May 29, 2013, by Leslie Davis
I work with a non-profit organization, Seed2Need, outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico that grows gardens to generate fresh produce for local food pantries. New Mexico consistently ranks high for poverty and food insecurity. Funding available to our central food bank has been reduced due to state and federal budget constraints. With so many relying on their services, they cannot afford to invest in perishable commodities, but the importance of fruit and vegetables to basic nutrition cannot be denied. Addressing the issue at a localized level seemed like the most efficient way to alleviate the problem.
Our mission is to reduce hunger in our community by growing gardens, gleaning fruit from local orchards and soliciting produce donations at our local grower’s market. Produce harvested is often in the hands of the families who need it within hours of harvest. Picked fresh. Distributed fresh. Consumed locally by families facing food insecurity.
What started as a small garden in a neighbor’s horse corral to supply one food pantry has evolved over the last five years into Seed2Need; now serving 15 food pantries and soup kitchens in the area. Our community is very supportive, with many local property owners donating land, equipment and excess fruit from their orchards. We receive financial assistance from local businesses and individuals. We have volunteers of all ages and every walk of life. Our organization involves service by the community for the community.
Many of us have an interest in gardening, but no background in agriculture. This has been an educational experience for many, if not most, of the volunteers involved. There has been a steep learning curve as we realize what we are doing wrong and recognize what we are doing right, changing and adapting as we progress. The varieties of produce have been altered based on productivity and various planting, irrigation and mulching techniques have been modified to increase efficiency. As a volunteer organization we have to be aware of cost effective, labor saving methods.
Growing in New Mexico is nothing like growing in the more fertile climates of the Midwest or Southern states. New Mexico is a dry, arid, hot, high mountain climate. We have been experiencing a prolonged, extreme drought over the last several years. As a result of the drought, many farmers are unable to plant crops this summer, making the cost of fresh produce more cost prohibitive to families experiencing economic hardship and making water conservation a vital part of our plan. Although our gardens are close to the Rio Grande River we utilize a T-Tape drip irrigation system, drawn from a well, rather than relying on flood irrigation. This reduces the weeds brought in from flood irrigation and conserves water by applying small increments directly to the plants. We also utilize plastic mulch to prevent rapid evaporation and to create a barrier for weeds.
We have chosen vegetables that produce over a period of time, rather than a singular harvest, to ensure that we can provide a plentiful supply over several months. We also take into consideration regional tastes and diet. Currently we are growing 2 acres of tomatoes, green chile, cucumbers, watermelons, cantaloupe, zucchini and green beans. Over the last three years we have generated 70 tons of produce for local food pantries. With two acres planted this spring we are hoping to harvest 30 tons this summer alone.
For more information please visit our website, www.Seed2Need.us, or like our Seed2Need page on Facebook. If you have any questions about our techniques or starting a garden to address hunger within your community, please email Seed2Need@gmail.com.
Bio: Leslie Davis has a finance and economics degree with 25 years of sales and marketing experience and a desire to apply those skills to make a positive impact on her community.
Contact Info: www.Seed2Need.us