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A Dump Site Becomes A Greenhouse In The South Valley

Marisa Demarco / KUNM
Helga Garza, executive director of the Agri-Cultura Cooperative Network

The South Valley near Albuquerque has a long history of agricultural practice. Friday, October 4, marked the grand opening of a state-of-the-art greenhouse that will help local farmers and serve as a site where young people can learn the tradition. The shared greenhouse is the first of its kind, and it sits on land that was once an illegal dumpsite.

Thick grey clouds had been hanging over the crowd all morning, darkening as new farmers passed around seeds for everyone to scatter. The sky opened up as soon as the speeches were over.

Helga Garza is the executive director of Agri-Cultura, a cooperative network of nine family-owned small farms in the South Valley, plus dozens of other allied farms around the state. Buying starter plants is a big investment for a small farm, Garza said, and this greenhouse that folks can access for free really changes things. "It will keep us growing collectively," she said. "We all have to work together in order to make sure that we have enough food grown for the various local markets."

For years, the co-op has been part of a team working to raise funds to build this temperature- and humidity-controlled greenhouse. Students in the area will work there too, installing hydroponic and aquaponic systems. Some of the produce will become part of a larger effort to address chronic health issues in the region through nutrition.

Marisa Demarco began a career in radio at KUNM News in late 2013 and covered public health for much of her time at the station. During the pandemic, she is also the executive producer for Your NM Government and No More Normal, shows focused on the varied impacts of COVID-19 and community response, as well as racial and social justice. She joined Source New Mexico as editor-in-chief in 2021.
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