer base. Victor Scherzinger talked his neighbors, Dr. Robert Lynn and Janet Braziel, into donating land, expanding the garden to 3/5 of an acre. The 2010 gardens generated 30,701 pounds. This allowed Seed2Need to provide produce for several more pantries in the area.

     

    In 2011 the gardens were expanded via an Eagle Scout project that cleared brush and debris from 1/2 acre at the Lynn garden. Considerably more volunteers from the community started to help, as well as community service groups, church groups, boy scouts and school groups. For the last few months of the summer Seed2Need was given a booth at the Corrales Grower's Market on Sunday mornings to collect produce donations from vendors and locals. Collectively, 45,399 pounds of produce was donated to local food pantries and soup kitchens. Based on our success in 2010 and 2011 Seed2Need was recognized by the International Master Gardeners organization, winning the Search for Excellence award in the Community Service category.

     

    In 2012 the Scherzinger gardens were expanded, generating an extra 1/2 acre. Seed2Need continued to maintain a presence at the Corrales Grower's Market to collect donations, receiving 3,150 pounds of produce. Additionally it was an abundant year for fruit. We were contacted by numerous property owners in Corrales, Los Ranchos de Albuquerque and Rio Rancho to glean fruit from trees that were literally being torn apart by the weight of fruit. We harvested over 17,000 pounds of pears, apricots, peaches and apples.  Between the gardens, the Grower's Market and the donations from orchards, we donated 65,238 pounds of fruit and vegetables for 15 food assistance programs in Sandoval and Bernalillo Counties.

     

    In 2013 we expanded the Lynn garden, adding approximately 1/2 acre of watermelons and cantaloupe. We decided not to participate in the Corrales Grower's Market, because many of the growers were unable to plant crops due to the drought. Flood irrigation was cut off to the middle Rio Grande valley in early summer and many local farmers left their fields fallow. There was a late frost, which wiped out most of the fruit trees.

     

    It was a summer of challenges. There was a soil issue in one of our gardens. Most of the plants never developed or produced due to root knot nematodes. We had watering issues and a proliferation of weeds at the other garden, particularly Amaranth (Pigweed) and Puncturevine (Goatheads). We planted zucchini and melons after the 4th of July to avoid the squash bug infestation, but they moved in on the cucumbers early in the season and loitered until the squash and melons were planted. A major hailstorm in July did damage, though, surprisingly, the garden rebounded.  It was a rough year.

     

    With the many issues ands setbacks we anticipated harvesting considerably less in 2013 than 2012, but we were fortunate. The tomatoes were big, beautiful and abundant. The cucumbers were surprisingly productive given the squash bug infestation. When we realized that the squash bugs were likely to kill the zucchini quickly, we planted more seed between the existing plants so they would start producing as the other plants died. The watermelons were a write-off, but we did harvest cantaloupe.

     

    In 2014 the battle with the squash bugs resumed. Due to the infestation in prior years, the number of over-wintering squash bugs increased to the point that all cucurbit crops were lost. Fortunately the tomatoes continued to flourish and there were a lot of apples so our overall production was second only to 2012, bringing our five year total with a few hundred pounds of 250,000.

     

    Every year is a learning experience.  We will utilize the lessons to formulate an our strategy for next year.  Fortunately we have amazing volunteers who are willing to provide their input, skills, wisdom and labor to improve the project every season.  It takes a village to facilitate a project like this and the Village of Corrales is the perfect place to do it.  Between the Sandoval County Master Gardeners and countless dedicated volunteers from the community we will continue to reduce hunger in New Mexico one garden at a time.

  • Who funds Seed2Need?

    In 2010 and 2011 Rio Grande Food Project served as our fiscal sponsor.  We became a 501(c)(3) in April, 2012, which allowed us to start applying for grants.  That represents another learning curve; one that we are still figuring out.  Fortunately we have been supported by the community, with funding provided by a combination of private party donations and local business contributions.

     

    In 2013 we received a $10,000 grant from the PNM Foundation as well as a grant from Keep New Mexico Beautiful to plant fruit trees.  In 2014 we received a $10,000 grant from Seeds of Change. We are fortunate that our costs are low and support has been consistent. Based on donations received we are experimenting with an internship program in 2015. This program offers leadership opportunities for high school and college students interested in learning more about gardening while doing work that benefits the community.

  • What has been the most daunting challenge?

    Mother Nature presents a variety of challenges every year, in the form of drought, plant disease, pests and endless weeds, but the biggest challenge has been having enough volunteers to keep up with the work that needs to be done weekly.  Like housework, weeding and garden maintenance seem like futile endeavors, but they are critical to a successful garden.

     

    Volunteers are critical to our success.  If you would like to volunteer, please email Seed2Need@gmail.com to be added to the mailing list or check out the calendar for work sessions.  If you are part of a community service group, please email to schedule a time for your group.  We can always use more help!

  • It sounds like a lot of work. Why are you doing this?

    Top 5 reasons to get involved:

    1. Helping others and having a positive impact on your community.
    2. Meeting like minded individuals who care about the world they live in and are willing to sweat to make a difference.
    3. Gardening provides physical activity.
    4. Recent studies indicate that digging in the dirt builds your immune system and that it is good for your emotional well being.
    5. It's a good excuse to be outside rather than cleaning your house on a Saturday morning.
  • I'd like to help. How do I volunteer?

    You can be added to our mailing list by emailing Seed2Need@gmail.com. We meet Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings at 8 am until July 1; 7 am after July 1 due to heat.

     

    Occasionally extra sessions are called when orchard gleaning opportunities arise, etc.

     

    You can follow our progress on Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr. If we need to cancel work sessions due to weather, we will post on social media, which will also be available here. You can also follow our calendar, which we will keep updated regarding anticipated volunteer group turnout and weather related cancellations.

  • I'd like to start something similar in my community. How do I get started?

    Start small. The entire process is a learning curve. We have detailed instructions available on the Get to Know Us Page.

     

    We started with a small garden in a neighbor's horse corral. The alliance with the Sandoval County Master Gardeners allowed us to expand. Partnerships with various church groups, community groups, etc. have also allowed us to expand. As a project dependent on labor, it is always the volunteer turnout that determines how much we can handle.

     

    Funding is fairly easy to procure. It isn't hard to convince people that alleviating food insecurity is a good cause. If you have questions or need to know more, please email Seed2Need@gmail.com

  • Who does Seed2Need serve?

    Currently we are serving 17 food pantries and soup kitchens in Albuquerque, Rio Rancho, Corrales, Bernalillo and Placitas. Many of the smaller pantries send volunteers to help with the harvest, taking what they need for their patrons. This allows us to get produce to the pantries fresh, often distributing within hours of harvest.

     

    The larger pantries typically send trucks to the gardens to pick up produce. We meet three times a week throughout the season, scheduling pantries on a rotating schedule based on size and when they are open.  When the gardens hit peak harvest we call in Roadrunner Food Bank. They send a truck to collect overflow and distribute it to other pantries throughout the state.

  • What does Seed2Need grow?

    We focus on vegetables that generate ongoing, heavy yield.  We take local tastes and nutritional value into consideration as well.  We have tried many varieties recommended by New Mexico State University over the last several years.  We have evolved and adapted over time.

     

    Initially we focused on tomatoes, green beans, zucchini, yellow squash, cucumbers and eggplant.  We quickly discovered that heirloom tomatoes were not suitable.  They don't transport well.  They are beautiful, but they turn into tomato sauce when stacked.

     

    Eggplant is not a hot commodity.  Green beans are appreciated by the food pantries, but the volunteers aren't wildly excited about picking them, because they seem to grow faster than you can pick them and the dirt in New Mexico will scald your knees in July.

     

    Everyone loves watermelons, including the kids that come out to help at the gardens.  There is no such thing as enough green chile in the state of New Mexico.  We plan to add jalapenos in 2014.

     

    In 2013, we planted approximately 2200 tomatoes, primarily Big Beef and Celebrity, 3500-4000 green chiles (Sandia and New Mexico 64), cucumbers, watermelon, cantaloupe, carrots, zucchini and green beans.

  • What is the source of water?

    Due to the drought water restrictions have been implemented making it difficult for farmers to reliably access water for their crops. Conserving water is increasingly vital to our project like ours. We utilize t-tape to minimize water use. The water distribution covers a 12-18 inch path, providing ample water for the plants without saturating the entire area. By covering the rows with plastic mulch we prevent evaporation.

     

    The property owners associated with each Seed2Need garden provide land, water, and pay for the electricity to operate the pumps. The gardens are watered by wells on each property (rather than flood irrigation). Were it not for the generosity of the property owners sharing their water rights, we would not be able to do this project.

  • Is Seed2Need 100% organic?

    We do use organic methods as frequently as possible. Many of the solutions developed over the last several years have proven very effective; BT for hornworms, gypsum for blossom end rot, and jumping up and down on squash bugs.

     

    Ideally we would love to be entirely organic; however, our objective is to maximize our harvest so that we can serve as many families facing food insecurity as possible. We have limited resources in terms of labor due to the reliance on dedicated volunteers rather than staff. When we exhaust all organic options, we will consider alternatives that are not organic. However we have been fortunate to find organic solutions that have been effective. With water coming from so close to the Rio Grande, and the unavoidable fire retardants, chemicals and contaminants in the water supply, it doesn't seem feasible to pursue an entirely organic model. Additionally, we do soil testing every year and fertilize with compounds based on the results.

     

    Our seed is NOT GMO; however, many varieties are hybrids. There is a difference. The hybrids have been bred for productivity or to resist diseases and pests. The genes are not altered through external means. We try to source suppliers that are not affiliated with Monsanto, though that is becoming more challenging as Monsanto is quietly buying many of the smaller seed suppliers.

     

    Essentially we do what we can, but there is always room for improvement.

  • How do you prevent squash bugs?

    Prevent? Short answer. We don't.

     

    As we go into our fifth year growing on a large scale the tally is Squash Bugs 5 vs. Seed2Need 0.  Planting in mid-July allowed us to get significant squash production the first few years, but the vile little creatures always emerge and propagate exponentially at some point. As the plants get larger, it is harder to check every leaf on hundreds of squash plants. The last two seasons we lost almost all cucurbit crops, with 2014 being a total loss in terms of cucumbers, squash or melons. The squash bugs barely let the cucumbers get out of the ground.

     

    We tried to plant a batch of zucchini early in 2012, but the squash bugs were so prolific that we pulled the plants, tilled the rows to stir up the soil, with one person following behind with a propane torch. That was more gratifying than effective. It scared the neighbors more than the squash bugs. Our second round of zucchini, planted after July 4th, 2012 didn't have nearly as many squash bugs. Based on these experiences we are going to try crop rotation this year, planting cucurbit crops (melons, squash, cucumbers, etc.) at a new location, further down the road, that has been fallow for many years. We are going to cover the rows with hoops and Agribon to try to keep squash bugs in the neighborhood out...theoretically. Update to follow.

  • Does the color of plastic mulch really have an impact on plant growth or productivity?

     

    We tried this method based on a study done at Cornell University. The ultraviolet light generated by the red plastic encourages plant growth. In 2012 we planted tomatoes on black plastic and red plastic (see photo).  The tomatoes in the photo were the same variety, planted on the same day, in adjoining rows. Whereas the red plastic works well for tomatoes, we realized in 2013 that it was less than ideal for green chile, because it also seems to promote weed growth under the plastic.

     

    Though satisfied with the red plastic mulch's effectiveness, we resumed using black plastic mulch in 2014. In 2015 we decided to try two tone mulch. The underside is black to inhibit weed growth. The top is white to reflect light, keeping the soil slightly cooler and reflecting additional light for the plants. This, too, is intended to promote plant growth while inhibiting weeds. It's an experiment. See our links section for more information about the studies regarding different colors of plastic mulch and the impact on plant and weed growth, as well as additional tips and tidbits from various extension offices and agricultural schools .

  • How do you remove the plastic mulch in the fall?

    In 2013 we used a raised bed mulch layer, as an experiment, prior to investing in the equipment. We pulled the plastic up by hand at the end of the season. We were pleased with the results, in terms of suppressing weeds, conserving water and deterring the resident creatures and critters from using the t-tape as their personal water fountains. The grooves associated with the raised beds were treacherous to navigate and unnecessary so we opted for the flat bed mulch layer.

     

    The flat bed mulch layer seems to secure the edges with more dirt than the raised bed attachment, which is handy given the spring winds. This does not make it easier to pull up at the end of the season. The easiest tactic is to get the edges loose before trying to remove it. Otherwise one side or the other will be compacted dirt, ripping the plastic, resulting in having to search out the bits of plastic embedded in the soil. If the plastic isn't removed, it gets tilled in.

  • How much does it cost to do a garden like this?

    The recurring costs associated with the gardens is approximately $5000/acre, though our costs have been higher for the last couple of years as we invest in equipment and infrastructure (tomato cages, additional gardening tools, on site shed, greenhouse, and mulch layer).

     

    We have virtually no administrative costs other than insurance and the cost of the porta potty. Our endeavor is based on 100% volunteer effort, with the exception of intern opportunities created in 2015. The internship position was established to provide ongoing maintenance and weeding, which has been difficult to do with fluctuation in volunteer turnout, and to get younger people more involved. The cost is minimal, but the additional help allows us to continue expanding as we develop our volunteer core.

  • Why does Seed2Need cover the tomatoes with white tents?

     

    Agribon is light fabric that is air and water permeable. We cover the rows of tomatoes to keep beet leaf hoppers off of the tomato plants.  Beet leaf hoppers love the mustard that grows wild in most areas of New Mexico. They carry curly top virus, often resulting in devastating crop loss.

     

    Tomatoes are consistently our top producer, in terms of weight. Since implementing the tomato cage and Agribon method, we have lost very few plants to curly top virus. Even the plants that are lost throughout the season produce fruit prior to dying. Several local growers have copied the design with similar results.

     

    We use concrete reinforcing wire, cut into two pieces. Each sheet makes two 9' cages. I use them in my home garden for tomatoes and climbing plants, like cucumbers and pole beans. The beauty of the design, beyond effectiveness, is that they can be stacked, making storage during off season more space efficient. We use 8-9 per row, allowing us to cover 90-100' rows with row cover. Depending on the weight of the wire, the cages can be used for many years. We have been using 8 gauge wire and have replaced very few cages over the last six years.

  • Where can the tomato cages be purchased?

    We build our tomato cages out of 8 gauge concrete reinforcing wire. They are sturdy, stackable, and allow for long rows, which are covered with Agribon to inhibit pests. There are instructions available on the Get Involved page.

     

    The design is based on ease of installation, stability (no t-posts required), wind resistance, storage and the ability to cover long stretches with row cover.

     

    Every year or two we tend to make more tomato cages, though we really haven't had to replace them and it would seem like we have enough at this point. It is less expensive to make them in bulk and the apparatus for bending the wire requires more than one person. The last several times that we have built tomato cages, we have ordered extra wire, selling cages to the volunteers that help us at cost. That tends to occur in late April. Several local growers have copied the design, building their own frame for bending the wire.

  • Do you need more land?

    We would like to continue to grow the project.  We planted two acres in 2013. We added a 1/2 acre orchard around the greenhouse in the fall of 2013 and spring of 2014. In 2015 we expanded to another property on Manierre Road. Staying consolidated makes it easier to get farm equipment and volunteers to multiple locations during each work session. This becomes critical when we start harvesting to avoid neglecting smaller gardens.

     

    The grand vision/dream is to expand to 5 acres, but we need to make sure that we have enough volunteers and funding to maintain the fields properly. Volunteer turnout fluctuates dramatically. Once we find a way to overcome the fluctuation in volunteer turnout, we will add acreage. The property added in 2015 has ample room to expand. Our preference is land that has well water available rather than flood irrigation. Flood irrigation brings in weeds, especially Johnson weed, and has become less consistent due to the drought and tighter water regulation.

  • I've got apples falling everywhere in my yard. When can you come pick my tree?

    We are available to glean fruit from local orchards when time and volunteer availability allow. Often we are unable to accept every orchard offered due to limited volunteer availability and equipment. Many of our 'core' volunteers are senior citizens, which makes ladders a perilous prospect in terms of liability. As of 2015, we are receiving additional assistance from local Boy Scouts troops. Our goal is to help other groups, like the Boy Scouts, coordinate the gleaning separately from the gardens so we can accept more of the fruit donations offered while focusing our attention on the gardens..

     

    If you would like to donate fruit from your trees, please contact us at Seed2Need@gmail.com. We need at least two weeks notice to arrange for volunteers and equipment, particularly as the gardens hit peak harvest in August and September. Everything harvested is donated to local food pantries and soup kitchens. For larger orchards we need additional time to arrange for Roadrunner Food Bank to pick up.

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Phone:

(505) 385-4864

(505) 933-1345

Address:

PO Box 874

Corrales, NM 87048

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