Arid Harvests

This body of work began in 2010 and chronicles Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a region better known for its radioactivity than its food production. When visitors come from out of state they invariably mention how brown it is here. The climate is high desert; we’re in the northern reaches of the Chihuahuan Desert and average 8.91 inches of rain a year. Most population centers sprung up around rivers, especially the Rio Grande. Because of the limited water, it would seem impossible to grow much food locally, and the vast majority of food in the grocery store comes from a vague “somewhere else.” For the last 50 years this has been an acceptable solution to feeding the city.

But the hidden costs of food that comes from “somewhere else” are becoming hard to ignore. Fertilizer runoff is causing destructive algae blooms in the Gulf of Mexico. High-density feedlots are responsible for e-coli outbreaks. Undocumented workers cross the border to toil for substandard wages. Moving refrigerated food around the globe consumes millions of barrels of oil a day.

All this unsettles me, and I’ve wondered about alternative ways of getting food, ways that will lessen my footprint on the world. My exploration led me to the CSAs in Albuquerque. It’s a thriving community; from the multi-acre farms to the multiple grower’s markets, there is a lot of sustainable farming in the desert. People buy memberships with the CSA, and in return they receive fresh produce. Buying locally removes most of the problems of industrial food production. It’s not neutral by any means, but it’s a great improvement over the practices of the last 50 years.

I’ve been visiting the CSAs around town, recording how they produce the food offered to their members. From fallow fields to lushly saturate vegetable stands, community-based farming and the implications of taking sustenance from the native ecosystem fascinates me. It’s a simple step, with big implications for our future.

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