FINDING OUR WHY
For the last couple of weeks every Saturday I have been participating in a 7-week Parents Together Education Advocacy Fellowship, and this past week we talked about distinguishing between your “What?” and your “Why?” when it comes to community organizing around education reform.
The discussion perfectly aligned with much of the work we have been doing at Hacienda Dominguez & Chelenzo Farms.
The weekend before we were blessed to have a visit from our new assistant farm manager, who flew in from Yosemite for the weekend. Nina was well qualified for the position from the start and I told everyone my intuition said “this is our girl.” Her visit sealed the deal and we all fell in love with her, as she will complement our nascent operation well.
That all said, during one of our team discussions she challenged us to think about our short term and long term objectives - why were we doing each and all of these projects and did it fit into our overall vision for the enterprise?
At the same time we have been working closely with our land conservation consultant, Jan-Willem Jensens, on planning our planting beds while keeping soil health and erosion abatement in mind and in check. Ensembles we’re prepping to apply for a Soil Health Project grant offered by the NM Department of Agriculture. The process has been a lot of work, but we’ll worth the effort because it has helped us hone our mission and purpose.
Although from the very beginning we knew that sustainability, environmental conservation, permaculture, and community improvement were all integral to what we wanted to do, they were simply the “whats” in the formula.
But it wasn’t until this past week that it really all began to jell. In addition to the NMDOA grant, I’ve been reading about other funding opportunities from the department, the USDA and other organizations. And after having a great conversation with Katherine Ottmers from the Quivira Coalition, I realized that the glue to our puzzle of aspirations was clearly “education.”
Education of our family and of the community is fundamental to what we’re doing here. We have enjoyed our ongoing chockfull of everyday challenges, if only because we have learned so much every step of the way up each mountain.
Toward the end of my hourlong conversation with Katherine she suggested that perhaps what we have here is really a “research farm.” As we do not expect to garner a profit for a few years and we are thrilled about the opportunity to contribute to the ever expanding field of agricultural practices that have beating climate change in mind, the idea that we should lean toward our academic bent was refreshing, redeeming and the right conclusion to our weeklong reevaluation of our purpose and priorities.
Ultimately, it all whipped up a brainstorm that got me dreaming about how we might take advantage of the recent announcement at the start of this month that “The USDA is to Invest $1 Billion in Climate Smart Commodities, Expanding Markets, Strengthening Rural America.”
It’s a truly exciting time to be where we’re at right now, for the world needs more climate-smart farmers, ranchers and forest landowners, and we just happen to be one of the newest to join the party.
As a result of all this regenerative reflection I refined our mission statement as follows and put it on our website ( www.haciendadominguez.com ):
Founded upon a dream of a healthier life closer to nature, Chelsea & Lorenzo (Chelenzo) moved to New Mexico from New York in 2021 with their family to plant regenerative roots in the Land of Enchantment.
Set in high desert mountains of Cerrillos, New Mexico, Hacienda Domínguez offers guests the opportunity to hike daily on 350 acres just east of the Turquoise Trail (Route 14) and directly above the Galisteo River Basin. Upon the land, nature lovers, hikers and outdoorsmen alike will discover arroyos, caves, mesmerizing 360 degree vistas of the mountains that surround Santa Fe, as well as awe-inspiring sunrises and sunsets.
At Chelenzo Farms we are applying permaculture, soil health and agroforestry principles (such as the “three sisters” and integrative crop rotation) and are enthusiastic about applying innovative and indigenous practices to achieve our goals.
Our aspirations include helping with food insecurity issues in our community, growing awareness about sustainability, and offering educational opportunities to students K-8 in cooperation with the local Turquoise Trail Charter School Gardening program, as well as offering opportunities to adults via the Worldwide Opportunities in Organic Farming (WWOOF) program and farm stays.
We are also considering planning development as a research farm, so that we may contribute to knowledge about agricultural practices that contribute to improving soil health in an arid environment, amidst a 22-year megadrought.
Most immediately, we aspire to rejuvenate the magical landscape into a flourishing garden and small-scale farm replete with edible native plants and trees, such as cacti, agave, succulents, saffron, beans, herbs, various other greens, fruits and vegetables. Currently, our animals include chickens, goats, and ducks, and we intend to acquire more, which we will integrate into our farming practices via grazing and the creation of compost and organic-based soil amendments.
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