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Farmer Plants His Life In Harvest Cycle

Melorie Begay
Fidel Gonzalez scans his farm while listing the produce he grows.

Life for a farmer revolves around the changing of the season, but one Albuquerque farmer’s developed an even deeper relationship with the cycle. 

It’s 2:00 p.m. in the afternoon and it’s 97 degrees in Barelas and the day is only getting hotter. In Fidel Gonzalez’ backyard are several rows of dirt with green stalks poking out. There are three small sheds and a huge pile of compost on the furthest corner. 

Gonzalez sits on blue hammock, shaded by a tree. From his point of view, he can see almost 20 years of his hard work in front of him.

“My life totally flipped to the opposite side by farming,” said Gonzalez.

Credit Melorie Begay
Rows of vegetables and flowers growing on Gonzalez' farm

Farming gave him a new passion and shifted his worldview, he said. Every interaction with the planting process holds a deeper meaning for him. 

Weeding, for example, is his therapy, and it’s helped him overcome his alcohol addiction. 

"It makes you think that I’m not just removing things from the plants, but also from my head. I’m healing myself by farming,” he said.

By 2012, Gonzalez’ life had become so intertwined with farming that his harvest seemed like a response to the arrival of his son Tenoch.

“So when his mom was pregnant and her [craving] was, and we have them right here," he said, "I'm super glad we have them, bell peppers and blackberries together.”

But, bell peppers and blackberries weren’t the only produce awaiting Tenoch. Gonzalez said he had a lot of lettuce on hand too.

“Traditionally in Mexico when we have a brand new boy, the first time that he takes a shower we do it with lettuce in the water," Gonzalez said, "they say that it helps them to relax and sleep deeply."

Farming gave him a chance to connect with the earth spiritually, Gonzalez said, so much so that he started Aztec dancing as a way to give thanks. 

“By farming, by dancing, by being a father, I’ve been developing a sense of love to my life and that’s the most benefit I’ve been getting from farming,” he said.      

Gonzalez finds spiritual value in farming, but it’s still his job and as a source of income, farming can be challenging because the growing process depends on nature. He's part of the Agri-Cultura Network, a co-op that supports South Valley farmers by selling their produce. 

“If you make enough money during the high season you have a nice life during the low season," he said, "but if you don’t make enough during the high season, then you struggle during the low season."

Credit Melorie Begay
Gonzalez sitting on his hammock, taking a break from yardwork.

Gonzalez opened a store near the University of New Mexico earlier this year. He said he wanted to reach to new customers. 

“Farming is not just about dropping seeds in the soil,” Gonzalez said. “It’s about how are you going to benefit the students, the whole community.”

At the time of the first interview Gonzalez was in middle of a divorce and sorting through his life possessions. The next time, he said he was closing his store, but there was nothing somber about his tone. 

It was his personal low season, but he had enough optimism stored up to get through it. His marriage didn’t work out, but he has a son he loves. Gonzalez said he’s teaching him to farm. And he views the closing of his store as a learning experience - he’s already planning on opening a new one next year.

“You plant expecting that everything you plant it’s going to grow and be a success right,” he said, “but you don’t know what nature wants.”

Gonzalez is taking it all in stride, because if farming’s taught him anything it’s that his life will once again yield something worth harvesting. 

Correction: An earlier version of this post misspelled Gonzalez

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