Tuesday, April 21, 2015

SeedBroadcasting with the Aztec Seedsavers from Aztec, New Mexico

Open Sesame film screening in Aztec, NM

In mid April 2015, SeedBroadcast took a drive northward to meet seed keepers in the Four Corners region of New Mexico and learn more about the state of seeds and food. The Four Corners is an area of the Southwest where New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Arizona converge on the Colorado Plateau. It is a rugged place of high desert plains, mesas, canyonlands, and mountain foothills, with sparse riparian corridors flowing throughout. It is also a confluence of culturally diverse communities including the Navajo, Hopi, Ute, Spanish, and more recent Americana melting pot. Some old orchards and pastures still line the two local rivers, the San Juan and the Animas, but the majority of activity is now centered around extraction industries of petroleum, natural gas, and coal, along with the relatively recent Navajo Agricultural Products Industry (NAPI/NIIP) which has put 72,000+ acres of high plateau into agricultural production.

But, there is something small and special happening here, in the roots of an older generation of gardeners and seed savers who love to grow and love to share; a sweetly sung promise, a conversation about seeds, Seed Stories, and growing a vibrant community of inter-generational knowledge around farming, gardening and eating healthy food.

Backyard permaculture garden, Aztec, NM
Strawberry Popcorn seeds are on their way to Aztec Seedsavers!

On Friday, SeedBroadcast facilitated a Seed Story Workshop with this group from the Aztec Seed Savers. The workshop began with an introduction to SeedBroadcast and our goal to pollinate cultural connections among seeds, food, and resilient communities. We sat around a large oblong table with corn cobs of every color and Paul Navrot’s ceramic pots filled with varieties of bean seeds. The 2015 Spring agri-Culture Journal was handed around and we watched a portion of the video, Letter from a SeedBroadcaster. We then talked about Seed Stories and what these could possibly be. After this discussion we spent about 15 minutes writing and brainstorming. Many memories from long ago were shared, while giving thanks to the gardens and seeds that feed us, keep us warm, and inspire us to grow more. We ended the evening with a wonderful blessing and potluck.

Here is Dan Dombrowski's Seed Story, written and shared during the workshop:

Since I started gardening about 10 years ago I enjoy watching the miracle of a tiny seed grow and produce wonderful fruits and vegetables.
My neighbors love that I share the bounty with them. I have been saving some of my seeds to preserve the most successful of the plants. Now I have begun to share seeds and add to mine with locally grown seeds that do well in our climate and soil conditions.
I enjoy producing healthy produce for my family.

Growing in the high desert can be extremely challenging. Our host’s gardens were filled with many different experiments to help build soil, retain moisture, keep rodents at bay, and also make gardening easier and less labor intensive.

Backyard permaculture garden, Aztec, NM
Samaritan Village Community Garden

Saturday morning SeedBroadcast visited the Samaritan Village Community Garden in Aztec, NM, which is directed by Joann a local Master Gardener. That morning a group of Master Gardeners, youth volunteers, and Teen/Grade Court youth were working together to clear the garden and begin cultivating beds for the new season. When asked what they would like to see grown in the gardens and what fresh veggies they love to eat, several youth shouted out tomatoes, onions, chile, melons, and potatoes. There were even memories of the three sisters, corn, beans, and squash. These young folks will continue with their service for as long as it lasts. But they can stay involved in the gardens helping out in exchange for fresh produce and more importantly pride that this has come from their hands. For many hands make light work and foster a community where working together is meaningful.

Samaritan Village Community Garden
WEEDING – Know Your Weeds
WATERING – Deeply Is Important
MULCHING – Conserves Water
HARVESTING – Be Careful Not To Damage Plants
We Use No Chemical Fertilizers or Pesticides
Close The Gate – The Rabbits Haven’t Learned To
Working the compost piles, watering, turning and adding the cleaned weeds for organic matter
Jug-band gopher control. It consists of a bottle buried in the ground. The bellowing sound is said to keep gophers away, as the wind blows over its lip.

During a quick break, all the garden volunteers came through the Mobile Seed Story Broadcasting Station. They picked out seeds to take home and plant, they spent time listening to Seed Stories, and they picked up copies of the 2015 Spring agri-Culture Journal.

Our final stop was the City of Aztec Senior - Community Center for a public screening of the film Open Sesame, post film panel discussion, and seed exchange. This public event was also meant to cultivate wider local interest in seeds and gardening and to grow involvement in the local seed saving group. After the film, our discussion revolved around the big question, “What do we do now?” Meaning what is to be done for the seeds, the literal seeds we grow our gardens with and the seeds of potential in our communities? How do we build capacity for a healthy and resilient local foodshed where farmers, gardeners, schools, families, the retired, the young, the working, the poor, the rich, the median, the Indigenous, the Anglo, the Spanish, everyone and all gather energy around the beautiful and bountiful seeds of action in the power of growing and feeding community? This is the big question. In the film Open Sesame the same question is asked, but in a slightly different way, “What makes a seed grow?” And it is a wonderful way to begin answering this other big question. For these both have a lot to do with our potential to rise to the occasion. Can we learn from a seed how to begin this slow process of supporting the diverse regrowth of healthy life in our communities? This is what the Aztec Seedsavers are working on now... how to think and be more like a seed...how to sprout their wisdom through inter-generational work with education, with mentoring, with gardens, and most importantly with community. No seed can grow alone.

Aztec Seedsavers public film screening of Open Sesame by Sean Kaminsky

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