Connecting Farm and Food

“We have a good life here and we want everyone to have the same."

Community-Supported Ag

Connecting Farm and Food

“We have a good life here and we want everyone to have the same."

By David Jones

Don Bustos counts himself “luckier than dirt.” The statement’s meaning is a bit muddy, but once Bustos’ regard for the land, soil, and water that’s supported his family for centuries is known, it’s clear being luckier than dirt is pretty darn good.

And Bustos wants everyone else in his community to be just as fortunate as he considers himself.

Bustos’ history and culture—and that of most of the community surrounding him—is richly agrarian. Land, water, seed, and sun are precious.

The Santa Cruz, New Mexico, farmer can track his heritage on the acres he farms back more than 400 years. But he sees the area’s population drifting away from its agricultural roots. And the loss of knowledge and connection is being felt.

This is especially worrisome when it comes to precious and scarce water in the region. Allotting water rights to cities or for use by large companies—a very real risk for Bustos and other area farmers ranging from subsistence to commercial growers—could decimate an already struggling ag community.

“People need to be aware of where their food comes from, how it provides a community with security, and how valuable of a role water plays. Voters are making decisions that will effect where their food comes from now and in the future,” he says.

His solution is to get more people back into farming, help make those who are farming be more successful, and educate the young in his community about food and food production.

The overreaching goal is not to be more profitable or secure himself, but to better his community as a whole and preserve tradition and heritage. “We are a people of the land,” he says of his Spanish, Native American and European roots that blend into the distinctive New Mexican culture. “Where we live, everyone shares what there is.”

Don Bustos trains new farmers, creates small farm opportunities and links kids to ag to build a farm-connected community.

The youth are a primary target for Bustos. He was at the front of the push to get locally grown food into schools. He lobbied the cause and was one of the first farms to provide local salad greens to the school district.

“To me it’s about creating a healthy community and providing good healthy food for our kids,” he says. As part of the effort, he would visit schools to do presentations on farming, beneficial insects, and the importance of water.
A poster with his picture hung in every cafeteria and all the kids knew him. “I ought to run for office now that they can all vote,” Bustos laughs.

They may not be voting for Bustos, but he hopes when water issues hit the ballots they remember his lessons.

Learning extends to adults, too. Bustos helped create the Bernalillo County Farmer Training Program to provide farmer-to-farmer training for those wanting to make a living at the trade. Joseluis Ortiz was one of the first farmers trained.

He had some ag background, but opportunity was slim and his life was derailed by addiction. The farmer training gave him purpose and a new direction. He did a one-year training program with Bustos, learning about drip irrigation, greenhouse production, and building stability through year-round production.

“We learned to grow more than 70 varieties of fruits and vegetables. It really changed my views on what it meant to be from an ag community,” Ortiz says. “It wasn’t only about farming. Don taught us about the related social struggles of our area, water rights, and so much more.”

Ortiz now runs his own farm, a learning farm, a CSA program, a certified organic processing center, and more. This is exactly the result Bustos hopes will keep his community, and the farmers who live there, thriving.

“We have a good life here and we want everyone to have the same,” Bustos says.

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