San Juan Soil and Water Conservation District, New Mexico

San Juan College Carpentry Program students and instructors deliver and set up the chicken coop they built for New Beginnings Community Garden as a class project

The San Juan Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD)’s project Farm Farmington! had a tiered approach. The first tier provided conservation technical assistance, supplies and capacity-building support to the New Beginnings Community Garden (NBCG) located at the New Beginnings transitional housing program for survivors of domestic violence and their families. Outcomes at NBCG include 14 raised garden beds, a plumbed 2,500-gallon water storage tank, a soil health plan, a chicken run and coop with resident-managed hens, recommendations for prairie dog and deer management and the “New Beginnings Community Garden Operations Manual.” The manual was printed and presented to the NBCG community and will serve as a model for other gardens in the area.

The next “tier” of focus provided a combination of supplies funding, conservation technical assistance and programmatic and capacity-building support to five other “growing” gardens and organizations in the area, including the Samaritan Village Community Garden and Four Corners Foundation’s community garden at PATH, a transitional housing center. Highlights included a composting workshop at First Baptist Church-Bloomfield Community Garden and publication of the “Low Cost Home Gardening Guide,” which was put on display at the Tres Rios Habitat for Humanity Store.

The third approach can be summarized as “connecting the dots.” Farmington had a number of projects, groups and resources dedicated to urban and community agriculture, but community members reported difficulty finding these groups and working together on shared goals. In response to these challenges, the district brought people together in new ways, as well as plugged them in to existing planning efforts. An advisory committee was assembled with community gardeners, agency representatives and others and has now transitioned into a Local Foods Task Force after receiving an EPA “Local Foods, Local Places” grant.

The final step made resources and information more accessible to the community by producing the Farm Farmington! Guide to Urban and Community Agriculture in the San Juan River Valley. This guide includes a map of local agriculture initiatives in the area, regional land use history, resources for starting a garden, suggestions for creative partnerships and more. The guide, map and reports can be found at https://sanjuanswcd.com/farm-farmington-community-agriculture/.

Sustainability

At New Beginnings Community Garden, the goal was to conserve soil and water while reducing labor and monetary inputs. This was accomplished and will be continued through the row garden’s new layout and perennial walkways, along with the Operations Manual, which will improve institutional memory through staff turnover, and help with future garden development.

Other partner gardens are connected to resources they can access in future years, such as the Master Gardener spring gardening class series. The Four Corners Foundation garden at PATH and First Baptist Church-Bloomfield Community Garden are both running composting bioreactors as a yearlong project starting October 2018.

Volunteers work at New Beginnings Community Garden in Farmington as part of the first annual Four Corners Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service in 2018; this event was held again in 2019 and added a new garden in Aztec as a volunteer site

In July 2018, the district partnered with the Four Corners Foundation and Farmington Municipal Schools to hire a Community Agriculture AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteer. This one-year program will introduce soil, water and school garden curriculums in Farmington elementary schools and after school programs, including field trips to nearby gardens to get students hands-on experience. So far, three schools have expressed interest in starting school gardens. All lesson plans are available online at https://sanjuanswcd.com/education/lessons-and-class-materials/. The VISTA has also been coordinating with the district and Master Gardeners to organize small-scale agriculture workshops on composting, cover crops and more, and is providing continued technical assistance to new community gardens.

Finally, this project has brought stakeholders together under the umbrella of urban and community agriculture, and the resulting collaboration is continuing to pick up steam. The Local Foods, Local Places Community Action Plan incorporates many goals that include urban and community agriculture, including the vision of urban agriculture as part of a vibrant downtown. The local foods task force put together under this initiative is carrying the vision of Farm Farmington! into the future.

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