Student Post: Spring Break in New Mexico, North

24 Mar 2016 Student Post: Spring Break in New Mexico, North


Author: Vivian Zhong, Class of 2019

Originally posted at ·


While the Terrascopers went north

(The title is a Lord of the Rings reference and I will be sorely disappointed if no one gets it.)

Part One: Contentious Issues

The Terrascopers noted many contrasting opinions among farmers as they travelled from Las Cruces to Santa Fe. A few are outlined below (expect to see something on GMOs in the future).

Organic vs Non-organic farming

For: Organic farmers have expressed a variety of reasons for deciding to go this route. One common reason was to go back to the roots of sustainable farming, without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, without GMOs, and generally with human labor. Another reason we heard was that organic produce sells for more on the market, which benefits farms that are located close to urban centers where there are more consumers with the incentive and financial ability to purchase organic foods. Finally, we also heard the claim that organic food tastes better. In general, organic farmers are smallholder farmers.

Against: Many farms, big and small, attributed to their non-organic status to the bureaucratic and legal barriers of too much paperwork, which makes it not worth the hassle. One farmer told us of an organic farm that tried to grow alfalfa, and ended up with half the harvest being weeds, which renders them unsellable in certain regions where feeding livestock weed-containing hay is prohibited. An interesting point is that a farmer can be pesticide-free without being organic. For research labs, needing to stick to organic foods poses a limit on the experimental crops that they can grow. We also had a conventional farmer claim that organic food was not as tasty as conventionally grown food.

Drip vs flood irrigation

For drip: Farmers have said that drip irrigation saves water by delivering water directly to the plants, and can be easily controlled and even automated. In water-scarce New Mexico, this is key.

For flood: Acequia* farmers in northern Mexico that we spoke to find that drip irrigation, which requires easily damaged plastic drip tubing, is unsustainable, and would rather use the “natural” acequia cycle for flood irrigation. On a different note, pecan farmers have to use flood irrigation to satisfy the water-thirsty pecan trees, which many other farmers have criticized as deeply wasteful.


Los Alamos National Lab

For: Many New Mexicans, farmers included, say this nuclear research facility, the site of the original nuclear bomb testing, provides a lot of much-needed jobs. We spoke to a worker at Kakawa Chocolate House in Santa Fe that spoke of it in fairly glowing terms, noting the science programs it sponsors for students. He was quite firm that whatever water contamination may have previously occurred has been cleaned up, citing his father-in-law researcher who works there.

Against: An acequia farmer who was something of an activist again Los Alamos says that the lab and its science programs are luring young people away from farming and their community into doing well-paying, but unskilled and dangerous labor. A Pueblo elder spoke of contaminated water still afflicting another Pueblo tribe.

As a heads up, the Radio people will be doing their final project on contrasts such as these, so if you’re interested, watch out for that!

Part Two: Through Another’s Eyes

On a surprisingly less-windy-than-usual day in March, Solovino went with his master to visit one of her farms.

It wasn’t the time that she would usually go to check up on the planting, and as far as Solovino could tell, the sole purpose of her visit was to bark to a pack of strangely-clothed humans for a long time. A very, very long time.

Solovino followed them around for a while, reveling in the new humans’ delight at playing with him. They passed from the garden under the white roof, which was mysteriously hot and where the plants were strangely tall for the season, to the fields where black strips of inedible material lined the rows. Solovino thought he detected a tone of discontentment in his master’s voice when she spoke next to that field – it certainly wouldn’t have been the first time.


For nearly the entire time, one of the visitors held a black stick (rather threateningly, Solovino thought) very close to his master’s face. But his master didn’t seem to mind, so Solovino thought nothing more of it.

Inevitably they came to The Ditch. This Ditch was very important to his master and to the farm. Solovino knew this because that was where the water flowed in certain seasons, and his master was perpetually concerned with water. Every so often his master would bring other farmers and together they would clear dead leaves and debris from The Ditch, and have a jolly time doing it.

Solovino saw the strange humans again that afternoon, when his master met up with the Important Man who lived in a small village on the plains. Here, again, came much human talk, though now it was the important man who did the barking.

Solovino watched him for a while. The Man had a gentle but strong voice, as far as Solovino could judge. He made many gestures to the sky, to the ground, to the land and the air all around. His master and the other humans stood in rapt attention; Solovino marveled that they could stand still for so long with the blazing sun burning down on their soft skin.

From the road Solovino could see far out onto the plains below, till the mountains rose up in the distance. The wind, as always, blew dust into his fur, but he welcomed the breezy reprieve. The short golden grass rustled softly around his legs; the wind, blowing from the mountains and the endless plains, smelled less of humans and cattle, and more of the wild. If not for the presence of his master, Solovino would have gladly sprinted out into the welcoming fields, and flown across the land as if on the wings of a hawk.

He felt intimately then how small all life was under the dome of the sky, and felt the pull of his love for his master; he realized too his affection for the strangers and their friendliness, though he had known them for so little. There was space enough, Solovino decided, for them to share the earth in harmony – even if the humans did like to bark for a very long time to say what all dogs already knew.

The above consists of the author’s conjectures and creative interpretation. The author does not purport to represent Solovino’s true thoughts, or indeed the thoughts of any dog.