Last Saturday at the Taos Farm Market I met Jeff Nitz, a farmer who comes to the market from as far away as Abiquiu. I was impressed. As I started talking to him I kept seeing more things to like about him, his produce and his intensity and focus around farming. For instance, notice the miniature hay bales in the photo above. He has a little baler to make those and they do look great in his display.
And yes, this is Jeff himself. In the next booth to the west stands his friend and farming partner, Steve, who farms in Embudo. Together they make up Rio Arriba Farms, the name of their Community Supported Agriculture venture. In exchange for an annual payment they offer weekly produce for 22 weeks of the year (from May 18 – October 12). They even have a nice brochure and the CSA has a website. According to the brochure they both started their respective farms in 2002.
Not sure whose tomatoes these were but I loved all the variety of shapes and colors. I am growing my own so I don’t shop for them at the market. I have described my own “pioneer gardening” efforts in May, when I first arrived, all part of the Taos “new kid” experience. The soil where I decided to put my plants looked sandy and even gravelly to me, so I dug three deep holes in a row (for the 3 plants in 4″ pots) and added lots of amendments and some old compost I had discovered hidden behind some overgrown bushes.
Now they are as high as my shoulders, as I have trained them up a lattice of sticks held together with string. And I am harvesting a few every day. My secret? Each plant is surrounded by a “wall of water.” You can buy these and they come in packs of three. You unfold the tall ring, put it around the plant and fill the channels from the top with water. They stand up on their own, but I always feel better putting a couple of wood stakes in strategic spots. Both early and late in the season this keeps the lower end of the plant nice and cozy and helps it resist freezing or just the stress of a cold night.
Here’s how my plants looked in June. I learned how to “baby” my tomatoes up in Ketchum, Idaho, where the growing conditions are even more touchy for tomatoes, unless you have a greenhouse, of course. Still, people like me will try it every year. The last year I was there I did a big harvest of green tomatoes at the end of the season and enjoyed them ripening for many weeks. And they tasted pretty good. Still, we all know a vine-ripened tomato is one of life’s supreme pleasures.
With her parent’s permission I took this photo of this young girl leaning against a melon trailer on the outskirts of the market. It looked like her parents had been playing music just before I arrived. Dad was packing up what looked like a violin. Sorry I missed that.