In the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Anjel Ortiz focused on fulfilling Zitro Farms’ mission of educating younger generations on how to eat locally grown and make a living off the land. With $6,000 in grant funding from the New Mexico Farmers’ Marketing Association’s COVID-19 Local Supply Chain Response Fund, Ortiz was able to continue selling produce to local food outlets, training farm interns, and replaced a work truck for the farm in Chimayó. Ortiz and the interns worked to yield two acres of carrots and other vegetables to allocate to over 150 low-income families and 2,000 students in the Taos and Rio Arriba counties in 2020.
“Everybody is asking: ‘Did COVID mess everything up?’” Ortiz said. “And I say it did – but it didn’t. Now I’m not selling to the schools … so instead of just feeding 2,000 students at school, now its 2,000 kids and their families…”
Chimayó chile, blue corn, carrots, beets, turnips, radishes, beans, blue and purple corn, bell peppers, and winter squash are grown at Zitro Farms. From mid-July to late September last year, 1,000 pounds carrots had been grown and harvested. Additionally, Zitro Farms partnered with Wildflower Farm to to grow and harvest vegetables for the Ríos del Norte Farm and Ranch Co-op. With a grant from the New Mexico Acequia Association, Ortiz donated atole (roasted corn) to the farm’s existing partnership with Agriculture Implementation Research & Education community support agriculture farm (CSAs) and the Taos Pueblo.
As a life-long farmer, Ortiz began farming as a child with his family and continues this legacy in his own family and on his farm. He said one of his proudest achievements was teaching his daughter how to plant blue corn that grew over 10 feet tall last year. Don Bustos, a farmer with roots nearing on 500 years in New Mexico, is one of the inspirations for Ortiz, who passes the hands-on wisdom from his own experience working at Busto’s farm to his interns.
“The youth is our top priority, but not our only priority,” Ortiz said. “We grow off the knowledge of our elders – who are able to be part of our food movement to the schools.”
As part of their training, Zitro Farm interns learn everything from irrigation to harvesting and processing the crops with the end goal for each intern to be able to grow 1 acre of food for the farm. After the interns have trained with him, Ortiz assists them in finding hourly, part-time paid farm positions for the next year. He said it is common for the interns to become managers, and in a few years start their own businesses becoming dependable food producers for schools and the local community.
This story is part of a series featuring the many farmers, ranchers, nonprofit organizations, and collaborative groups who received grants via the NMFMA’s COVID-19 Local Food Supply Chain Response Fund. The Fund was designed to reduce economic hardship caused by market disruptions linked to the ongoing public health crisis and accelerate a sustained and equitable recovery among farmers and low-income communities. In total, $484,653.89 was distributed in 2020 to 100+ producers and groups. The tireless work and generous spirit of these individuals help solidify New Mexico’s local food system and ensure food access by those in need during an historic, global health crisis. Visit the NMFMA website to learn more and to contribute to the Fund.
By NMFMA Staff | September 2021