Community Garden Plots Available

January 19, 2010

Rent-able garden boasts local greens

Last updated: 01/19/10 12:13am

Eating local fruits and vegetables doesn’t have to come at a high price.
Albuquerque residents have a couple options for getting local produce — they can rent a garden bed at a community garden or they can buy a produce box from a local farm.

Wade Patterson, community planner for the Harwood Art Center, said about four years ago residents from Wells Park/Sawmill neighborhood wanted a way to connect with their food and produce it on their own. To promote the idea, the Harwood Art Center helped build and manage a plot of land where people can rent garden beds for $25 per season.

“We started it as an outgrowth of a metropolitan redevelopment plan for the neighborhoods in the area,” Patterson said. “We found a woman named Dory Wegrzyn, and she was very excited about it. She sells at the Downtown Growers Market and has been an organizing force as well.”

Funding for the 21 garden beds comes from people who are interested in renting a bed as well as grants, Patterson said.

“We got some funding from the Albert I. Pierce Foundation and rebuilt our beds,” he said. “We’ve managed to fill the plot every year. We also, with some funding, purchased two 275-gallon water catchment storage devices (for watering the beds). Water has been our biggest challenge.”

The 9-feet-by-3-feet beds are rented from March to November. The plot of land where the garden beds are located is on Eighth Street, north of Mountain Road.
Patterson said people of all ages have come to rent a garden bed, including the staff and boarders from Route 66 Hostel.

People who want to eat local produce but don’t have the green thumb to support their interests can participate in a Community Supported Agriculture program.

Several farms around Albuquerque participate in CSA programs, where farmers grow and store food and then send it out in boxes or have community members pick the produce up. The farms can charge either by the box or a one-time membership fee.
Farmer Spiral Blanton works at Erda Gardens, which participated in Albuquerque’s CSA, in the South Valley. Blanton said CSAs are gaining popularity in Albuquerque because they offer an inexpensive way to eat local organic food.

“Last year we had 50 paid memberships plus another 10 people who did work trade,” Blanton said. “(Work trade) is a program where people can exchange work for vegetables, which is nice and it’s becoming more and more popular.”

Blanton said a membership costs $550 for a season, which runs from about May through October, and members can pick up a box every week from the farm.

“That price is based on trying to approximate what’s fair for the food, and work towards providing a living wage for the farmers,” Blanton said. “And also we wanted the price to reflect a fair price for the food but to be a better deal than what you would pay at Whole Foods.”

Blanton said they have an early-bird special: A membership costs $500 if members sign up before the end of February.

Blanton said Erda Gardens is hosting a welcome-back dinner on Feb. 28 to provide do-it-yourself gardening tips, and general information about the farm and about becoming a member. It will be held at the United Church of Christ from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

She said people enjoy the different kinds of vegetables grown at the farm, such as purple snap peas and striped eggplant, because they often don’t see them in grocery stores.

“Even vegetables that people are familiar with, such as eggplant, we sell varieties of that because we’re picking our own varieties to grow. We sell stuff you won’t find at La Montanita Co-op and Whole Foods,” she said.

*CSA Programs in Albuquerque
Los Poblanos Farms – $10 per box. LosPoblanos
Erda Gardens – $500 to $550 per season.
Rio Grande Community Gardens – $35 per bed per season.
Wells Park/Sawmill Neighborhood Garden – $25 per bed per season.*

Published January 19, 2010 in Culture