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Corrales
Thursday, May 23, 2024

Year-End Reports

Summary of obstacles and achievements from 2011-2022.

Donate

If you would like to support Seed2Need, we accept donations via PayPal, United Way, and mail. We are a 501(c)(3). Please see post for details.

Donating Produce

You can make a difference by donating produce from your garden and fruit trees. Check here for more information about garden dropoffs or gleaning.

2023 Year-End Report

2023 Year-End Report
Seed2Need 2023 Year-End Report. Harvest totals from the 2023 season, as well as successes, new developments, and lessons learned this year.

Planting the Seed

The Seed2Need project was started by Sandy and Penny Davis in response to the 2008 financial recession.  The first garden was small and it provided fresh produce to one food pantry, the Storehouse West in Rio Rancho.  However, as word spread, the project became larger.  In 2009, Corrales residents, Victor and Nora Scherzinger offered additional land and several friends offered to help with the planting, maintenance and harvest.  As a result, the 2009 garden generated 1650 pounds of produce.

In 2010 the Sandoval County Master Gardeners sponsored the project.  That provided a pool of potential volunteers.   In addition, the Scherzinger’s neighbors, Dr. Robert Lynn and Janet Braziel, offered some of their land for a second food pantry garden.  In 2010, the combined Scherzinger/Lynn gardens generated 30,701 pounds of produce.  That allowed Seed2Need to provide fresh produce to several more food pantries in Sandoval and Bernalillo Counties.

Project Expansion

In 2011 the gardens were expanded via an Eagle Scout project that cleared brush and debris from another 1/2 acre of the Lynn property. Considerably more volunteers from the community started to help, as well as community service groups, church groups, boy scouts and school groups. For the last few months of the summer Seed2Need was given a booth at the Corrales Grower’s Market on Sunday mornings to collect produce donations from vendors and locals. Collectively, 45,399 pounds of produce was donated to local food pantries and soup kitchens. Based on our success in 2010 and 2011 Seed2Need was recognized by the International Master Gardeners organization, winning the Search for Excellence award in the Community Service category.

In 2012 the Scherzinger gardens were expanded by another 1/2 acre. Seed2Need also continued to maintain a presence at the Corrales Grower’s Market to collect donations, receiving 3,150 pounds of produce.  Additionally, it was an abundant year for fruit. We were contacted by numerous property owners in Corrales, Los Ranchos de Albuquerque and Rio Rancho to glean fruit from trees that were literally being crushed by the weight of fruit. We harvested over 17,000 pounds of pears, apricots, peaches and apples that year and between the gardens, the Grower’s Market and the donations from orchards, we donated 65,238 pounds of fruit and vegetables to15 food assistance programs in Sandoval and Bernalillo Counties.

Summer of Challenges

In 2013 we expanded the Lynn garden, adding approximately 1/2 acre of watermelons and cantaloupe. We decided not to participate in the Corrales Grower’s Market, because many of the growers were unable to plant crops due to drought. Flood irrigation was cut off to the middle Rio Grande valley in early summer and many local farmers left their fields fallow. There was also a late frost, which wiped out most of the fruit crop.

It was a summer of challenges. There was a soil issue in one of our gardens. Most of the plants did not thrive due to root knot nematodes. We had watering issues and a proliferation of weeds at the other garden, particularly Amaranth (Pigweed) and Puncturevine (Goatheads). We planted zucchini and melons after the 4th of July to avoid the squash bug infestation, but they moved in on the cucumbers early in the season and loitered until the squash and melons were planted. A major hailstorm in July did damage, though, surprisingly, the garden rebounded.  It was a rough year.

Ongoing Learning Curve

With the many issues and setbacks, we anticipated harvesting considerably less in 2013 than in 2012, but we were fortunate. We had an abundant tomato crop and the cucumbers were surprisingly productive despite the squash bug infestation. When we realized that squash bugs were likely to kill the zucchini, we planted more seed between existing plants so they would start producing as the other plants died.  Our persistence paid off.

In 2014, the battle with squash bugs resumed. Due to the infestation in prior years, the number of over-wintering squash bugs increased to the point that all cucurbit crops were lost.  Fortunately, the tomatoes continued to flourish and there was an abundant apple crop so our overall production was second only to 2012, bringing our five year total within a few hundred pounds of 250,000. We surpassed the 500,000 pound mark in 2019.

Every year has been a learning experience and we utilize the lessons learned to formulate a strategy for the following year.  Fortunately we have amazing volunteers who are willing to provide their input, skills, wisdom and labor to improve the project every season.  It takes a village to facilitate a project like this and the Village of Corrales is the perfect place to do it.  Between the Sandoval County Master Gardeners and countless dedicated volunteers from the community we will continue to reduce hunger in New Mexico one garden at a time.

For more information about each year, please see our year-end reports.

UPCOMING WORK SESSIONS

may, 2024

Common Garden Inquiries

Frequently Asked Questions

Seed2Need is a 501(c)(3) based in Corrales, New Mexico. We have been growing farmer’s market quality produce for local food pantries since 2010. In addition to row crops, Seed2Need gleans excess fruit from local orchards (when available). The project is funded by numerous grants, local businesses, and private party donations. Crop selection is based on maximizing yield, with insight regarding variety provided by NMSU extension office. Food pantries pick up directly from the gardens to get it from field to fork as quickly as possible.

Picked fresh, distributed fresh. For more information about getting involved, please click here. If you would like to donate to Seed2Need, please click here.

Sandy Davis loading one of the food pantry trucksSeed2Need started in 2008 as a small garden in a neighbor's horse corral and founders Sandy and Penny Davis provided the funding and labor.  In 2009, the garden was moved to a larger location.  In 2010, Seed2Need was moved under the fiscal sponsorship of Rio Grande Food Project, Public Service Company of New Mexico awarded Seed2Need a small grant and several Sandoval County Master Gardeners offered help.  In 2012, Seed2Need filed for non-profit status and the project was officially sponsored by the Sandoval County Master Gardeners.  Non-profit status allowed Seed2Need to apply for grants to purchase the needed equipment, seed and supplies and the publicity and sponsorship of the Sandoval County Master Gardeners provided a large pool of potential volunteers.

If you have questions or need to know more, please email seed2need@gmail.com.

Seed2Need currently serves five food pantries in Sandoval and Bernalillo Counties.  Seed2Need volunteers work three days/week and one or more of these food pantries pick up produce on each of those days.  Once the gardens hit peak harvest, i.e. the September apple harvest, we call Roadrunner Food Bank. They send a truck to collect the overflow and distribute it to other food pantries throughout the state.

The recurring costs associated with the gardens is $10,000-$15,000/acre, though our costs are frequently higher when we invest in equipment and infrastructure, i.e. tomato cages, greenhouse, tractor equipment, major tractor repairs, garden shed.  Our recurring administrative costs include a part-time farm manager, liability insurance, greenhouse electricity and portable toilet rental.  The farm manager position was added in 2018 to provide additional supervision during volunteer work sessions and the ongoing maintenance and weeding which is difficult to keep up with due to fluctuations in volunteer turnout.

Seed2Need has been fortunate in securing grants and in being enthusiastically supported by the community.  Our seasonal funding is derived from a combination of grants, private party donations and local business contributions.

Bountiful harvest of produce for food pantries.Crops are selected based on interviews with the food pantries, length of harvest, nutritional value, productivity, shelf life and regional taste.  We also focus on vegetables that generate an on-going and heavy yield and that do well in New Mexico’s hot, dry environment.  We have tried many vegetable varieties over the years, evolving and adapting over time.  Our current crops include tomatoes, green chile, squash, cucumbers, bell peppers and eggplant.  In years when we do not have a late frost that damages the fruit crop, we also donate apples, peaches, pears, plums, cherries and apricots.

We use organic methods as often as possible.  Many organic solutions implemented over the years have proven very effective.  For example, we use BT to control hornworms, gypsum to reduce blossom end rot, horticultural grade diatomaceous earth to deter squash bugs and compost to improve the soil.  Ideally, we would like to be entirely organic but our primary objective is to maximize the harvest so we can serve as many families facing food insecurity as possible.  And we have limited resources in terms of labor due to reliance on dedicated volunteers instead of paid staff.  When we exhaust organic options, we must consider the non-organic alternatives. Additionally, we do soil testing every year and add compost and/or fertilizer to correct deficiencies.  Essentially, we do what we can and recognize that there is always room for improvement.

Mother nature presents a variety of challenges every year in the form of drought, high temperature, late frosts, plant disease, pests, and endless weeds.  However, the biggest challenge has been having enough volunteers to keep up with the work that needs to be done each week.  Like housework, weeding and garden maintenance seem like futile endeavors.  It is a task that never comes off the list.  Yet, it is critical to a successful garden.  Volunteers are the lifeblood of Seed2Need.

If you would like to volunteer with Seed2Need, whether on a one time or ongoing basis, please sign up in the sidebar on the right-hand side of this screen.  We do not expect volunteers to show up for every work session.  We recognize that you also have other priorities.   And, if you grow tired of receiving work session notices, you can stop them by simply clicking “unsubscribe” at the bottom of the work session notice.

There is also a contact form and list of upcoming events on the right-hand sidebar.  If you are part of a community service group, church group, scout or school group, please email Seed2Need to schedule a time for your group.  We can always use more hands.  The email address is Seed2Need@gmail.com.

We would like to continue increasing the size of the gardens but we are limited by volunteer participation, time and equipment. By keeping the gardens and orchards consolidated on and around Manierre Road, it is easier to move farm equipment and volunteers to multiple locations during each work session.

We are available to glean fruit from local orchards as time and volunteer availability permit.  However, we cannot get to every orchard offered due to limited volunteer and equipment availability.  In addition, many of our “core” volunteers are senior citizens and that makes ladders a perilous prospect in terms of potential injury.

If you would like to donate fruit from your trees, please contact us at Seed2Need@gmail.com and we will try to help.  Alternately, contact Food is Free, another local organization that focuses entirely on gleaning on behalf of local food pantries.  Food is Free is located at 10000 Coors Bypass NW, G213, Albuquerque, NM  87114 and their phone number is (505) 570-2670

We need a minimum of 2-weeks to arrange for volunteers and equipment, particularly as the gardens hit peak harvest in August and September.  For large orchards, we also need time to coordinate with Roadrunner Food Bank to pick up the fruit.

love helpingYou can sign up as a volunteer on the sidebar to the right.  We do not send junk mail or give our mailing list to other entities.  The mailing list is used to announce upcoming work sessions and gleaning opportunities. Typically, we meet Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings from 8 am until 10 am.  In July, we move those hours to 7 am to 9 am to avoid the heat.  We announce gleaning opportunities as they arise.  Events are updated on the website.  Usually, they are posted on Facebook as well.  The website and Facebook are the best resources to track cancellations due to weather or other variables, though we typically send out a notice to the mailing list as well.  It does not happen often.  If you do not want to be on our mailing list, you can follow our progress on Facebook or Instagram.

Due to the ongoing drought, water restrictions are frequently implemented, making it difficult for farmers to reliably access irrigation water for their crops. Fortunately, our gardens rely on wells in the Rio Grande flood plain. However, we recognize the importance of water conservation. As a result, we utilize t-tape to minimize water use. The water distribution covers a 12-18 inch path, providing ample water for the plants without saturating the entire area. This also provides less water to the weeds that would otherwise take over the rows. Additionally, we cover the rows with plastic mulch, which slows evaporation and inhibits weed growth.

Squash BugsPrevent?  Short answer. We don't. We have never prevailed over the squash bugs.  Planting in mid-July allowed us to get significant squash production the first few years, but the vile creatures always emerge and propagate exponentially at some point. As the plants get larger, it is harder to check every leaf on hundreds of squash plants. We have lost all cucurbit crops to squash bugs in the past. 2014 was a total loss in terms of cucumbers, squash and melons. The squash bugs barely let the cucumbers get out of the ground. We tried to plant a batch of zucchini early in 2012, but the squash bugs were so prolific that we pulled the plants, with one person following behind with a propane torch. That was more gratifying than effective. We also tried planting after July 4th. There weren’t as many squash bugs, but they eventually got around to wiping out every plant. Dr. Bonner’s Peppermint Soap mixed with water is a great way to kill the tiny squash bugs. That may be a practical solution for a home garden, but doesn’t work well on a large scale.

One thing that seemed to work well in 2022 was to plant the squash late, i.e. around the 1st of August and once the plants are 12” tall, mist the leaves with water and sprinkle the leaves with horticultural grade diatomaceous earth.

Do not use the diatomaceous earth used in swimming pools.  Pool grade (also called filter grade) diatomaceous earth is treated with very high heat in a process called calcination, which changes the silicon dioxide into crystalline silica.  Pool grade DE is toxic and should only be used in filtration.

In 2022 horticultural grade diatomaceous earth worked long enough for Seed2Need to harvest a abundant crop of squash...but eventually the squash bugs won.

We started using plastic mulch under our tomato plants based on a study conducted by Cornell University. Cornell University found that ultraviolet light generated by the red plastic encouraged plant growth. We tested this in 2012 by planting a row of tomatoes on black plastic next to a row of tomatoes planted on red plastic. Although the red plastic seemed to stimulate plant growth, we found that it also seemed to promote weed growth under the plastic.

Though satisfied with the effectiveness of red plastic mulch, we continued to use black plastic mulch in 2014.

In 2015 we tried two-tone plastic mulch. The underside was black to inhibit weed growth. The top was white to cool the soil and reflect light into the plants. This was intended to promote plant growth and inhibit weed growth.  We found that for tomatoes and green chile, the two-tone plastic mulch seemed to work the best and that is what we continue to use.

Specific colors of plastic mulch are available for other crops. For more information see the following articles:

Carefully. We experimented with a raised bed mulch layer as a precursor to investing in equipment in 2013. We pulled the plastic up by hand at the end of the season. Overall, we were pleased with the results. The mulch suppressed weeds, conserved water, and deterred resident creatures from using the t-tape as their personal water fountain. However, the grooves associated with the raised beds were unnecessary and treacherous to navigate throughout the season. Ultimately, we opted for the flat bed mulch layer, which seems to secure the edges with more dirt than the raised bed attachment. That is handy given the strength of spring winds; however, this makes it more challenging to pull the plastic up at the end of the season. We have found that the only way to keep the plastic from shredding is to carefully loosen the edges prior to rolling it up and removing it. If plastic mulch is ripped up, shreds are embedded in the dirt and they get tilled into the soil.

Row CoverWe cover all rows of tomatoes with a white, light weight fabric called Agribon (brand name) or row cover (generic name) to keep beet leaf hoppers and other insects away from the plants. Beet leaf hoppers are attracted to mustard, which grows wild throughout New Mexico and they carry curly top virus, a disease that can devastate a tomato crop.  Agribon is air and water permeable.  Since we started using it, we have lost very few plants to curly top virus.

Several other local growers have copied our tomato cage design, with similar results. To build the cages, we use 10’ x 20’ sheets of concrete reinforcing wire, cut into two pieces. Each sheet makes two 9' cages. We use these cages for tomatoes as well as for other plants such as cucumbers and pole beans. The beauty of the design, beyond effectiveness, is that they can be stacked, making storage more efficient during the off season. We use 7-8 tomato cages covered with row over per 100’ row.  Depending on the weight of the wire, the cages can be used for many years. We have been using 8-gauge wire. Check the RESOURCE page for instructions to how to build your own tomato cages.

Tomato tent city
Tomato tent city

Seed2Need builds tomato cages out of 8-gauge concrete reinforcing wire. They are sturdy, stackable, and allow for long rows which are covered with Agribon to inhibit pests like beet leafhoppers. The design is based on ease of installation, stability (no t-posts required), wind resistance, storage and the ability to cover long stretches with row cover. It is less expensive to make them in bulk and the apparatus for bending the wire requires more than 1-person so it is handy to have help when building them. Several local growers have copied the design, building their own frame for bending the wire.

We have plenty of tomato cages and they tend to last for a long time so we don’t plan to make additional cages in the foreseeable future. However, detailed instructions are available on the RESOURCES page if you would like to build some for yourself.

Because concrete reinforcing wire is usually sold in 10’ x 20’ sheets, we recommend having it delivered rather than trying to pick it up yourself.  You will also need a pair of heavy duty bolt cutters and a bending frame.

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Familiar Faces at the Garden

Leadership Team

Dave Butler

Media Coordinator

Judy Jacobs

Accounting

Kate Banks

Team Lead

Stacey Haught

Team Lead

James Gardner

Farm Manager

Penny Davis

Founder

Peg Feibig

Volunteer Communications

Sonia Waxler

Team Lead

Stephanie Reese

Team Lead

Brad Haslam

Volunteer Groups

Sandy Davis

Founder

Richard Jacobs

Grant Writer

Cindy Ramotnik

Team Lead

Pat Mehlhop

Team Lead