La Placita Gardens Composting Research Project

Final Report for FW09-047

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2009: $15,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: Western
State: New Mexico
Principal Investigator:
Abino Garcia Mayordomo
La Placita Gardens
Co-Investigators:
Andrea Botero
LA PLAZITA INSTITUTE
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Project Information

Abstract:
“ Composting, Sustainable Agriculture”

The purpose of this project was to develop an effective compost method appropriate for our site. We wished to restore the health of the soil, creating appropriate conditions to built new top soil in our site. We also wished to create and develop different methods of composting as part of our compost demonstrations. Through this project, LPI wanted to engage our youth and develop ties with the community, especially in our neighborhood. We wanted to engage area schools and nonprofit organizations in land stewardship by having classes come to our site. These students could test the soil, observe the microorganisms, and we could teach them how to develop their individual or class compost or vermiculture bins.

Introduction

This region was historically agricultural, but the community has lost much of its capacity to produce its own food. Our farm will be highly visible through our multitude of outreach programs, and a model for sustainable agriculture, integrating the best of the traditional methods with new methods of farming we explore through projects like our Compost Research Project. Our farming has grown to include area unused private plots. In these agreements we clean the space, revive acequia rights and farm crops. LPI believes that by utilizing this unused urban space we are are revitalizing the environment, cleaning our community's visual and physical space, while reviving the South Valley agricultural history and providing a sense of pride and ownership for the community. These positive outcomes can directly influence the behavior of the community, thus aiding in La Plazita’s goal of deterring violence through tapping into the history, culture and roots of Albuquerque’s South Valley.

Project Objectives:

1)Promote good stewardship:

Goal: Reduce green materials transported to land fills.
Goal: Dedicate five acres to wildlife habitat.

2)Enhance quality of life for farmers and ranchers:

Goal: Provide composting education to farmers and back yard gardeners.
Goal: Sell organic produce to area farmers market.

3)Protect the health and safety of those involved in food and farm systems by reducing, where feasible and practical, the use of toxic materials in agricultural production, and by optimizing on-farm resources integrating, where appropriate, biological cycles and controls:

Goal: Composting project will strengthen our ability to produce a
maximum amount of produce without the use of pesticides and synthetic
fertilizers.

4)Promote crop, livestock, and enterprise diversification:

Goal: Supplement our soil in order to diversify crops.
Goal: Integrate worm and worm casting vendorship.

5)Examine the regional, economic, social and environmental implications of adopting sustainable agriculture practices and systems:

Goal: Strengthen the regional foodshed by reviving a 300-year old
farm and its acequia, along with water rights that might otherwise
have been lost to development.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Joran Viers

Research

Materials and methods:

LPI utilized the following methods in order to achieve the objectives.

Community-led participation

Compost demonstrations were structured around the audience in a very organic manner. For example, curriculum for composting demonstrations varied if used for the education of a school-led field trip versus a large community event such as the Cezar Chevez Day.

Compost methods were chosen in accordance to 1)need by the farm, 2) geographic, weather and organic material appropriate methods.

Research results and discussion:

1) Promote good stewardship

Result: LPI’s green materials were transported to the five different composting demonstrations. During demonstrations participants were encouraged to bring green materials.

Result: Over five acres of wildlife habitat, including a designated wetland with a viewing boardwalk, were designated as the open space. Please see attachment: “Sanchez Farm Master Plan.”

2)Enhance quality of life for farmers and ranchers

Results: Workshops to our collaborative farmers network were given. Back yard gardener/community demonstrations were given during Cezar Chavez day of service. Joe Gracia also gave demonstrations as needed to area schools, community members and area youth.

Results: LPG has been profitable in selling our produce in area farmers markets,including the Downtown Farmers Market, Nob Hill Farmers Market, Uptown Market and many others.(LPI promotes and encourages our clients from the Making a Change and Pathways programs to use their WIC and SNAP benefits,if available, in order to purchase produce at these markets). We have also engaged in a collaborative as a funding member of the Agri-Cultura network in order to become an APS vendor and became Certified Organic on June 2011.

3)Protect the health and safety of those involved in food and farm systems by reducing, where feasible and practical, the use of toxic materials in agricultural production, and by optimizing on-farm resources integrating, where appropriate, biological cycles and controls:

Results: We are utilizing compost byproducts and have become certified organic. We have become an public school vendor and our production has grown.

4)Promote crop, livestock, and enterprise diversification:

Results: We have diversified our crops in order to expand in our vendorship opportunities. This has been a direct result of our composting and soil supplementation.

Results: We have had success in the education and upkeep of worm composting. We have not sold any castings, but we have gifted casting to area gardeners.

Producer Adoption and Reaction from Producers

In direct response to education about our compost, area school gardens have adopted some of the composting practices for their gardens and have duplicated the educational component. Bins and other materials were supplied through the program’s outreach incentive to area schools and community gardens after the demonstrations and workshops. LPI is not aware if area non-profit and for-profit farmers have utilized or adopted these practices.

During our educational outreach, such as the demonstrations given at our Cezar Chavez day, we have had positive comments. In future demonstrations, LPI needs create a system of follow up input from producers and educational facilities.

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary:

Education/outreach description:

LPI conducted community outreach through their work with schools, the juvenile detention center, community collaborations, partnerships and the Making a Change programs. Through the Agri-Cultura Network and Making a Change programming newsletter, LPI advertises their events and educational workshops.

Project Outcomes

Recommendations:

Future Recommendations

LPI’s most noteworthy recommendation is that this project should of have been built at the end of the Master Plan Process, not on its onset. The Sanchez Farm Open Space has been in consideration for design and reconstruction/ revitalization. Because this open space is county-owned property, this revitalization has been an arduous and long-lasting process. LPI had started the composting program in the emergence of the negotiations of this process. As stewards of this land, LPI saw the positive effects of this revitalization but understood how county policy, program formalization and execution works and how it is a long-lasting process. LPI has completed the goals outlined in the grant proposal but the project has now been suspended (not terminated). The compost demonstration area has been uprooted, but it is imperative to note that this program will be rebuilt after the completion of lacer leveling and soil re-vitalization of the farm redesign process. The compost, as it is evident in the attachments, has been included in the reconstruction of Sanchez Farm. SARE will be represented after its reconstruction. The revitalization of Sanchez Farm has been estimated to have a completion date on the second half of May 2012, and the composting program will resume at this time. Please see Master Plan attachments.
LPI would recommend waiting on the completion of the revitalization of the redesign process by the county on the farm. During this suspension, LPI is feeling the detrimental effects of this program’s gap, such as in the lack of compost by-materials and in the educational opportunities that have been requested and have been denied. Also the re-construction of the compost has had an anticipated strain on LPI. On a positive note we also see the reconstruction as a “second-chance” educational opportunity.

Another suggestion that LPI would want to address in future programs like these would be to situate the design and implementation of follow up comments and implementations (if used) of community members and farmers that attended the composting demonstrations. LPI feels that this data would benefit the program and create a sense of comradeship and support between LPI and area farmers and gardeners.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.