Opinion: Learning to farm and garden in drought conditions


Some parcientes in Taos are lucky and have received water from their acequias this year. I haven't and it's unlikely that I will.

"There's no water coming down from the mountain," said Steve Montoya, mayordomo of the Acequia Madre del Prado del Río Lucero. "It's the worst year in over ninety recorded years."

Because there's a high water table where I live and because I was able to drill a good livestock well several years ago for goats and a small farm, I'll be okay, but what about not being able to flood irrigate the pasture? It won't happen this year. And there's talk this drought could possibly last for years, that this isn't just an "off" year. What can one do aside from pray for monsoon season to arrive early this summer?

Fortunately, help is close at hand. Native Roots is sponsoring an upcoming one-day workshop on Sunday, (May 13), which is also Mother's Day, on Planting for Drought, taught by Emigdio Ballon. Miguel Santistevan, one of Taos' premier seed savers and farmers says, "I met Emigdio 25 years ago and he changed my life."

Ballon is Quechua and from Bolivia. He is the director of the Institute of Natural and Traditional Knowledge and the agricultural director of the Pueblo of Tesuque as well as board president of Four Bridges Traveling Permaculture Institute. As a plant geneticist, he has specialized in research on quinoa and amaranth grains, and he has served as an organic certification inspector.

In his upcoming Taos workshop, Emigdio will focus on how we can most skillfully plant food crops and herbs for drought. He will also do a blessing for all mothers and Mother Earth.

At the Taos Pueblo's seed exchange in April, Henrietta Gomez said her elders told her to continue planting in drought years primarily to keep their heirloom seed strains going but to plant a lot less to conserve water. Conserving water is on everyone's mind these days.

If you're a gardener or farmer, you might want to spend from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Mother's Day learning how to adapt to drought from a true master while also honoring our Mother Earth. I plan to be there; I wouldn't want to miss this rare, valuable - and extremely timely - opportunity to literally "save the farm."

To join us, please contact Native Roots at nativerootshealing.com or call (914) 400-7558

Brigid Meier is a writer and visual artist who tends bees, goats and chickens at Tierra Drala, a permaculture farm in El Prado.