Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Designing the New Agrarian Settlements

Fourteen years ago, while driving on a west coast freeway, I had a vision so vivid that I overshot my destination by 17 miles.  In my mind, I saw people arriving on farmland devastated by chemical-based agriculture, pouring out of colorful semi-trucks – vigorous young people, children and elders, too. They all were highly organized, and well-supplied.

Some trucks were set up for cooking, others for carpentry. Already, the group had erected mess halls, bunkhouses, shops and bathrooms to accommodate large numbers of people.  And crews were working the land, using technologies to remediate polluted and sterile soil to grow organic food. They were an Earth Restoration Corps.

At the time, I was deeply involved in running a community dance project in several cities, so I put the vision on the back burner of my creative kitchen.  A few years later, though, I had the space to bring it forward, and I began to dig into the challenges of creating a sustainable culture, including the critical need for healthy soil. Soon, I was growing my first home garden, then came a community garden in San Pancho, Mexico, and finally the creation of Gaia Gardens, a large urban farm in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

From those experiences a larger vision emerged. A year and a half ago, the Mil Abrazos Community Land Trust, a nonprofit created during the Gaia Gardens experience, purchased 32 acres of irrigated land 30 miles south of Las Vegas, NM, along the Pecos River.  Mil Abrazos’ mission is to create a new agrarian settlement that will be a farm with affordable housing, a school for learning life skills, and a demonstration center for deploying appropriate technologies in the modern world. Beyond this, it will be a place of practice for cooperative living, for the young and the old and everyone in between.

I am already hard at work constructing the foundation of this settlement. I have been building a basecamp, and begun reaching out to both the local community and the larger Northern New Mexico area, to start a conversation about how to create an agrarian settlement that can inspire and support a rejuvenation of our farmland.
When driving through our region, be it Mora, Abiquiú, Chama, Villanueva, Ribera, Penasco, Anton Chico and many other irrigated areas, you can’t help but notice how little “agriculture” is left.  Most of what people call agriculture in the region consists of growing hay and grazing a few cattle on irrigated pasture or on public land, both of which can harm the land unless done with a holistic approach.

It was not always this way. Until World War II, these areas were the breadbaskets of the region, growing an abundance of diverse foods. But the cheap price of oil after the war made it possible to import food from far away places, food usually grown on large commercial farms powered by underpaid and abused immigrant labor from south of the border. Young people did not stay on the family farms, and were drawn to the new jobs offered at Los Alamos, Sandia Labs, Kirtland Air Force Base and other urban areas.   With good salaries, they could afford to buy cheap food grown elsewhere.

The people who stayed on the land resorted to grazing cattle for a living, which doesn’t require nearly as much labor as growing vegetables, fruits and grains. With able bodies deserting the family farms, rural food stores disappeared and fresh food was no longer available as it had always been.  People’s health started to decline.  With poor health, poverty crept in and more farmlands were abandoned.

Today, in New Mexico, over 90% of the food we consume is imported, while thousands of acres of fertile and irrigated land is either left fallow, or is used for growing alfalfa and grazing cattle.\

This dismal situation is actually a golden opportunity for a new generation of rural settlers. The older generation needs help maintaining ditches to keep the irrigated lands alive and to protect their water rights from the State, which is always looking to supply urban and suburban expansion. They also need new ideas for using the land beyond hay and cattle grazing. Many modern city dwellers, on the other hand, hunger for a simpler lifestyle, and for connecting once again with the land.

But bringing these two populations together is not easy. As much as people say they would prefer to live in a rural community, raise their children in a farm setting, and spend their elder years in Nature, there are many obstacles that keep them from their dreams: The price of land is high, and though we might imagine the bucolic village life, the truth is that it requires patience, skills and courage. And the families that have lived for generations on the land are not always welcoming to outsiders who come in with new ideas or who lack an understanding of the cultural context.

So where do we start?  How do we move from the when-I-win-the-lottery or when-I-retire fantasy, and begin a journey towards a different life for ourselves and future generations.

We can look at history. There’s been a multitude of communal experiments in which people have left the city in search of a more satisfying life. In the 1960’s and 1970’s there were the intentional communities started by hippies, back-to-the-landers movement, and the kibbutz experiments in Israel. But you can go back much further to the 1880’s in Germany, when a young and educated generation left cities polluted by the coal-powered industrial revolution and resettled in the country, launching what we know today as the alternative health movement.

And there is Cuba. When the Soviet Union collapsed, Cuba lost all its subsidies-imported oil, fertilizers, tractor parts and imported food, overnight.  They recalled the old timers who knew how to farm with draft horses.  They went organic.  They cultivated every empty city lot.  The average Cuban lost 30lbs.  Cuba is now one of the most sustainable countries in the World, despite a 60-year U.S. embargo.

How do we draw from the successes and failures of all these experiments, to design a new form of existence where simplicity, sharing, caring and cherishing Nature are the tenets of our lives. That’s what I have been contemplating over the past 18 months as I have planted windbreaks, built basic housing and workshop space, and become more attuned to the land and community along the Pecos River that has lived in this region for generations.

For me I see an obvious link between the need to reclaim and restore farmland for food security, and the creation of new agrarian settlements.  They go hand in hand.   Farming must return to a community model.  Agricultural land must be reclaimed into the commons.

I also see that it must be done in collaboration with the elders who are still living in these remote agricultural areas; they hold a wealth of knowledge, as I have learned as a member of my local acequia.  We need to capture the story of their generation, learn about the food they grew, and the grain surplus that was milled all over the region when most of the food grown was for human consumption.

Much like those well-organized farmer-settlers I saw in a vision 14 years ago, I am eager to collaborate with people who are ready to tackle the challenge of revitalizing our rural areas while rising to the bigger ecological, social and economic challenges of our times. Together, I believe we can prepare for what looks like a difficult period of massive climate change; we can harness our collective resources, ingenuity and wisdom to create food security for our region; we can start innovative cottage industries that can co-exist with small agriculture and provide a resilient economic base to the rural communities of the future; we can help young people re-populate farmland, raise their family on the land and live a good life; and we can all learn how to work together with fair-minded practices of governance and love.

I know we can do it.  Now is the time to engage a deeper part of ourselves, to radically broaden our imagination, rediscover our humanness and create new models of sustainable existence.

We must bring people back to the land to care for the land that feeds us. These ancient breadbaskets in our backyard are where civilization will survive.

As much as the ecological predicaments we have created can seem insurmountable, we can also look at the task ahead as a sacred mission to rebuild our beautiful World.

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Mil Abrazos Community Land Trust is a non-profit project fiscally-sponsored by the 
New Mexico Foundation, a 501(c)3
Donations are tax-deductible  

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Fundraising Campaign Launched to Finish Basecamp

After a year and a half of construction and land work, building a caretaker’s unit, public bathroom, shop and bunkhouse, we have erected a steel frame addition that will add 2,200sq.ft. to the existing structure, and will feature a dining hall for 30 people, camp kitchen, ADA-compliant bathroom, office and lodging for visitors and interns.

We are now seeking to raise $50,000 to finish the building.

Once the basecamp is completed, we'll be engaging the community's creativity to wisely design this settlement through a series of facilitated gatherings (see program here).

Ultimately, it will be a farm with affordable housing, school for life skills, demonstration center for appropriate technologies and place of practice for cooperative lifestyle. The education of the youth, as well as aging and eldercare, will be carefully considered in the design of this settlement. 


Click on image to visit our campaign campaign and read more about building plans, budget, etc.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Designing a New Agrarian Settlement

Last week, I worked with members of our 12-mile long irrigation ditch, inspecting a concrete siphon that moves water along a cliff. Large falling rocks have weakened the structure and we were assessing for repairs before we reopen the ditch in May.

After the inspection, I walked a 3-mile section of the ditch checking for obstructions from trees knocked down by the recent storms. Along the way, I ran into Oscar, David and Nick, all small farmers in their 60’s, born and raised in the area. They were taking measurements for the repair of a Desague (relief gate). Nick turned to me and said: “that’s it, after we’re gone, there’s nobody to do this. The young people are all gone. They all want to be in the city getting big salaries. You can’t make money farming anymore.”

This summarizes where small family agriculture has gone in our region, and why so many rural communities have fallen into disrepair, with old folks still holding on to land but getting too old to farm. Growing hay and raising a few cattle is all they can do. A lot of hay grown in New Mexico is shipped to dairy farms in Texas. According to the New Mexico Department of Agriculture 98% of New Mexico’s cattle are sent out of state for processing and 97% of our agricultural products leave the state, but the state in turn imports more than $4 billion in food products annually. 

Mil Abrazos' interest, and that of many people in New Mexico, is to reclaim farmland for local food production, revitalize rural communities, inspire and support young people to return to the land and develop a resilient food system.

For those of you interested in how to participate in the next steps of the Mil Abrazos project, take a look at the topics that will be explored to design this project. MASTER PLAN DESIGN FOR A NEW AGRARIAN SETTLEMENT

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Mil Abrazos Community Land Trust is a non-profit project fiscally-sponsored by the 
New Mexico Foundation, a 501(c)3
Donations are tax-deductible  

Monday, December 31, 2018

Happy Holidays from all of me at Mil Abrazos!

What a year it’s been!  Last December, I moved to Dilia, 1.5hr from Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the Mil Abrazos Community Land Trust purchased 32-acres of ancient agricultural land along the Pecos River.

The mission of the Trust, a nonprofit operating under the fiscal sponsorship of the New Mexico Community Foundation, includes affordable housing, agriculture and other cottage industries, permaculture education and land restoration.

Located south of Las Vegas on the lower Pecos watershed, the area has deeply captured my soul. The landscape, nourished by an Acequia tradition dating back to 1820, is a place of great beauty, serenity and abundance of wild life.

I hit the ground running as soon as we took possession of the property, and while sleeping in my truck through most of the winter, proceeded to develop the basic camp infrastructure for the incubation, design and creation of a new agrarian settlement for the benefit of future generations.

Way before I arrived here, I knew that in order to begin a design process with the broader community, I had to build enough infrastructure to comfortably accommodate the people and organizations with whom I have interacted with during my time in Santa Fe and elsewhere. 

Much has been accomplished in a year to prepare the place for visitors and group activities next spring:

  • A 400 sq ft caretaker’s cabin was completely remodeled
  • A full bathroom and laundry room was built
  • A bunkhouse with 4 beds was created for visitors and interns
  • 450 tree seedlings were planted and irrigation installed for the trees
  • The bridge over the acequia was rebuilt to accommodate large trucks
  • The electrical wiring has been upgraded
  • Fiber optic Internet has been brought to the property
  • Property was registered with the USDA Farm Bureau
  • 32 acre-feet of water rights were legally documented with the Office of the State Engineer
  • A 640 sq ft shop was set up for carpentry, welding, craft and repairs of all kinds
  • A 2,000 square-feet steel structure addition, which will accommodate a handicap bathroom, mudroom, camp kitchen and dining hall for 30 people, is currently being erected

Check here for a detailed picture report of our 2018 infrastructure accomplishments

I can say that time has gone fast and has also been very healing for me. 

There’s something profound about living and working alone on a quiet piece of land, dreaming and building a stage for the emergence of a new community. Being pregnant in a way, listening deeply, creating a nest, preparing to give birth. 

When you are here, there’s nowhere to go. For an entire year I was able to work 4-5 days a week at the property, undistracted and uninterrupted.  My home life being yoga, reading, writing, eating well and baking cookies for my friends. My social life consisting of going to mass on Sunday to meet my neighbors, and participating in the governance and maintenance of our complex 12-mile long communal irrigation system. 

While being here, I’ve been reflecting on how to respectfully and beneficially integrate a small multi-family settlement, with various associated cottage industries, within an old land grant that’s exquisitely quiet and slow, a fertile and well-irrigated traditional bread basket that ought to be preserved and revitalized.


I purposefully chose to begin the project by myself for that and many other reasons, including wishing to do a year-long permaculture observation of the land, trees, patterns, wildlife, plants, weather, people and local customs.

Mesmerized all day by the dance of the many birds calling this watershed their home or wintering ground, bathed in the freshest air and unpolluted skies, surrounded by pastures interspaced with large deciduous trees, ponds and all the beautiful biota that lives by the water, something else has been unfolding.

My mind seems to have accelerated its pace of decolonization.  As if a new way of thinking, feeling and looking at things has slowly but noticeably been emerging.  As if the mysterious strands of our DNA contain the useful wisdom of the past, becoming accessible to us when the times call for it.

It seems to me as though the times are now calling!  And my heart tells me that it’s from that mind that I wish to create, and co-create from.


What I have begun is setting the stage for the development of a small human settlement that will be designed around principles of land trust, where land is held in the commons and cannot be speculated on. I have been thinking long term, for the benefit of future generations.

My heart is into creating spaces where we learn and share skills, and develop resilience for what could possibly be a chaotic and difficult future.  Some of these skills will be old technologies of decision-making that many people sense we must bring back into our governing structures if we are going to survive, as well as skills of self-care, communication, parenting, healing, eldercare, cooperation, resource sharing, homeschooling, food production and more.

Being well aware of climate change upheavals, and of the fragility of our food system, I envision an agrarian project that also actively participates in the preservation and restoration of farmland for regenerative food production.  A community with its resources and programs engaged in supporting the economic revitalization of a neighboring 3,000-acre traditional bread basket with a rich and colorful farming and ranching tradition, while also assuring that the 200 year-old irrigation infrastructure is well maintained for the optimum flow and distribution of water.

Having experienced community living and land trust environments, I have learned that going slow is paramount.  Moving a bunch of people on a property and hoping that things will work has shown to often be unsustainable, unstable or even quite dysfunctional!

I am also painfully aware of the “founder’s syndrome” and do not wish to create a project that solely relies on my energy and ideas to function. So beyond initiating the project, raising the initial capital, loaning all the money I have to bootstrap the birthing phase, and doing 95% of the construction by myself in building the initial camp, it is my intention to have the next steps of this adventure be designed, financed and built with and by the larger community.

My 4-year experiment with Gaia Gardens, has put me in touch with a broad network of people and organizations, all working towards the creation of a better world. Many of them, and lots of new ones, will be invited to contribute to various aspects of the design process.

I want to take this opportunity to thank all the people who supported Gaia Gardens and helped launch the Mil Abrazos Community Land Trust project.

The owner of the Gaia Gardens property, wwoofers and volunteers, our neighbors at Los Chamisos, the Will Atkinson Estate, EarthCare, the New Mexico Community Foundation, the Santa Fe Community Foundation, the McCune Foundation, our CSA members and customers at the Farmers’ Market, LaMontanita Coop, The Food Depot, Monte del Sol Charter School, Payne’s Nursery, Santa Fe Greenhouses, Aromaland, all the people who generously donated to our "Let's buy the Farm" Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, the many seed companies that donated organic seeds, and all the strangers who visited our politically controversial farm stand, and became friends and supporters.

As much as many of us dream of living in the country, raising and homeschooling children in a farm setting, making a livelihood through a successful cottage industry or cooperative, or aging in a village setting where elders are loved, useful and respected, there are not that many communities out there doing that. 

If it were easy, there would be many happy, thriving intentional rural communities…

For me, creating rural community must be coordinated and designed to also serve other functions like preserving farmland from
real estate speculation and development, and destructive monoculture. Our new agrarian settlements ought to be sanctuaries for people and wildlife, learning centers, and dynamic nodes in the evolution of culture.

In addition, our project will help give land access to aspiring farmers who otherwise couldn’t afford property, as farmland prices are exorbitant and it is no longer feasible to repay a mortgage from the revenues of a small farm. 

I am currently writing a grant ($25,000) to help pay for a comprehensive Permaculture Master Plan process that will draw upon the rich pool of talents in our region and beyond, on all the topics that ought to be weaved in the creation of a community farm school sanctuary-type.  This process will begin as soon as the dining hall and camp kitchen are ready.  Elders, Farmers, Builders and Engineers, Herbalists and Healers, Parents, Artists and Musicians, Activists, Permaculturists and all the organizations dealing with youth, recovery, poverty, food justice and economic development in rural Northern New Mexico will be invited to participate in the design process.

My intention is to proceed in a deliberate and wise way to define a vision and master plan, engaging a broad community to help design, finance and build a creative outpost for learning in nature and in community.

My hunch, and hope, is that a qualified group of potential residents will emerge from the many sessions of the design process and other group activities at the property.

It could be a couple years, while a vision is clarified and governing documents put in place, before residents settle here.  I’m currently the caretaker of the property and the project manager.  The process of designing the community will reveal whether it’s appropriate for me to be part of the community, or if my calling takes me elsewhere. 

What’s most important for me right now is to secure and restore traditional farmland, and plant the seed for a small sustainable agrarian settlement to take root, for the benefit of future generations.

I have been inspired to weave eldercare in the vision of the project, all the way to a dying house by the river.  Embedded in the governing agreements of the community will be clauses to address the caring of elders by the community and residents rights to finish their life on the land if they choose to.  There is support from hospice care organizations in our network to help us with this essential topic.

A friend of mine, who died a couple years ago, left behind a bunch of useful earth-moving equipment (Bobcat with many attachments, trucks, trailers) that we are looking at purchasing from his wife and create a land restoration collective run by women, an idea that I have pitched to several organizations in Santa Fe that have shown interest in supporting such a project, which could become one of our cottage industries.

Now here comes the fun money part…

The launch of this project was partially financed by the $38,000 we raised in 2015 through an Indiegogo campaign, while running Gaia Gardens.

I personally loaned $30,000 to the project to help secure the property, which is owner-financed.  The nonprofit still owes $120,000 on the land.

I also loaned the non-profit another $50,000 to finance the first 18 months of loan payments ($800/month), utilities ($130/month), property and non-profit insurance ($2,000/year) and material and hired labor to build the first layer of infrastructure. 

The latest push to build the 2,000sq’ steel addition, wrapped around the existing shipping containers, is costing a lot more money than anticipated as I have hired a team of experienced welders, and metal isn’t cheap.  A lot of structural metal having been donated to the project, and the existing structure being steel, it made sense to invest in building the addition with metal to withstand the potential destructive force of climate change. 

The money I had saved, and knew I would loan to the project to bootstrap its coming into existence, has been well used.  I have built houses, created homesteads and farms before, and know all aspects of construction. I have learned how to efficiently build, source and stage material, get things donated, find stuff and make things out of nothing.  

I am very pleased with all that has been accomplished.

And...the money that has birthed and propelled this project forward will soon run out.

I knew I would eventually have to remove my hardhat and start raising capital. Well, this time has come a little sooner than expected…

I have begun contacting some of our largest donors from our 2015 capital campaign, soliciting year-end donations.

I am now reaching out to our larger network here to ask for your support and generosity.

Things we need:

  • Money
  • Building Material 
  • Legal Counsel
  • Grant writing
  • Fundraising
  • Bookkeeping
  • Land restoration expertise related to flood irrigation
  • Hemp production expertise (it is now legal in New Mexico)
See our wish list for more details

I look forward to welcoming many of you soon for some good food, stargazing, bird watching, playing by the river, building mud huts and composting toilets, tending animals, gardens and fields, and mingling with an interesting and diverse group of people.

Like all the creation I have been part of, for me they are simply environments to help mix ideas, people, styles, practices, talents, visions and resources.

Helping to create a feeling of community.  A sense of belonging.  A place to be oneself, heal and feel useful, supported and appreciated. 

Thank you again for your support, ideas, inspiration, encouragements and love!

And Happy New Year to all of you!


Check the Photo Gallery for a visual tour of our first year on the land

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Mil Abrazos Community Land Trust is a non-profit project fiscally-sponsored by the
New Mexico Foundation, a 501(c)3
Donations are tax-deductible  

Northern Flicker (Female)

Thursday, September 6, 2018

The beginning of a new story…

For those of you who may not already know, in November 2017, the Mil Abrazos Community Land Trust (MACLT), which sprang out of the Gaia Gardens experiment in Santa Fe, purchased irrigated farmland in Dilia, New Mexico, 30 miles south of Las Vegas off Highway 84 along the Pecos River. 

I have been at the property for nine months, purposefully by myself, focused on building the first camp and embedding myself in this traditional ranching and farming community, part of the large Anton Chico land grant. 

I can wholeheartedly say that I have fallen deeply in love with this ancient agricultural land, its people, Acequia, wildlife and powerful spirit. Having been immediately recruited as a commissioner for the Vado de Juan Pais Ditch Association (12 mile-long ditch, serving 1,800 acres and dating back 200 years), I have begun my immersion into the Acequia culture, stories, wounds and conflicts that have been part of this tight-knit community. 

As a stranger, I have felt immediately welcome. Our Mayordomo calls me cousin. My 75 year-old neighbor Kiko, a vacero (rancher) from Chihuahua, Mexico, runs 100 cattles next door and rides his horse to the fence to chat with me. He’s been running cattle since he was a young boy. The other day, I invited him for coffee and cookies, and wanted to show him what I was up to, in case he wondered… After briefing him on what I see as possibilities here for the Mil Abrazos project, he said he has been wishing for a farm school to be created in the area. His son and daughter are school principals in the area, and his son grows hay and raises cattle as well. Kiko’s grandkids, a 10 year-old daughter in particular, want to farm. She’s always working with her grandpa when out of school. 

I experienced a mild winter, with abundant ditch water, and marveled at the abundance of bird life in the area. A flowing river, ponds, irrigation ditches, pastures and deciduous trees (we have 100 + year-old Osage Orange) make for perfect wintering ground for migratory birds. Surrounded all day by Hawks, Blue Heron, Cranes, Geese, Ducks, Pigeons, Doves, Woodpeckers, and a multitude of brightly colored finches and warblers, I began building the first camp, starting with the remodeling of a 400sq’ studio perched on top of two shipping containers, a structure we inherited with the land. 

My previous experiences with land trusts, homesteading, farming and many more enterprises has taught me that if a first impression is pleasant, inspiring and fun, people come back. So bringing people for gatherings to a place 1.5 hr from Santa Fe requires parking, bathrooms, lodging, safety (it’s rattle snake country!), kitchen, dining hall and more (like fast speed internet, yes we have fiber optics up to 1Gig of speed for the techies, laundry facility, shower and bath for our mermaid visitors, etc.). 

The basecamp will be a place to accommodate the first gatherings of elders, advisors, community leader, artists, poets, musicians, parents, kids and farmers. The gatherings will be designed and facilitated to engage the community to collectively imagine a village-community and discuss how the property will be designed, structured, planned, financed and built to foster a permanent human settlement on degraded farmland (a definition of permaculture). 

We’ll explore what assemblage of diverse people (social engineering), cottage industries (planned industries) and governance/practices can sustain a rural settlement aimed at reclaiming and regenerating farmland for the benefit of future generations. 

This process will draw upon the experience of many other successful and well-established land trusts around the country such as the Evergreen Land Trust (WA), Vashon Land Trust (WA), Dancing Rabbit (Mo) and FindHorn (Scotland). Conversations will be centered on how to create a living and educational environment that can serve the needs of kids, young adults, parents and elders. Holistic land management and permaculture experts will be consulted for the regeneration of this 32 acre track of land that has been farmed and grazed extensively for generations. 

The wisdom and experience of the land grant local culture will be drawn upon to design a varied agriculture that is capable of dealing with the unpredictability of climate change. Our experiment will be shared with our neighbors on this 2,000-acre swath of irrigated land to bring a return of food production (besides meat) and inspire the return and permanent settlement of the younger generation of locals. 

Having lived and build a house on a community land trust in WA state (4 community farms and 2 in-town community residences), and having been on its Board of Directors , I have experienced first hand the difficulties for a group of people, with kids, to live in a rural setting and make a living, tend a large property, etc.  I have also experienced first hand the importance of having a very solid governance model as otherwise communal life can become quite… difficult. 

I have also attained the beautiful age of 60 and have been reflecting on my life so far and how I wish to live forward. I have been looking at aging and dying. Early on, a well-known educator suggested that we consider elder care as one of the cottage industries on the land. The biggest insight I received during my stay on the land is that not only would the property be ideal for someone to finish their life if they like community, children, nature, quietness and birds of course, thus an eldercare cottage industry, but that taking care of the resident elders needs to be embedded in the community philosophy, design and contractual agreements. 

 I have been waiting to create a public announcement like this because I want to make sure that our extended community understands what we are embarking on. 

Mil Abrazos has a deeply permanent nature. The land is not to be resold and speculated on, no longer considered a commodity. Future residents of the community will pass on their property (equity) rights to their children. Children will be born on the property. Some people will naturally finish their life there. 

In this public announcement, it is important that I, along with my beloved Board members Dominique Pozo (my partner during Gaia Gardens) and Marlene Fischer, lover, nurturer and protector of life and wise elder, present a picture of what we see the project being so you can not only understand why we are approaching things slowly and deliberately, but how you can participate with your knowledge, visions, skills, resources or encouragements. 

After 9 months on the property, focused on building the first camp and embedding myself in the local culture, going to mass, participating in the ditch association duties and befriending the local wildlife, I am now getting ready to start building the 900sq' camp dining hall and kitchen. A friend donated metal to build the 900sq' structure and the truck is loaded. 

However I have to strengthen the bridge going over the ditch to make sure the 25-some ton truck can drive over. 

To be continued...  

Love, Poki

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Mil Abrazos Community Land Trust is a non-profit project fiscally-sponsored by the 
New Mexico Foundation, a 501(c)3
Donations are tax-deductible  

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Acequia Cleanup Days

Sat. Feb. 24
Sat. March 3

@ 8:00am

In Dilia, NM  (1.5 hr from Santa Fe)

An opportunity to immerse ourselves in the ancient New Mexico Acequia culture, meet our neighbors and support a 200 year-old tradition.
Each year, irrigation ditches get shutdown for cleanup.  

Trees, willows, boulders and sand/silt get removed from the ditch. Flumes, gates, spillways and bridges get repaired at this time.
Guadalupe County workers will be helping with a backhoe and the parsiantes (farmers and ranchers using the ditch) will show up for the annual cleanup.
Come with family and bring clothes to get dirty, rubber boots, shovel, handsaw or chainsaw if you have, and gloves if you plan to join the work crew.

As you may know, the Mil Abrazos Community Land Trust, which sprung out of the Gaia Gardens experiment, has purchased farmland in Dilia, an hour and a half from Santa Fe. The property is located in the Anton Chico Land Grant, dating back to 1822. The Vado de Jaun Paiz acequia, built by hand in the 1800’s, is 13 miles long and serves 1,800 acres of irrigated land in the Anton Chico Land Grant.
It has been a yearly tradition throughout New Mexico for farming communities to clean and repair their acequias before the farming season.
The Anton Chico Land Grant population is aging and from what I have been told, fewer than half the parciantes (one who shares the water) show up on acequia cleanup days, even though everyone who draws water from the acequia is obligated to participate, or send someone to help (that helper is called a peon!).

You are all invited to come help or witness the cleanup.
Please RSVP if you plan to attend (I will be sending directions to those coming). Limited indoor accommodations and camping available for those wishing to spend the night at the property Friday night.

I look forward to meeting more of my neighbors and introducing you to this beautiful area.   


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Mil Abrazos Community Land Trust is a non-profit project fiscally-sponsored by the 
New Mexico Foundation, a 501(c)3
Donations are tax-deductible  

Friday, December 22, 2017

A property has been purchased in New Mexico


Dear Community,

It is with great joy and gratitude that I am announcing that the Mil Abrazos Community Land Trust (birthed out of the Gaia Gardens project in Santa Fe) just acquired a 32 acres property in Dilia, NM, along the Pecos River, 30 minutes south of Las Vegas off Hwy 84 and 1.5 hr. from Santa Fe. 

The property is located in a Land Grant dating back from 1822 with a rich tradition of agriculture and ranching. The land is a typical strip of irrigated rural New Mexico farmland with 20-acre feet of Acequia water rights.  The property has been heavily hayed and grazed over the years and land restoration will need to be practiced to help fuel a dynamic soil regeneration process.

After looking for land for two years and traveling thousands of miles, New Mexico called me back and my return has been a real love fest.

I knew we touched a lot of people’s hearts and imagination when we were running Gaia Gardens, but I never grasped the depth of hopes and dreams that were shattered when we closed the farm.

I can tell you now that it was all perfect.  That it was time for me and Dominique to get out of the line of fire from our angry neighbor and a sluggish-to-evolve City administration.

We have now affirmed that we are removing this little slice of Paradise out of the speculative real estate market in perpetuity (the purpose of a land trust), in order to develop a resilient and regenerative agriculture, along with permanently affordable housing and other cottage industries, and a Permaculture education center.

I am proud to say that this is the boldest act of civil disobedience I have ever committed besides growing food inside the City of Santa Fe!

Our first step is to meet the local culture and integrate respectfully in the community.

Elders in rural New Mexico speak of a need for healing.  How do we design this project to help re-weave the fabric of rural community, acknowledging a painful past of land grabs, poor land management and other violations that often created fractured communities, economic decline and social issues resulting in a progressive abandonment of ancient subsistence agriculture traditions? How do we design our project to help bring back younger people to care for elders and land?  How do we weave ancient agriculture practices with Permaculture technologies and strategies to withstand the challenges of climate change?  

New Mexico has rich agricultural traditions that have sustained its population for hundreds of years.  The irrigated areas along our major New Mexico watersheds could and should be revitalized to provide a large portion of the fresh produce, vegetables, grains, meats, eggs and medicinal herbs for our region.

As a nonprofit, we will be partnering with other organizations that work with regenerative farming, watershed restoration, rural poverty, food justice, summer camps, hospice care and more, and will be designing the farm to offer an inspiring and pristine place for their retreats and activities.

This winter will be spent observing the land and its patterns, remodeling the existing structure to create lodging for interns and visitors, and repairing the neglected irrigation system.

By the fall of 2018, we will begin a series of gatherings to start the process of creating a master plan for the property. 

I will be at the property part-time and am happy to welcome visitors.  The watershed is stunning, the birdlife abundant and the night skies a treat.  Feel free to reach me by email if you wish to visit.  Limited overnight accommodations are available.

Thank you for all your donations and support that have contributed to acquiring this beautiful piece of land.

We look forward to sharing our unfolding story with you.


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Mil Abrazos Community Land Trust is a non-profit project fiscally-sponsored by the 
New Mexico Foundation, a 501(c)3
Donations are tax-deductible  

Wish List (items and skills)