Sandoval Signpost
An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988

Ari LeVaux and his little son Louie harvest winter squash at Little Cottonwood Farm

Harvest time for Placitas group at Little Cottonwood Farm

—Michael Crowfoot, Vickie Peck, Ari LeVaux, Lynn Montgomery, Suzanne Maxwell, Bianca Harle, and Tony Hull

In late winter, several Placitas residents gathered together to consider an offer by a progressive Algodones land owner: to let Placitas residents farm a 1.7 acre field that would otherwise not be used this year. The field came with sufficient water to raise crops and sprinklers in place. This looked like an ideal opportunity to learn about producing food at more than the victory garden level. Seven of us decided to go forward with the project, mostly as a learning experience. Fortunately several in our group had farm experience, and other knowledgeable folks offered advice.

Even into the twenty Century, people from Placitas would move down to the Valley when the water gave out. They would help with the crops in the Pueblos and towns and grow some of their own. The resulting relationships are now almost gone, but it is hoped that they will start up again. Little Cottonwood is a small step towards restoring the cooperation between communities that many of us believe is going to be essential in the future.

We started with oats as green manure then used most of the area for Beans, Squash, and Corn, both sweet and blue. We decided to use traditional methods where possible, using no chemical fertilizer or pesticides. A local tractor person was retained several times to turn green manure in and broadcast seed. A troybilt rototiller named Sophia spent many hours turning in weeds and compost and cutting rows. Research was done to select seeds that are known to grow well here in our weather and soil conditions and much of our seed was obtained locally or from our own gardens. We also grew many varieties of tomatoes, uncommonly good Noir d’Carme melons you would not find in a store, chiles, San Felipe sugar cane, sunflowers, amaranth, and many other things. In addition to the sprinklers, we installed a drip system on one end of the field. We all soon learned that lots of time and work was involved, but more than that, we recognized a joy in working the soil and learning how to do things together. There were problems, but they seemed to yield to persistence and the very act of working together. We also enjoyed the frequent visits from the Farm’s neighbors and their interest in this project.

We are in the midst of harvest—a harvest of food as well as lessons learned. One lesson was that weeding techniques for a kitchen garden are insufficient on the farm scale, and even seven people working hard is not sufficient to keep the weeds under control using conventional methods. We obtained some very aggressive weeding tools from a farm store that helped turn the corner in the battle with weeds.

Some of you may have seen us at the Bernalillo Farmer’s Market, where we featured the Noir d’Carme melons at peak season. In mid-October, we started to harvest our premium buttercup winter squash, and now estimate Little Cottonwood will yield over 1,000 premium squash. We are fortunate that one of us has a large root cellar for storage, and we expect to share some of this bounty. We are also planning for winter crops, which may include oats, peas, garlic, and winter wheat. There is discussion of expanding into year-round microgreens production too.

If anyone has a good winter squash recipe, please let us know. For more information about  Little Cottonwood Farm, contact Tony Hull at


Sandoval County Cooperative Extension Service rep teaches locals how to “put up” plum jam.

Jammin’ in the kitchen

— Cosmos Dohner

On a cool October autumn morning, a handful of us eager learners gathered in the warm sparkling kitchen of Las Placitas Presbyterian Church to rev the flames of four out of six burners and start canning.

Nicole Lujan, Home Economist from our Sandoval County Cooperative Extension Service, had come up from Bernalillo to show us how to can plum jam. We divided up jobs of washing jars, bringing diced fruits up to boil in large pots, sterilizing jars in boiling water, putting caps on jars just so, everything we had to do to get down to plum jamming under her watchful gaze and her confident instructions and hands-on help.

After being apprenticed in the rousing hot bath method, we cooled down by making freezer jam.

Only three hours later, we came out of the kitchen with our own jar of sweet, full-flavored plum jam.

Workshops on pressure canning of vegetables and drying foods, including fruits, vegetables, meat and mushrooms, will be coming soon to Las Placitas Presbyterian Church. For more information, on the workshops, contact Cosmos at

Food bank scam alert

—Roadrunner Food Bank

Roadrunner Food Bank is alerting the public that there are bogus telephone calls being made to residents in Hidalgo County and Luna County by someone falsely claiming to work at Roadrunner Food Bank. Two agencies in Hidalgo and Luna counties have also received these calls.

Using the Food Bank’s name, the caller is seeking personal information from local residents, specifically asking questions about food commodities we distribute. Roadrunner Food Bank does not collect personal information from clients and never asks for personal information from those seeking help with food. Please be aware that agencies we work with, that distribute our commodity food products, keep minimal information about clients they serve.

Roadrunner Food Bank never solicits information from clients over the telephone. Also, Roadrunner never solicits donations over the telephone.

If you believe you are receiving a bogus telephone call from someone claiming to be from Roadrunner Food Bank, please do not provide any personal information about yourself, the agency you represent, or the clients you distribute food to.

You can always call the Food Bank at 505-247-2052 in Albuquerque or 575-523-4390 in Las Cruces, or email

Please report any bogus calls to the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office at 505-827-6000 in Santa Fe or 575-526-2280 in Las Cruces.




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