REDUCING HUNGER IN NEW MEXICO ONE GARDEN AT A TIME

Faq

FAQ

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.

Seed2Need sign in sheet

FAQ | SEED2NEED

Why are you doing this?

There are lots of good reasons, from providing a necessary service to the community to the personal fulfillment associated with doing something fun that makes a difference. Distilled to the top 5 reasons: 1. Helping others and having a positive impact on your community. 2. Meeting like minded individuals who care about the world they live in and are willing to sweat to make a difference. 3. Gardening provides physical activity. 4. Recent studies indicate that digging in the dirt builds your immune system and that it is good for your emotional well being. 5. It's a good excuse to be outside rather than cleaning your house on a Saturday morning.

How did you get started?

Start small. The entire process is a learning curve. We have detailed instructions available on the Get to Know Us Page. We started with a small garden in a neighbor's horse corral. The alliance with the Sandoval County Master Gardeners allowed us to expand. Partnerships with various church groups, community groups, etc. have also allowed us to expand. As a project dependent on labor, it is always the volunteer turnout that determines how much we can handle. Funding is fairly easy to procure. It isn't hard to convince people that alleviating food insecurity is a good cause. If you have questions or need to know more, please email Seed2Need@gmail.com

Who does Seed2Need serve?

Currently we are serving 17 food pantries and soup kitchens in Albuquerque, Rio Rancho, Corrales, Bernalillo and Placitas. Many of the smaller pantries send volunteers to help with the harvest, taking what they need for their patrons. This allows us to get produce to the pantries fresh, often distributing within hours of harvest. The larger pantries typically send trucks to the gardens to pick up produce. We meet three times a week throughout the season, scheduling pantries on a rotating schedule based on size and when they are open. When the gardens hit peak harvest we call in Roadrunner Food Bank. They send a truck to collect overflow and distribute it to other pantries throughout the state.

How much does it cost to do the gardens?

The recurring costs associated with the gardens is approximately $5000/acre, though our costs are frequently higher when we invest in equipment and infrastructure, e.g. tomato cages, additional gardening tools, on site shed, greenhouse, and mulch layer). Our recurring administrative costs include a farm manager, liability insurance, and the cost of the porta potty. Otherwise, our endeavor is based on 100% volunteer effort. The farm manager position was added in 2018 to provide supervision for volunteer work sessions, ongoing maintenance, and weeding, which has been difficult to keep up with fluctuation due to unpredictable volunteer turnout.

Who funds Seed2Need?

Initially, Rio Grande Food Project served as our fiscal sponsor in 2010 and 2011. However, we became a 501(c)(3) in April, 2012, which allowed us to start applying for grants. Making that transition involved a learning curve. Fortunately, we have been fortunate in securing grants and enthusiastically supported by the community. Our seasonal funding is derived from a combination of grants, private party donations, and local business contributions. We received a $10,000 grant from the PNM Foundation, as well as a grant from Keep New Mexico Beautiful to plant an orchard in 2013. We received a $10,000 grant from Seeds of Change in 2014. For more information about our current funding, please see the resources page.

What does Seed2Need grow?

We take local tastes and nutritional value into consideration. This is New Mexico. Green chile is local manna. Additionally, we focus on vegetables that generate ongoing, heavy yield. We have tried many varieties recommended by New Mexico State University over the last several years, evolving and adapting over time. Initially, we focused on tomatoes, green beans, zucchini, yellow squash, cucumbers and eggplant. However, we quickly discovered that heirloom tomatoes were not suitable for a variety of reasons. They don't transport well. Though they are beautiful, they are fragile and turn into tomato sauce when stacked. We learned a lot about local tastes and what is feasible. For example, food pantry patrons are not enthusiastic about eggplant, green beans are appreciated by the food pantries, but our volunteers are not excited about picking them. Green beans are labor intensive, they grow faster than you can pick them, and the dirt in New Mexico will inflict second degree burns on your knees in July. On the other end of the spectrum, everyone loves watermelons, including the kids that come out to help at the gardens and, as you might expect, there is no such thing as enough green chile in the state of New Mexico.

Is Seed2Need 100% organic?

We do use organic methods as frequently as possible. Many of the solutions developed over the last several years have proven very effective. For example, BT for hornworms, gypsum for blossom end rot, and physically jumping up and down on squash bugs. Ideally, we would love to be entirely organic; however, our objective is to maximize our harvest so that we can serve as many families facing food insecurity as possible. We have limited resources in terms of labor due to the reliance on dedicated volunteers rather than staff. When we exhaust all organic options, we consider alternatives that are not organic. However, we have been fortunate to find effective organic solutions. With water coming from so close to the Rio Grande, and the unavoidable fire retardants, chemicals and contaminants in the water supply, it doesn't seem feasible to pursue an entirely organic model. Additionally, we do soil testing every year and fertilize with compounds based on the results. Our seed is NOT GMO; however, many varieties are hybrids or heirloom. There is a difference. The hybrids have been bred for productivity or to resist diseases and pests. The genes are not altered through external means. We try to source suppliers that are not affiliated with Monsanto, though that is becoming more challenging as Monsanto is quietly buying many of the smaller seed suppliers. Essentially, we do what we can, and recognize that there is always room for improvement.

Most daunting challenge?

Mother Nature presents a variety of challenges every year, in the form of drought, warmer temperatures, plant disease, pests and endless weeds, but the biggest challenge has been having enough volunteers to keep up with the work that needs to be done weekly. Like housework, weeding and garden maintenance seem like futile endeavors. It is a task that doesn’t come off the list. Yet, it is critical to a successful garden. Volunteers are the lifeblood of Seed2Need. If you would like to volunteer, please email Seed2Need@gmail.com to be added to the mailing list or check out the calendar for work sessions. There is a contact form and list of upcoming events on the sidebar to the right. If you are part of a community service group, church, group, scout group or school group, please email to schedule a time for your group. We can always use more hands!

Do you need more land?

We are limited by our volunteer participation, time, and equipment. Volunteer turnout fluctuates dramatically. We planted two acres in 2013. We added a ½-acre orchard around the greenhouse in the fall of 2013 and spring of 2014. In 2015 we expanded to another property on Manierre Road. Staying consolidated makes it easier to get farm equipment and volunteers to multiple locations during each work session. This becomes critical when we start harvesting to avoid neglecting smaller gardens.

When can you come pick my tree?

We are available to glean fruit from local orchards when time and volunteer availability allows. We can’t get to every orchard offered due to limited volunteer availability and equipment. The apples ripen simultaneously all over Corrales. Additionally, many of our 'core' volunteers are senior citizens, which makes ladders are a perilous prospect in terms of potential injury. However, we have received additional assistance from local Boy Scouts troops and Eagle Scouts since 2015. Ultimately, our goal is to help other groups, like the Boy Scouts, coordinate the gleaning separately from the gardens so we can accept more of the fruit donations offered, while we focus on the gardens. If you would like to donate fruit from your trees, please contact us at Seed2Need@gmail.com and we will try to help. We need a minimum of 2-weeks to arrange for volunteers and equipment, particularly as the gardens hit peak harvest in August and September. Everything we harvest and glean is donated to local food pantries and soup kitchens. For large orchards, please allow additional time, because we need to coordinate with Roadrunner Food Bank to pick up.

I'd like to help. How do I volunteer?

You can sign up for the mailing list, which is on the sidebar to the right. We do not send junk mail or give our mailing list information 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. As of July 1, we meet 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 doesn’t happen often. If you don’t want to be on the mailing list, you can follow our progress on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

crates of produce

FAQ | GARDEN

What is the source of water?

Due to the ongoing drought, water restrictions are frequently implemented, making it difficult for farmers to reliably access 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.

How do you prevent squash bugs?

Prevent? Short answer. We don't. We have never prevailed over the squash bug hordes. Planting in mid-July allowed us to get significant squash production the first few years, but the vile little 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 or 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, tilled the rows to stir up the soil, with one person following behind with a propane torch. That was more gratifying than effective. It scared the neighbors more than the squash bugs. We 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’s a practical solution for a home garden, but doesn’t work well on a large scale. We have also tried growing susceptible crops under hoops covered in Agribon. That worked well, but it is more pragmatic for a garden than for a farm.

Does the color of plastic mulch matter?

We tried this method based on a study done at Cornell University. The ultraviolet light generated by the red plastic encourages plant growth. In 2012 we planted tomatoes on black plastic and red plastic (see photo). The tomatoes in the photo were the same variety, planted on the same day, in adjoining rows. Whereas the red plastic works well for tomatoes, we realized in 2013 that it was less than ideal for green chile, because it also seems to promote weed growth under the plastic. Though satisfied with the red plastic mulch's effectiveness, we resumed using black plastic mulch in 2014. In 2015 we decided to try two tone mulch. The underside is black to inhibit weed growth. The top is white to reflect light, keeping the soil slightly cooler and reflecting additional light for the plants. This, too, is intended to promote plant growth while inhibiting weeds. It is an ongoing experiment. See our links section for more information about the studies regarding different colors of plastic mulch and the impact on plant and weed growth, as well as additional tips and tidbits from various extension offices and agricultural schools.

How do you remove the plastic mulch?

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 pleased with the results. The mulch suppressed weeds, conserved water, and deterred resident creatures and critters 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, which gets tilled in to the soiled. Not good.

Why cover the tomatoes with white tents?

We cover the rows of tomatoes to keep beet leaf hoppers off the plants. Beet leaf hoppers are attracted to mustard, which grows wild throughout New Mexico. They carry curly top virus, which regularly devastates tomato crops. Tomatoes are consistently our top crop, in terms of weight. Agribon is a light fabric used to cover crops. It is air, water, and pollen permeable. Since implementing tomato cages covered in Agribon, we have lost very few plants to curly top virus. Even the plants that we lose throughout the remainder of the season produce fruit prior to dying. Several local growers have copied the design, with similar results. To build the cages, we use concrete reinforcing wire, cut into two pieces. Each sheet makes two 9' cages. I use them in my home garden for tomatoes and climbing plants, like cucumbers and pole beans. The beauty of the design, beyond effectiveness, is that they can be stacked, making storage during off season more space efficient. We use 8-9 per row, allowing us to cover 90-100' rows with row cover. Depending on the weight of the wire, the cages can be used for many years. We have been using 8-gauge wire and have replaced very few cages over the last six years. Check the RESOURCE page for instructions to build your own.

Where can I buy the tomato cages?

We build 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. 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 cohorts. Several local growers have copied the design, building their own frame for bending the wire. We don’t plan to make additional cages in the foreseeable future, because these last for a long time. However, there are detailed instructions available on the RESOURCES page if you would like to build some.

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