A community advocacy newspaper for northern New Mexico
Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, NM 87521
Peñasco Area Communities Land Use Plan By Kay Matthews
National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health Opposes LANL Special Exposure Cohort Petition By Mark Schiller
Peñasco Farmer's Market By Kristen Davenport
By Kay Matthews
As we announced in last month's La Jicarita News, Carson National Forest is soliciting public input on its plan to manage motorized travel on the Carson National Forest. Since the boom in use of Off Road Vehicles, or All Terrain Vehicles, in the 1990s, public lands managers have been playing catch-up on how to regulate their impacts. While many rural citizens, particularly here in northern New Mexico, use the vehicles for traditional purposes such as checking on their cattle or hunting deer and elk, on traditional byways, many others are driving them off-road or off-trail across sensitive terrain that is creating erosion and other habitat damage. The impacts of this kind of increased recreation, along with the risk of catastrophic fire, the loss of open space, and the introduction of invasive species, have been identified as the major threats to the national forests and grasslands.
In response to this concern, the Forest Service, on November 9, 2005, published final travel management regulations for use of motor vehicles on national forest system lands, referred to as the Travel Management Rule (TMR). Carson National Forest held public meetings across the forest in 2006 and 2007, and also met with grazing permittees, sportsman organizations, and one on one with forest users to solicit input to designate routes on the forest in accordance with the TMR.
In general, the plan proposes to eliminate cross-country motorized vehicle use on the Canjilon, El Rito, Tres Piedras, and Camino Real ranger districts (the Jicarilla and Questa districts are currently closed). The number of miles of trails designated for use of motorized vehicles 50 inches or less in width (Off Highway Vehicles, or OHVs) in some instances will be increased, while other trails currently open to OHVs will be closed. Along with a scoping letter sent out to its mailing list, the Forest Service included maps of the proposed openings and closings, but because of their small size they are almost impossible to clearly interpret. Larger maps are available for viewing at each ranger station, the Supervisor's Office, and public libraries in the vicinity of the Carson. You can also request a CD for easier viewing or go the website: http.www.fs.fed.us/r3/carson/recreation/travel_mgmt. A motor vehicle use map shows which roads and trails are proposed for motorized use.
The scoping letter details highlights of the proposed action on each of the ranger districts.
The Forest Service proposes closing 96 miles of existing road to motor vehicle use. To prevent incursion of the Pecos Wilderness, the proposal calls for converting 24 miles of motorized trails to non-motorized use from Osha Canyon on the south side of SH 518 east to the Angostura area. This will hopefully keep most of the OHV traffic in the La Junta Canyon area, which the Rio Pueblo/Rio Embudo Watershed Protection Coalition proposed to the Camino Real back in the mid-1990s.To provide access for traditional activities, the proposal designates a 300-foot corridor along 117 miles of designated roads for access to dispersed camping and big game retrieval in upper Taos Canyon, Garcia Park, the Rio Chiquito drainage, Forest Road 442 to Gallegos Peak, Borrego Mesa, Alamo-Dinner Canyon, and in the Truchas area up to the Quemado. Forest Road 207 to Las Trampas Canyon will also have a 300-foot corridor with designated campsites. Roads into the proposed Francisco Fuelwood area will remain open until the firewood has been taken and then they will be closed.
The Forest Service plans to close 15 miles of existing road in the vicinity of Midnight Meadows and Mallette Canyon and designate motor vehicle use on roads in Cabresto Canyon, Sawmill Park, and Largo Canyon. To provide access for traditional activities, the proposal designates a 150-foot corridor along 50 miles of designated roads in the vicinity of Cebolla Mesa and Largo Canyon.
202 miles of existing road will be closed to motor vehicle use, while 5 miles of unauthorized roads will be designated for use. A 300-foot corridor along 43 miles will be designated for dispersed camping and big game retrieval, and a 150-foot corridor will be designated along 115 miles. A seasonal closure of motor vehicle use will be implemented in the vicinity of Mesa de las Viejas and Mesa Juan Domingo. Five miles of road in the vicinity of Canjilon and Canjilon Mountain will be opened to motor vehicles 50 inches or less in width.
The proposal designates 8 miles of roadbeds for route linkages in the vicinity of Valle Grande Peak and the Spring Creek/Vallecitos Sustained Yield Unit boundary. A 300-foot corridor along 6 miles of roads in the vicinity of Forest Road 559 from the "T" to the Canjilon Ranger District boundary and FR 20 along the Canjilon/El Rito district boundary will be designated for dispersed camping and big game retrieval. A 150-foot corridor will be designated along 313 miles of designated roads. A seasonal closure will be implemented in the vicinity of Comanche Canyon and south of Forest Road 137.
Approximately 10 miles of roads will be closed to motor vehicle use. A 300-foot corridor will be designated along 246 miles of roads for access to dispersed camping and big game retrieval, and a 150-foot corridor will be designated along 232 miles of road in the southern portion of the district.
The Forest Services proposes to close approximately 14 miles of existing road to motor vehicle use.
Of course, with only three law enforcement officers on the entire Carson National Forest, it's going to be difficult to enforce road closures without public education and peer pressure to comply. Many longtime norteño residents have complained for years about the misuse of the OHVs; while most of our neighbors own OHVs, they use them only on designated forest roads and on private property. In an article in the Rio Grande Sun, County Commissioner Felipe Martinez was quoted as saying he had mixed feelings about the ban on cross-country travel "[b]ut we're seeing more and more indiscriminate, uncontrolled ATV travel. We need some measure of control."
Public meetings were held in Angel Fire on March 10, Taos on March 11, and Peñasco on March 12 for folks to look at maps and ask questions about the proposal. Public comment will be accepted until March 20. Written comments should be sent to: Carson National Forest, Travel Management Proposed Actions, 208 Cruz Alta Road, Taos, NM 87571. Electronic comments can be submitted to email@example.com. The subject line should read: CNF Travel Management.
By Kay Matthews
At the end of the two-hour meeting on March 7, Charlie Deans, Taos County Planning contractor, asked the crowd at the Peñasco Community Center, "So, I've tried to answer all of your questions. Now, will you answer mine? Do you want to move forward with the development of a Peñasco Area Communities Land Use Plan?" The answer was a collective "Yes."
If anyone had guessed what the answer might be at the beginning of the meeting it probably would have been "No," at least from a number of skeptical folks who attended the Peñasco Area Communities Association (PACA)-sponsored meeting to hear what this kind of community planning, or zoning, would mean for the small Taos County communities south of U.S. Hill (Peñasco, Vadito, Rodarte, Las Trampas, etc). The word "zoning" has always been a red-flag word for rural people, who have often suffered it's imposition from those trying to impose a more urban sensibility. During the course of the meeting, however, Deans was able to explain that the kind of community planning he has been hired by the County to implement is from the bottom up, designed by community members to fit their specific needs and goals.
The process began in 2006 when the Taos County Board of Commissioners adopted the Growth Management Plan; Future Land Use Plan Phase One. Dean's company, Community by Design, was hired for Phase Two, or implementation of the plan through neighborhood associations interested in designing growth management plans for their communities (county neighborhood associations began forming in the mid 1990s; PACA was formed in 1996).
Because Taos County has only one designated land use zoning code - Rural Area - the neighborhood associations that have chosen to work with Deans are developing their own District Designations, or zoning areas. So far ten County neighborhood associations, including PACA, have been working with Deans to develop these plans. In 2007, PACA formed a volunteer subcommittee to come up with a draft plan, which utilized a template land use plan provided by Deans that could be modified to meet the needs of the Peñasco area communities. The subcommittee met for seven months to develop the draft, and it was presented to the PACA board in February. The board then reviewed the draft and made its own revisions. This draft was the basis of discussion at the community meeting on March 7.
The draft District Designations for the Peñasco area are: Resource Conservation, which are areas of high sensitivity such as forested lands and riparian areas; Irrigated Agriculture, areas that historically or are presently irrigated by ground or surface water (acequias); Traditional Village, which are existing historical villages that typically have a plaza and a mix of uses associated with them (Placita, Chamisal, etc.); and Scenic Highway Corridor Overlay, which are designated corridors with high scenic values and high sensitivity to strip development (the list of designations initially included Commercial/Employment, which are larger commercial, retail, employment/industrial clustered on highway corridors, but the PACA board asked that some commercial options be incorporated into the Traditional Village designation instead).
The subcommittee then came up with a list of residential and non-residential allowable land uses (homes are allowed in all designations) and decided which use should be permitted in each district designation for the Peñasco area and which should require a special use permit (a permitting process through the Taos Planning and Zoning Commission and the County Commission). Most of the discussion at the meeting focused on the Irrigated Agriculture Designation. Deans pointed out that unlike the County land use Rural Area designation, this designation limits development to one residence per three-acre lot, or a one residence parcel with a 25% set-aside as a buildable area, leaving the remainder of the land in irrigated agriculture. For example, on a two-acre parcel a family could build two houses on one-half acre, typically the driest area nearest the road. This would conform to the state requirement of one house requiring three-fourths of an acre for a septic system. Obviously, the purpose of the Irrigated Agriculture Designation is to protect agricultural and cultural values while allowing for family transfers.
Discussion also centered around the use of modular or manufactured homes, which everyone agreed provide affordable housing for many area residents but should require certain specifications such as set-backs or notification of neighbors, and that the Irrigated Agriculture Designation would allow for cottage industries. The plan also makes recommendations for site restoration, water management, solar and wind generation, and wildland/urban interface.
At the end of the meeting, before Deans asked for consensus about moving forward with the plan, one viejo said, "I guess it's time we entered the modern world." PACA board member Ken Detro told the crowd, "This document can serve as a weapon for our protection." Deans will be meeting in many of the other area communities in the future to present the draft and solicit suggestions and/or revisions. He will send out mailings to property owners with information as to when these will be held.
Just as we went to press House Memorial 45, sponsored by House Speaker Ben Lujan, was approved unanimously by the New Mexico House of Representatives. The memorial urges the New Mexico congressional delegation to put pressure on the Department of Energy to ensure the clean-up of radioactive, hazardous, and toxic waste at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Senators Tom Udall and Jeff Bingaman were part of a bipartisan group of senators who called for six billion dollars in economic recovery package funds be dedicated to "shovel-ready" clean-up projects at existing DOE energy sites. The memorial urges our delegation to use its influence to ensure that funding provided in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 be utilized for creation of a workforce-training program at LANL. Senator Bingaman expects the clean-up initiative to create hundreds of jobs for northern New Mexico: "The [recovery] package must invest in initiatives that have an immediate impact on jobs. DOE cleanup projects are a particularly good fit because many of them are ready to go right now. I also see this as an opportunity to make significant progress on DOE's longstanding waste problem." The memorial also urges the delegation to ensure that already designated clean-up agreements, such as the Consent Order between LANL and the New Mexico Environment Department, be adequately funded.
Scientific research and development conducted at LANL have generated more than eighteen million cubic feet of hazardous, toxic, and radioactive waste that is buried in unlined pits, trenches, and shafts in the Lab vicinity. As of 2002, $700 million dollars has been spent by DOE on clean-up efforts at LANL, although much of this money was spent on investigations and preliminary studies rather than actual contamination removal. DOE estimates that more than $2 billion dollars in additional funding is necessary for the clean-up at LANL. Because of the Cerro Grande Fire, which burned over 7,000 acres of LANL property, the migration of contaminants into the Rio Grande watershed has been accelerated. It is encouraging that the Speaker of the NM House of Representatives is taking this strong stand to try to make LANL accountable.
A request before the Santa Fe City Council for approval to bring LANL waste to the Caja del Rio Landfill was withdrawn from the February 25th agenda. Apparently the request is on hold because of unresolved issues regarding the installation of radiation detectors, financing, and the Memorandum of Understanding between the Landfill and Los Alamos County, which would transport the LANL waste to the Landfill. This doesn't mean the issue is going away, just that it's been postponed.
On March 10 citizens attended a meeting at Fuller Lodge in Los Alamos to discuss the need for the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Building (CMRR). The current Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Building is located in Technical Area 55 and is where LANL conducts plutonium pit production work. The proposed CMRR building is comprised of two parts: the Radiological Laboratory Utility and Office Building, which is currently under construction, and the Nuclear Facility, which is currently being designed. The estimated cost of the two buildings is $2 billion, up from the original estimate of $600 million. In 2005, LANL removed 90,000 cubic yards of dirt for the Nuclear Facility, which is currently being used as a construction staging area for the Utility and Office Building. Many of those who spoke at the meeting questioned the need for the CMRR replacement building when President Obama has canceled the Reliable Replacement Warhead program, which would replace old warheads with new ones.
The Seeds of Change Annual Seed Giveaway will be held on Friday, April 17, from 3 to 6 p.m. at its farm, 340 County Road 57, El Guique, NM. Many kinds of organic seeds, from greens to root crops, will be distributed free of charge. Please bring baggies and markers to pack and label your seed. For directions or additional information contact: Lindsay Dozoretz, firstname.lastname@example.org or 505 852-1508.
Seeds of Change is also offering a series of three, five-day workshops on Practical Permaculture for Sustainable Farming and Gardening. Each workshop can be taken in the series or separately. Completion of the entire series leads to a permaculture certification. The classes are as follows:
Intro to Sustainable Design Principles with Scott Pitt-man and Toby Hemenway: Saturday, May 16 through Wednesday, May 20.
Natural and Constructed Ecosystems with Scott Pitt-man and Brad Lancaster: Saturday, July 4 through Wednesday, July 8.
Sustainable Home and Community with Scott Pittman, Les Crowder, and Alfred von Bachmayr: Saturday, August 1 through Wednesday, August 5.
Space is limited, so call 505 455-0514 to sign up. For more information go to: www.permaculture.org.
Mark Rudd will celebrate the release of his book, Underground: My Life in SDS and Weatherman, at New Mexico signings in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Rio Rancho, and Silver City in April.
Albuquerque: A Gala Launch Party will be held on Thursday, April 2, at the Guild Theater, 3405 Central Ave. NE. The party starts with a posole dinner at 6:00 p.m., continues with a showing of the Weather Underground documentary film at 7:00, and finishes with a booksigning and discussion at 8:30. Everything is free except copies of the book, which will be sold by Bookworks (10% of sales to benefit the Guild).
Santa Fe: A reading and book signing will be held on Friday, April 3, from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m., followed by a showing of the Weather Underground movie, and a discussion at 8:30 at El Museo Cultural, 1615 Paseo de Peralta. Events are free; Collected Works will be selling copies of the book.
Albuquerque: Tuesday, April 7, 7:00 p.m. reading and book signing at Bookworks, 4022 Rio Grande Blvd. NW.
Silver City: Tuesday, April 14, 5:00 to 7:00 p.m., booksigning party at Javalina's Coffeehouse.
Rio Rancho: Thursday, April 16, 6:30 p.m., reading and booksigning at Esther Bone Library, 950 Pinetree Rd., SE.
For information on readings outside New Mexico and more information about the book go to: www.markrudd.com.
By Mark Schiller
Longtime readers of La Jicarita News are aware that we've written numerous articles regarding the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA). This program, enacted by Congress in 2000, is supposed to provide financial compensation and medical benefits for workers at federal nuclear facilities who have been made ill by exposure to radiation and other toxins in the workplace, but in fact has provided benefits for only about 28 percent of claimants nationally and less than 20 percent of claimants from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Moreover, claimants have to undergo a lengthy bureaucratic process, which testimony before Congressional committees has demonstrated is often tainted by incompetency and insensitivity by government administrators. Knowing all that I was still surprised by the seeming indifference to sick workers' suffering displayed by number crunching bureaucrats from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Department of Labor (DOL), which administers EEOICPA, at the February 17-19 meeting of the Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health (ABRWH) in Albuquerque.
I attended the February 17 afternoon and early evening sessions primarily to hear NIOSH respond to a petition by contract workers (security guards, firemen, custodians, welders, etc.) at LANL to extend Special Exposure Cohort (SEC) status to that class of workers for the years 1976-2005. SEC status is a concession by the government that it does not have enough reliable information to "reconstruct" the exposure of workers at a specific facility during a specific time period. Gaining SEC status grants blanket benefits to all workers at that facility who have contracted one or more of twenty-two specified cancers during the specified time period, without having to go through the lengthy and scientifically questionable dose reconstruction program (LANL already has two SECs that cover the years 1943-1975; see the February 2009 issue of La Jicarita News for more specific information regarding the latest SEC petition). The dispassionate and sometimes glib manner in which NIOSH and DOL employees reported on the program generally, and the LANL SEC specifically, seemed to totally ignore the fact that the lives of people, who the government knowingly placed in harm's way, are held in the balance. It was simply scientific data and statistical information to them.
Before NIOSH gave its presentation about the LANL SEC petition to the Advisory Board that will make a recommendation to Congress, both NIOSH and DOL gave presentations regarding issues of general concern. The NIOSH presentation outlined new, more restrictive rules for access to "classified" and "controlled" government documents essential for claimants to substantiate their claims and for the Advisory Board's independent contractor, Sanford Cohen and Associates (SC&A), to evaluate SEC petitions and audit NIOSH's dose reconstruction program. In essence, NIOSH, sounding the never ending call for increased national security, added additional layers of bureaucracy to the process of obtaining these documents, which will not only delay an already protracted process but also add increased costs to a program whose administrative costs are equal to 32 percent of benefits (compare this to Social Security Disability Insurance, whose administrative costs amount to approximately 2.5 percent of benefits).
In a response to these new policies the Alliance of Nuclear Worker Advocacy Groups (ANWAG) requested clarification of statements included in the "security plan" that NIOSH could withhold documents if it determines that the information contained in them has the "potential to damage governmental, commercial or private interests if disseminated," or if persons requesting documents "do not need to know the information to perform their jobs or other authorized activities." ANWAG pointed out that these statements, obviously open to broad interpretation, "failed to incorporate" President Obama's recent memorandum stating, "The government should not keep information confidential merely because officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failure might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears. Nondisclosure should never be based on an effort to protect the personal interest of Government officials at the expense of those they are supposed to serve. In responding to requests under the FOIA [Freedom of Information Act], executive branch agencies should act promptly and in the spirit of cooperation . . . ."
In addition, ANWAG took issue with NIOSH's assertion that Sanford Cohen and Associates (SC&A) is NIOSH's contractor rather than the Advisory Board's contractor because funding for SC&A is funneled through NIOSH. ANWAG pointed out that SC&A "was awarded a contract to audit . . . NIOSH and its [NIOSH's] contractor, Oak Ridge Associated Universities' (ORAU) technical documents and scientific assumptions" and therefore is only answerable to the independent Advisory Board and the President who appoints its members. Board members Dr. James Malcolm Melius and Bradley P. Clawson were vehement in their denunciations of NIOSH's claim that SC&A was NIOSH's rather than the Advisory Board's contractor, as well as the new security plan. They claimed both issues jeopardized the Advisory Board's ability to make informed, unbiased recommendations to the President and Congress.
Next up was a Powerpoint presentation by the new Director of the Division of Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation, Rachel Leiton, that glossed over an enormous amount of statistical information about EEOICPA at a speed that I felt intentionally precluded comprehension. Let me cite just a few examples from the spreadsheets that accompanied the presentation. Of 64,889 cases filed with DOL under Part B of EEOICPA (which grants $150,000 in compensation as well as medical benefits to workers whose cancer, Silicosis, or Beryllium disease NIOSH has determined was caused by exposure to toxins in the workplace), 28,654, approximately 44 percent, were actually referred to NIOSH for evaluation. A small percentage of the approximately 36,000 claims not sent to NIOSH were Beryllium and Silicosis claims that do not undergo dose reconstruction through NIOSH, but the majority of other claims were eliminated for other, unexplained reasons and statistically ignored. Of the 28,654 cases that were referred to NIOSH, 19,503 went through the dose reconstruction process administered by NIOSH's contractor ORAU, which, in theory, determined the "probability" of claimants' cancer(s) being caused by workplace exposures to radiation. More than 2,700 were unaccountably withdrawn from NIOSH without going through dose reconstruction. Of the 19,503 cases that did go through dose reconstruction, DOL has made final decisions in 16,876 cases, approving 6,091 and denying 10,785. Final decisions on approximately 2,200 other cases are pending. 6,403 cases are currently undergoing dose reconstruction, nearly half of which are "reworks", meaning there was a significant basis for the claimant's initial dose reconstruction to be redone. Bear in mind that many of the cases for which there were final decisions also had to be redone at a cost of $12,000 to $15,000 per case. Finally, the average time from submission of a Part B claim to a final decision was 1,090 days or approximately three years. These are pretty disturbing numbers and account for only a small fraction of the information given in an approximately fifteen minute presentation. It took me an hour to distill the above information from the spreadsheets and a call to Ms. Leighton for explanation and clarification. Yet the entire presentation went unquestioned by the Advisory Board and only one member commented that the three-year processing period was excessive.
Next on the agenda was NIOSH's response to the LANL SEC petition delivered by Dr. Gregory V. Macievic, a health physicist, who was part of the NIOSH team that drafted the recommendation to deny the petition.
The claimants' petition noted that NIOSH itself conceded in its recommendation to approve the 1943-1975 SEC "potential dose reconstruction issues may exist for the post-1975 period." Specifically, the SEC petition asserted ancillary (contract) workers were given no or inadequate protective equipment; went unmonitored when they were first-responders to accidental exposures; were excluded from the urine sampling and the whole-body counting program; were often monitored inadequately because they worked in multiple facilities during the course of a day and the dosimeters they were given could not adequately account for the magnitude or mixed activation effects of their exposures; and they were exposed to a broad spectrum of radioactive elements for which the dosimeters did not monitor.
Dr. Macievic's response not only attempted to counter all of these claims but further asserted that if NIOSH knew what it had learned since the confirmation of 1943-1975 SEC, it would have recommended denying that petition for the years after 1970 as well. Interestingly, he didn't directly deny many of the petitioners' claims, but suggested there were ways around them. For instance, if a worker was unmonitored while in a specific area, Dr. Macievic suggested NIOSH's monitoring contractor ORAU could use data collected from co-workers who were monitored to estimate the unmonitored worker's exposure. Similarly, he noted that while there was a wide spectrum of "exotic" radionuclides used at LANL for which there was no specific monitoring, these so-called exotics, he claimed, behaved similarly to the more common radionuclides for which there was monitoring. He therefore suggested that by using the monitoring records for the more common nuclear elements, ORAU could accurately extrapolate exposure to the exotics.
In a telephone interview after the meeting, Alliance of Nuclear Workers Advocacy Groups member and long time public health doctor Maureen Merritt, called this "specious reasoning", pointing out that there's very little hard data on the effects of exotic radionuclides and extrapolating information regarding their effects from data regarding the effects of more common radionuclides was not good science. Moreover, she asserted estimating exposure based on general data failed to account for the unique circumstance of each worker's exposure, particularly the interaction of multiple radionuclides in facilities such as Area G - the so called "hot dump" - where workers were exposed to the waste and by-products from projects throughout the Lab.
Following Macievic's presentation, Andrew Evas-kovich, who drafted the SEC petition and had only two weeks to craft a response to NIOSH's recommendation for denial, made an incisive rebuttal detailing what he asserted were the many false presumptions and oversights contained in the NIOSH presentation. Evaskovich was followed by representatives from Senators Udall and Bingaman and Congressman Ben Ray Lujan's offices, who also raised questions about Macievic's presentation and expressed the Senators' and Congressman's complete support for the petition.
The Advisory Board has indicated that it will request a full audit of the petition and NIOSH's response to it by its contractor Sanford Cohen and Associates. However, in the past only four petitions not recommended by NIOSH have succeeded in gaining SEC status, and advocates I spoke with conceded that if the NIOSH recommendation is overturned the new SEC will probably not include the entire 1976-2005 time period. To date, 37 petitions have been granted SEC status, while 61 petitions have been denied.
I'd like to thank Dr. Maureen Merritt and Terrie Barrie of the Alliance of Nuclear Workers Advocacy Groups for their help in sorting through many of these complicated scientific and bureaucratic issues.
By Kristen Davenport
The mountain valleys of Peñasco and neighboring villages used to be busy this time of year with spring activity &endash; annual plantings of corn, beans, squash, avas, potatoes, and other fruits and vegetables. These days, most of that land has returned to pasture for cows or gone fallow and become overrun with willows, wild roses, prickly burdock, thistles, and other weeds. Most people in the area do not plant food crops as their grandparents did.
But some residents of Peñasco hope to start a revival of local agriculture this summer by holding a weekly farmer's market. About 15 people showed up for a meeting on March 7 at the Peñasco Community Center to organize the farmer's market, talk about when and where to hold it, and what the goals of the market should be. We agreed that a farmer's market here in Peñasco should have two main purposes: encourage local people to use their land for growing food and provide healthy, fresh food at a reasonable price to local residents.
It's probably not news to anyone that Peñasco is not an easy place to find affordable fresh fruits and vegetables, although Pacheco's store does sell apples, pears, bananas, and avocados on a weekly basis and Garcia's store carries some healthy fruits and vegetables and almost always has tomatoes and apples.
The Peñasco Farmer's Market will most likely be held on Sundays, from about 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., to make sure everyone leaving church can stop by to purchase their weekly vegetables and fruits. This time spot will hopefully also catch some of the tourists who come through town on the High Road to Taos. Due to the mountain climate, we expect the market will begin a bit later than other markets &endash; the Peñasco Farmer's Market will begin the first Sunday in August and continue through the month of October. We are looking at two possible sites: The "T" corner where Highway 76 meets Highway 75 (near the new Picuris liquor store) or perhaps in the parking lot of the church offices, across from Sahds hardware. We hope to talk to owners of the properties soon and hold another organizational meeting to finalize all these plans. Anyone with input is welcome to attend these meetings.
Gardeners and growers are encouraged to start thinking about planting now. Although it's hard to grow tomatoes and chiles up here, because those crops require warm temperatures, plenty of things grow very well in the mountain villages. Kale and chard (which are greens for cooking that you can stir-fry or add to soups) love our climate. You can grow carrots, potatoes, peas, lettuce, and beans, as well as garlic, onions, squash, and corn. Cabbages and broccoli also grow well here.
If you're thinking about growing a garden for market, you'll be interested to know about two opportunities to get free seed. Seeds of Change, an organic seed company based in Santa Fe, is holding its annual free seed giveaway on April 17 at the Seeds of Change farm north of Espanola. The seed giveaway is held from 3 to 6 p.m. in El Guique. The address is 340 County Road 57, or you can call Lindsey Dozoretz for directions at 505-852-1508.
Also, on Sunday, April 19, the annual Dixon Seed Exchange will be held at the community center in Dixon beginning at 10 a.m. This annual seed exchange is a chance for growers in Northern New Mexico to swap seed they have saved over years for crops that are well-adapted to our area. Local heirloom varieties of corn, beans, and squash will be available. Although it is called a seed "exchange," there is no requirement that you bring seed of your own to share. However, it's a good idea to start saving seed from varieties that do well in your garden to share in future years.
Seeds of Change is also going to be growing two big gardens in the Peñasco area starting this summer, in a project spearheaded by Amanda Bissell at SPOT. Called "Project GROW," Seeds of Change will be growing trials of the varieties in their seed catalogue at two local gardens &endash; one in Llano San Juan, the other at Picuris &endash; as well as their main garden at the farm in El Guique. Food grown here may be distributed through the new Peñasco Food Bank.
Project GROW will be hiring a coordinator and interns soon. The coordinator will manage five youth interns (and hopefully some volunteers) working on several different big gardens. Amanda Bissell will also be letting students at Peñasco High School know about job opportunities this summer. Call Amanda at 575-587-2690 for more information.
Anyone interested in the new farmer's market in Peñasco can call Kristen Davenport at 575-587-1716.
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