Monday, March 14, 2016

Mora Growers' Coop Seed and Story Exchange

Mora Valley from Holman Hill

It was one of those early spring days that are so distinctly New Mexican. The sky clear and bright, slight breeze blowing clouds of juniper pollen and early spring runoff from the snow packed mountains filling the dry arroyos. A time of renewal and a time to come together to share seeds, our stories and our hopes for the coming growing season.
The Mora Valley has a deep rooted history of traditional agricultural practices.  At one point in the 1930's there were over two hundred varieties of wheat growing in the Mora Valley and three hundred flour mills.  This was also the time of the great depression an\ wheat prices plummeted which had a major impact on the survival of the mills and the small Mora Valley farms. Tragically most of the mills closed down apart from the Cleveland Mill which continues to hold this important agricultural history as it is now a state museum.
The memory of this poignant time in the Mora Valley has been brought alive in the many small farms that are reemerging in this vibrant community. At the helm of this revival has been the Los de Mora Growers' Cooperative   which encourages a community driven support system for the local small farmer. Three years ago when SeedBroadcast attended the first seed exchange in Mora we met with Roger Gonzales who shared with us his dream of reestablishing a traditional agricultural economic base for the valley.  This dream is now a reality and is activating the resurgence of new small farms in the area. Roger is a local grower and seed saver and has a variety of calabacitas that has been in his family for generations. Listen to Roger's story here:

This year's community seed exchange was held in the St Gertrude's Credit Union building where a  hand painted sign states  "Where saving makes cents".  There was a celebratory atmosphere in the air as people showed up to mark the coming of spring with their seeds, wisdom and pots of food to share.

The day started with a sharing of seeds and stories from last years crops and the hopes for the coming year.  Local church deacon Eloy Roybal shared his dreams of bringing back the local wheat on his land that has been in his family for generations. He had come to the exchange with the expectation to find some wheat to plant, others came just to see if they could find a new variety of seed and others seeking advise on local growing practices.   After a pot luck lunch Roger Gonzales led an afternoon of practical training touching upon best growing practices for the region, the economics of running a small farm,  the advantages of hoop houses,  how to deal with pests such as slugs and grasshoppers and the importance of keeping a crop journal.   This "training" was more like a community round table conversation with everyone freely sharing their own experiences, demonstrating the importance of learning from the local farmer's knowledge.

This years event was coordinated by Anita Moss, a board member of the Coop, and avid seed saver. She has been growing food since she was five years old  and now has established a farm in the Mora Valley where she mentors youth in the advantages of growing your own food. Listen to Anita's story here:

As people were exchanging ideas and seeds many conversations turned towards remedios and the traditional practices of making medicinal tinctures and teas from local plants. We heard about the power of rhubarb, red clover and the differences between the two different types of quelites (wild spinach), there is quelites and quelites de burro! Darlene Gallegos learned how to harvest these distinct plants and how to make remedios from her grandmother. Listen to Darlene's story here:

On leaving this community gathering where there was a free exchange of ideas and seeds it was apparent how much wealth was held in this community, not money wealth, not that green- back- dollar wealth but the invaluable economy of tradition and seed. This seed economy is a human right and should not be bought and sold, this needs to remain in the hands of the people, the people who work the land and know the stories of the land and their seeds.  The large red sign across the street declaring the presence of the Dollar Store was a reminder that our world is still in a vulnerable place and this grassroots movement needs to be constantly nurtured and supported. Los de Mora Grower's Cooperative is doing just that and it is a model of what can happen if you follow what the land is telling you.
 Check them out and next year try to come to this unique and powerful community sharing.

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