Notes From the Road: Organic Farming in La Cienega

Community News

The Green Tractor Farm in Lower La Cienega is under new ownership, but the apple hasn’t fallen too far from the tree. In 2000 Tom and Mary Dixon left their successful construction business behind and started Green Tractor Farm on five acres of land that Tom grew up on. The farm is named for a 1938 John Deer Tractor, which still works and is used to cultivate their garlic crop.

Green Tractor Farm is certified organic. Tom and Mary used drip irrigation for all but their grape vines (which they flood-irrigate in the traditional New Mexico style). The El Guicu Ditch, which has been in operation for three centuries, provides water for their farm. The acequia water is collected in several catchment tanks then the water is used to drip-irrigate their crops. They also have bees and cover crop for most of their fields in winter. The grapes are for homemade wine.

In 2013 Green Tractor Farm received the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market Institute “Farmer All Star” award for their contributions to the highly successful Farmer’s Market. A few years ago, Green Tractor was recognized by the Santa Fe Pojoaque Soil and Water Conservation District for managing their farm to maximize the land’s productive capacity. It was a well-deserved award.

After 16 years of the farming life Tom and Mary have decided to sell the Green Tractor Farm operation to their son-in-law Ned Conwell and their daughter Rachel. Ned and Rachel had been very active and involved in the organic farming business when they lived in the San Francisco area but moved here because they prefer the rural nature of farming in La Cienega. In addition to Green Tractor Farm, Ned and Rachel have explored the possibility of expanding their agricultural operation by leasing other farm land in La Cienega.

Facilities Update

The rumor is out on a renovation/remodeling of the Moonhouse to improve its service as place to kick back, experience a fine wine, a local brew, or a cappuccino with a sandwich. The Moonhouse will have a new role in its Sunrise life as a place for guests to go between the hours of the Blue Heron or if they are in the mood for simpler fare. The renovation will include a redoing of the fireplace, creating a food/coffee preparation area, and adding small two- and four-top tables for our guests.

Connections to Community

I am entering my 11th year as president of the La Cienega Valley Association (LCVA). The LCVA was established in 1995 as a community organization committed to protecting and preserving our community’s acequia culture and agricultural traditions—the foundation and lifeblood of our community. Recently the LCVA has responded to two major proposals that could impact our community. The first is the Game and Fish Department’s proposed 470-acre shooting facility in La Cieneguilla. The LCVA does not oppose the shooting range, we simply oppose the location on BLM land, in the middle of their 13,000-acre Area of Critical Environmental Concern. The other proposal is the Pueblo of Pojoaque’s application to have the 328-acre Santa Fe Downs property become “trust land.” This designation allows the Pueblo more freedom in planning the development of the property and removes them from having to pay property taxes. In its written appeal to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the LCVA expressed our interest in ensuring that any development on The Downs property be connected to the Santa Fe County water and wastewater systems.

Guest Comments:

This week Sunrise hosted eight guests/staff members of El Rancho de las Golondrinas. It was our recognition for their providing over 300 free passes to the museum for our employees and guests last year. The group was genuinely and sincerely impressed by the facility, the grounds, the programs and puppies, and with their medicine wheel experience. The comment we heard most often was the appreciation that Sunrise was finally realizing its potential.

I want to acknowledge three employees at Golondrinas who have “watched” Sunrise Springs over the years. Julia Anna Lopez who up until a couple years ago lived at Golondrinas for 35 years; Mike King who has worked for the museum for over ten years; and Sean Paloheimo who was born there. Sean’s great grandmother bought the property in the 1930s and his grandmother created the living museum in 1972. I have known Sean, Julia Anna, and Mike for a long time and to hear their compliments was something special.

Carl Dickens

Carl Dickens, Human Resources Coordinator
Carl Dickens grew up in New Mexico, his parents having met and fallen in love here. After a brief stint in Alaska, the family returned to the warmth and light of the high desert. Carl was raised in the farming community of Los Ranchos, in the North Valley of Albuquerque, among alfalfa fields and arroyos. He began working at Sunrise Springs in 1984, the same year he and his young family moved to the valley. Carl remained at Sunrise Springs for five years, returning again in September of 2012. Carl is active in the local community and is passionate about the history of the area, preserving its agricultural traditions and water conservation.