Tom supervises Mara's shovel technique - raised bed kitchen garden at 100 Estrella restaurant
Holiday farmers market on the Plaza
Time to start planting your winter greens!
Solar powered pump at Deep Dirt Farm in Patagonia, AZ
Click here to read Nina's latest message From Coyote Gardens
Summer News Update
Well, it's been quite a summer for us at the Center! The chickens in the Courtyard are starting to produce eggs, we planted an experimental dryland field near the Roping Arena, and appeared on television as part of a feature on the Ajo Regional Food Partnership on Arizona Illustrated, a show on Tucson's PBS TV affiliate, Arizona Public Media. The first show, which aired on July 3rd and featured Gayle and Don Weyers, Fran Driver and a studio interview with Nina Altshul and Don Luria of the Community Foundation of Southern Arizona can be accessed here, and the second show, which aired a week later and featured Betsy Wirt, Peter Altshul, Adrian Vega and a studio interview with Aaron Cooper, can be accessed here. Click here for a related article on Ajo's gardening efforts.
On July 12, Peter, Nina, Adrian, Pilar Hanson and Bobby Narcho joined a large group from Tucson and Nogales on a tour of three amazing farms in southeastern Arizona, organized by Kelly Watters of Somos la Semilla. You can read Peter's article on the tour here, and see our facebook page for some photos!
The soil in the north end of the Courtyard has been broadforked and mixed (with help from the GGGG crew) and is already visibly more productive, with tepary beans, watermelons and squash already germinating, and the south end of the Courtyard is really kicking into gear, putting out a ton of squash, beans, okra, watermelons etc. Our summer CSA season is over, but we're still holding farmers markets every Second Saturday on the Ajo Plaza.
Freshly harvested heriloom tomatoes from Dolce Vita Garden (click to enlarge)
Chicken Coop Completed!
On May 11th we held a celebration on the completion of the new large chicken coop in the Curley School Courtyard, just behind the pomegranate orchard on the north side. A lot of hard work and cooperation over the past few weeks has given 30 chicks their dream home in Ajo! At over 1000 square feet, the space is designed so that the chickens, while busy producing yummy organic eggs, will at the same time be turning the native soil into highly productive loamy garden soil. The chicks are a variety of different breeds (we'll have an update on which breeds soon) which will produce a rainbow of different-colored eggs, from chocolate brown to blue! The chickens should begin laying early this fall. We can't wait!
Thanks to all of the volunteers who put so much time into making the coop a reality: Mother Hen Betsy Wirt, Peter Holm, Adrian Vega, Teri Ryan, Peter Altshul, Abby and Eric Williams, Antonio Rojo, Bobby Narcho, Mara Branson, Roger and Janet Dexter, Sylvia Tatman-Burruss, and special thanks to Nina Altshul who fed the volunteers home-cooked meals at every single session!
The new coop in all its glory
A few of our baby dinosaurs - more chick pics to come!
Coyote Gardens launches another first!
On Tuesday, February 12th, Nina and Peter delivered 10 lbs. of fresh spring mix to 100 Estrella Restaurant for their salads, marking the first time in Ajo's history that a local restaurant has been supplied by a local grower. Ajo CSA's pilot farm-to-restaurant program will continue through the rest of the winter season depending on availability, but as always, Coyote Gardens CSA members get preferential treatment when it comes to enjoying the fruits of our harvest!
Nina and Peter deliver Ajo's first-ever farm-to-restaurant shipment - a week's supply of fresh salad greens to 100 Estrella Restaurant
The Ajo winter season is in full swing and Ajo CSA has had a lot going on. Here is an update of the past few weeks:
The Canning Workshop on January 26th was a great success. Regina Browne demonstrated pickling techniques, Gayle Weyers showed how to make jams and preserves, and Nina Altshul demonstrated lacto-fermentation (sauerkraut). All of the participants went home saying "Yes I Can can!"
The Water Harvesting Workshop was postponed again, but several people in Ajo have expressed interest in learning rainwater harvesting techniques, so we will be holding a workshop on this topic soon. Watch this space!
The Courtyard Garden was invaded by javelina(s) on February 1. The next day we saw a huge outpouring of support and many volunteers came to the garden to secure the fence and help with the replanting. Thanks so much to all of you! To read more about it see our Gardeners' Forum.
Garden Events Galore
We have had several fantastic community events in our gardens recently!
On December 22 we hosted a Holiday Garden Giveaway at the Dolce Vita Garden, where CSA members and friends were able to pick their own vegetables in the flourishing garden! Everyone had a great time picking bouquets of braising greens, kale and beets. If the gardens look this good every December, we are hoping to make it an annual event!
On January 5 we were back at Dolce Vita Garden for a workshop where we set up pea netting and a propagation bed/mini greenhouse, and harvested gorgeous beets and Hakurei turnips for the shares.
We enjoyed a wonderful turnout for our January 19th volunteer workshop at the Ajo Community Farm at the Curley School. A total of 22 volunteers pitched in on planting peas and potatoes, installing irrigation lines, chicken coop design etc. We also had an amazing potluck with Nina's chili, mini pizzas from Mara's restaurant, corn bread, muffins and even some champagne for Peter's 50th birthday! Our thanks to all of the volunteers who donated their time to make the day a success. Click on the thumbnails below for highlights.
Putting in pea netting at Dolce
A big day at the Community Farm
Carolyn signs as the new beds are planted
Let it grow!
January is a great time to get work done in Ajo!
Potatoes! - Christine communes with her Idaho roots
Some controversy has appeared in Ajo over the issue of raising chickens and especially roosters. We have compiled a wide range of information on the topic, which can be accessed on our new Chickens page.
An integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will over the long term:
Satisfy human food and fiber needs
Enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agriculture economy depends
Make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls
Sustain the economic viability of farm operations
Enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole
-- U.S. Code Title 7, Section 3103
New Feature - Gardeners' Forum
See our new Gardeners' Forum page for info from Ajo gardeners and updates from garden installations, as well as a weekly column called The Kitchen Garden by Gayle Weyers of Loma Bonita Garden
Gardening 101 Workshop
Ajo CSA held a workshop on Saturday, October 20, with an excellent turn-out considering that it was Red and White (Homecoming) weekend in Ajo! Peter gave an overview of soil preparation and site design basics, and Nina followed with a talk about composting and plant consciousness. We enjoyed a delicious O'odham yellow watermelon from the San Xavier Co-op Farm (we have some at Dolce but none were ripe for the workshop!), and once again thanks to the GGGG youth program for all their help.
Fall Gardening Festival promotes gardening, community
The Ajo Center for Sustainable Agriculture’s Fall Gardening Festival was held in the Curley School Courtyard on October 6. Over 50 people attended the event, which also featured a healthy potluck and a set by the newly formed Ajo Jazz Orchestra. More than $1,000 worth of compost, seeds and seedlings were distributed, which will all be used to grow vegetables in gardens in Ajo and Why. Ajo CSA’s Backyard Garden Program is entering its third year, and has assisted in the installation or renovation of more than 30 gardens, with several more currently being installed. Thanks to everyone who came, and in particular thanks to Sylvia Tatman-Buruss and the crew from Get Going Get Growing who were invaluable in helping us pull it all off. Click on the thumbnails below to enlarge.
Happy Gardening everyone!
GGGG youth helped us distribute seeds, seedlings and compost
That smile says it all!
Dancing in the Courtyard
Border Food Summit
Sylvia Tatman-Burruss of ISDA and Peter Altshul of Ajo CSA recently attended the Border Food Summit, held by the Southwest Marketing Network, which was founded in 2002 in order to increase regional marketing expertise and opportunities for small-scale, alternative and minority farmers and ranchers in the Four Corners states.
The conference was held in the beautiful Esplendor Resort in Rio Rico, near Nogales, AZ. Sunday featured three separate tours: Tucson’s Local Food System, Traditional Foods of the Sonoran Desert, and Rural Farms and Ranches in the Borderlands. Monday morning began with a short film which offered the little-known fact that over sixty percent of the fresh fruit and vegetables sold in the United States in the winter and spring is grown in Mexico. This was followed by an ecumenical blessing and then the keynote speech by Ricardo Salvador, senior scientist and director of the Food & Environment program at Union of Concerned Scientists. Dr. Salvador kept the crowd of 200 enthralled with his presentation. He explained the origins of the present food system (did you know that the USDA was founded in 1862 by Abraham Lincoln?) and described how all US food policy since the 1920s was designed to keep boom and bust cycles in check, which has unintentionally led to numerous negative impacts on the population and the food supply. He also proposed a potential solution of networks of small producers centered around “food hubs”, based on the organizational structure of the internet.
The conference then split into breakout sessions divided into four tracks: support for small farmers, community building, place-based approaches, and new collaborations in food and farming. In the evening a group from the Texas panhandle played songs about cowboy life and farming in the Southwest. On Tuesday morning there was another session which featured informal presentations and sharing of experiences, followed by a priorities and next steps session at which all of the tracks were tied together.
The food for the conference was provided by local organic farms in Arizona and New Mexico, and was noticeably different from the usual fare provided at such events. Another feature of the conference was “pitch to your peers”, where local food producers presented their operations and sought investments for their expansion plans. This tended to make mealtime conversation difficult, but we did learn a lot about the local farming scene!
This week's planned harvest:
Saturday, July 20: Mesquite Pancake Breakfast and Workshop, 9 am at the Community Farm in the Courtyard Enjoy some mesquite pancakes and learn how to use this tasty and nutritious desert resource!
Saturday, August 10: Second Saturday Farmers Market, 9-11 am in the Ajo Plaza
Recipe of the Week
"Zuccamole" aka Summer Squash Guacamole
(Adapted from "Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini: the Essential Reference" by Elizabeth Schneider)
Ingredients: 3 pounds summer squash Approximately 1/2 head garlic 1 large onion (use a sweet variety like Vidalia or Walla Walla) 1 teaspoon coarse salt 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1/4 cup 1/2 cup basil and/or mint leaves 1/2 cup parsley, stemmed 2 tablespoons lemon juice salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375°F. Slice zucchini in half, lengthwise. Separate garlic cloves but keep skins on. Quarter the onion. Place vegetables in roasting pan and slather with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the teaspoon of salt. Roast until extremely tender, at least 1 hour and up to 90 minutes. While vegetables are roasting, prepare herbs; pull leaves off stems and tear or chop coarsely. Let vegetables cool slightly and squeeze garlic from skins. Place all vegetables into bowl of food processor and pulse. Add herbs. Puree until smooth and combined. Add lemon juice and salt. Drizzle in remaining olive oil. Taste for seasonings and adjust accordingly. Chill and serve with crackers, pita crisps, crudites or use as a sandwich spread. Makes about 1 quart.