Noticias de las Acequias
New Mexico Acequia Association
April-May 2012
In This Issue...
Acequia Limpia in Chamisal
The Basics of Berry Production for a Fruitful Harvest
NMAA's Ranch Specialist Discusses His Livelihood
San Isidro Labrador: What we can Learn
UPDATE: Draft 2012 Farm Bill
Acequia Limpia in Chamisal
By Juliet Garcia-Gonzales
Acequia limpia in Chamisal

On the morning of Saturday, April 29th some of the NMAA Sembrando Semillas youth group was able to walk alongside 31 peones and mayordomo, Candido Dominguez, as they cleaned the Acequia Madre in Chamisal.


The avisador had made contact with the property owners the prior week, and everyone was to meet at the compuerta where the acequia madre ends. To the north of this compuerta is the Acequia del Medio, and to the east is the Acequia Del Monte.


We started out early, making sure we had our equipment set up to record the peones. I have always wanted to photograph the peones, but have always had a great deal of reverence for the practice. With a sincere interest from some of the youth, we asked the mayordomo, and he allowed us to record audio, video, and take still photos.


The mayordomo assigned 3 different groups. The first group, composed of 3 individuals, was in charge of cutting jaras. The second group and third group were broken up equally, and they all had palas.


The age range of all the peones was between 16 and 77 years old. There was mutual respect between them all, and a genuine camaraderie. The majority of the peones were from Chamisal, and some were from the surrounding area. In the past few years, the acequias have been an opportunity to make some money. It is not much, but it is advantageous for the peon, and beneficial to the acequia community.


Toribio, Michael, Adam, Kevin, and Isaac, Sembrando Semillas youth members, were acequieros that day. Donne, Augustine, Ignacio & I, were taking photos, and had a few opportunities to speak with and interview the peones. We asked them to share with us a story about the acequia.


As we reached the compuerta in Ojito, and everyone stepped out of the Acequia, the mayordomo's son sat on the compuerta and turned the wheel, lifting the gate, and allowing the water to flow. It was a very powerful experience.


At the end of the acequia limpia, the mayordomo's wife, Aurora was there to assist with the paperwork. At this point, any peon who was assigned on behalf of a landowner is given a notita. The notita is the Acequias Property Owner Work Receipt, which states the acequia name, date, name of the worker, the number of hours worked, and the name of the property owner. You are then entitled to present this notita to the property owner for payment.  


The acequia allowed us the opportunity to see a side of Chamisal that we have never seen before. We crossed many fences, and heard many concerns. Over the course of the next couple of months, the youth will use this material to compose a short film, and write the stories shared with us.

The Basics of Berry Production for a Fruitful Harvest
By Quita Ortiz
Berry Workshop

In late March, the New Mexico Acequia Association hosted a Berry Production Workshop as part of our ongoing USDA farmer/rancher outreach. Margaret Campos, NMAA's Farm Advisor, took the lead on the workshop, inviting participants to her Algo Nativo Farm on the banks of the Rio Grande in Embudo. The workshop was intended to provide folks with the basics of berry production in northern New Mexico. Twenty participants gathered in Margaret's outdoor kitchen as she began with an overview of the workshop, explaining the different varieties that she and her Mom, Eremita, are growing on their farm.


For the past 12 years they have harvested Autumn Britten Everbearing raspberries, a variety which has small thorns that can be bothersome and in the long-range haven't kept well, according to Margaret. Over the past few years their size and overall yield have become smaller and will soon need to be replaced. After a lengthy discussion on raspberries, Margaret moved on to blackberries. She grows the Triple Crown variety, which produce sweet, plump blackberries; she recommends ordering the thornless variety for easier harvesting and management.  Similar to the raspberries, they will also eventually start to produce a lower yield and need to be replaced. 


Margaret emphasized that berries in general, at least for commercial producers who rely on harvesting the best crop possible, should eventually be replaced every several years. A useful tip to avoid having to purchase new plants is to simply plant the runners of the older plants that have started to take root in the ground.  


For the first time, Margaret is taking a stab at growing strawberries. They require slightly acidic soil, which she'll try to maintain with lots of composting. Blueberries are the most challenging berry to grow in this region. They require very acidic soil and Margaret insists it's not really worth planting blueberries in northern New Mexico you would have to make constant efforts to keep the soil acidic in such a naturally alkaline environment. The alkaline soil will leach into the acidity that you introduce to the soil, making it a constant uphill battle.  So it's best to stick with raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries. 


The topics of soil and water management were also covered in the workshop. Much of Algo Nativo Farm utilizes drip irrigation, but she's found that berries require a considerable amount of water. They grew and produced better when they were flood irrigated, however, she finds it easier to manage soil nutrients when using drip irrigation.  


Margaret plants cover crops, as needed, between her rows of berries for both soil health and keeping weeds at bay, one of the most stubborn of which is bindweed - it's root system can reach down as far as 40 feet below the ground surface. Wheat cover crops are less aggressive according to Margaret, and clover is somewhat aggressive. A workshop participant noted that in his experience White Dutch clover competed well with bindweed, which helped to keep it under control.


Another valuable addition to the soil is aged/composted chicken manure, which is rich in nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium, and helps to promote healthy growth during the vegetative growth stage. Tilling in the cover crop or adding manure must be done prior to the point at which the berry bushes begin to flower. At the flowering stage the bushes are no longer seeking nitrogen; rather they're wanting more potassium to bolster flowering and reproduction, so Margaret recommends fertilizing with bonemeal during this stage. Margaret also touched on pest management, maintaining that it's best carried out through soil management. Healthy soil will keep pests in check.


If you're considering planting berries on your property, you should plant them in the spring after the last average frost date and don't expect a viable harvest for 2 to 3 years. Margaret has ordered from Johnny's Seeds, Stark Bro's Seeds, and others; but she urges folks to shop around and try different varieties to see what does best in different micro-climates.


The discussion was followed by a tour of Algo Nativo Farm which included a hands-on pruning demonstration in the berry patch, and was concluded by Margaret kindly sending workshop participants home with a strawberry plant.


For farm production, maintenance, and marketing advice, you can contact Margaret by emailing her at 

NMAA's Ranch Specialist Discusses His Livelihood
by Quita Ortiz
Above: Virgil Trujillo at his ranch within the Abiquiu Land Grant

"It was a choice I made when I was old enough to make the choice," mused Virgil Trujillo as we drove up to the Abiquiu Land Grant. He was referring to his reason for working the land. Virgil Trujillo is a bona fide northern New Mexico rancher. I attribute his calm presence to spending many years in solitude at his ranch, finding companionship only in those within reach: his Blue Heeler named Scooter, his waders, his pala, and the vastness of the uninhabited land that surrounds him. "They do worry about me being out here by myself," he says referring to his wife and children, "...but I enjoy it."  


Virgil's Genizaro ancestors settled in the area in the 1700's with the purpose of creating a buffer zone to protect the Spanish colonies. As he drives up the long stretch of dirt road to irrigate grazing areas for his cattle, he tells me about the history of his village, demonstrating his connection to place while displaying an impressive knowledge of Abiquiu history.  


There are no doubt many challenges attached to being a rancher, especially in the climate of the various economic shifts that have occurred over the last half-century or so. One might wonder why there are those who choose to endure it  knowing there's the option to take up a day job in Los Alamos or elsewhere. "I want to be challenged, questioned, and have the opportunity to explain what I do and why I do it," said Virgil. But it's hard to get a straightforward answer about why some choose the ranch life because between the cracks it's a bit complex; but on the surface it's the familiar discourse of land-based norteños, and it's simple yet profound: love of place, love of land.


One of the challenges to ranching according to Virgil is the lack of the availability of USDA-inspected meat-processing infrastructure. Ranchers are basically obligated to auction their cattle to other facilities for processing. It's not all in vain though. There are still a few local auction barns, but with advances in technology making use of the internet to auction off cattle has become a convenient option for ranchers. He raises cattle for both sustenance and income. Generally, his family will butcher one cow that will last a year, and he'll market the rest of his cattle.  


As we continue on up the mountain, Virgil continues to list the challenges, one after the other - like raising grass-fed cattle and taking it to a finished product in a short growing season, for example.  


Another challenge, which refers to the dominant culture that acequias are enveloped in, is the contemporary (and unsustainable) view on food. "Unfortunately, we're all used to the corn-fed beef from grocery stores," he said. He's optimistic though, "We're in the perfect position to move past these challenges because we're becoming much more conscious and aware of what we're eating, and that will keep us in business." In the age of packaged and processed foods from grocery stores, Virgil hopes this consciousness shift will teach our kids an awareness of what we're consuming. And he adds that the  more people understand about the benefits of grass-fed beef, the more they'll learn about grazing sustainably, thereby increasing the demand for it. He also asserts the importance of making it as economically optimal for both the producer and consumer.  


Addressing the myriad of a rancher's economic challenges, Virgil uses a poetic analogy to sum up his view: "We all vote everyday and it is extremely powerful. We vote with our dollars. If we keep voting for chemically-produced foods, they're going to make more of it. But if you decide to go shop at the farmers' market, then your vote shifts." At the very least Virgil feels that we should all be aware of what it takes to produce food, "I don't know of a single kid who doesn't love fresh peas," he says. It's not that he expects everyone to work the land, "Not everyone from the city needs to be a farmer. There's work that needs to be done in the city, but if we can provide healthy food to sustain our communities, then we've done our jobs well."  


Another challenge to ranching is the lack of authorization to manage lands historically designated as ejido, or common lands of Spanish and Mexican community land grants. Land management is something that Virgil is very familiar with, particularly in reference to those lands that were once managed by acequia ranchers prior to the formation of the U.S. Forest Service, which took over the control and management of these lands beginning in the late 1800s. When the topic of the Forest Service surfaces, it's an obvious bone of contention for Virgil, "Yeah, we have some issues [with the Forest Service]." Grazing permits, acequia easement rights, and general management are all matters that he's forced to deal with.


A current example of a land management issue surrounds the Las Conchas Fire in 2011, which devastated thousands of acres. "Fire is a very normal event," says Virgil, "but the intensity of how it happened should never have been the case because we expect the Forest Service, who took on the responsibility to manage these forests, to do their job and I don't feel they have." He's referring in part to the technocratic approach that the Forest Service takes. Meanwhile there are generations of ranchers who are on the front-lines of these lands everyday and they realize the fluidity of the land's habits and processes, yet they're excluded from the planning and managing process. The level of destruction caused by the Las Conchas Fire was so intense that one of Virgil's acequias was gravely affected by the massive erosion caused by monsoon flooding after the fire. "The damage has rendered one of my ditches ineffective," he said.  


Despite all these challenges to ranching, Virgil just rolls with the punches and perseveres. "I grew up within a challenged area," he said, "and it's just a way of life for me." He continues, "People wonder why we do it because of economic and other challenges. I think economics is different for everyone. I'm not rolling in the money; but food is on the table, the lights are on, and there's a roof over my family's head."


After hours of discussion and observing Virgil irrigate and remove silt from his acequias, I began to wonder why he had brought along his horse, who stood in the trailer this whole time. Finally, toward the end of the day we arrived at a spot where he got out of his truck and released his horse to graze. I noticed Virgil as he watched his horse find its way to the others and they all galloped away together, a sight symbolizing pure freedom; no boundaries. In that very  moment it became evident why it's worth all the challenges.


San Isidro Labrador: What We Can Learn
By Alejandro Lopez

In northern New Mexico, as indeed throughout the Spanish-speaking world, the feast of San Isidro Labrador on May 15th, is deemed to be an auspicious day, particularly for farmers. In many communities, bultos (three dimensional wooden representations of the saint, his plow, a pair of oxen, and an angel guiding the plow), are walked in procession from a chapel where a función, or celebration takes place, to the fields where his blessings are invoked. Popular wisdom has it that frost can be expected up until the 15th of May but that thereafter, it is safe to plant every kind of crop. It is also hoped that a field blessed by San Isidro is a field that will resist being plagued by chapulines (grasshoppers) or fall victim to granizo (hail), diluvios (flooding), or sequía (drought).    


San Isidro Labrador, before having become the patron saint of farmers, was himself a humble Spanish farmer living outside of Madrid in the immense wheat country of the surrounding Castillian plateau. He was frowned upon by many of his contemporaries for placing his spiritual practices of early morning prayer and visits to local shrines before his duties as a farmer; as well as for sharing up to his last morsel with the poor and hungry and, in some cases, with snow bound birds in the wintertime.  


Yet for all of his piety and kindness, neither his fields, family or community suffered any significant losses. Indeed, when he shared food with the poor, the near empty pots in his family's kitchen became replenished. When he shared grain that was destined to the mill with hungry birds, the flour more than filled the original sacks. And, when he tended to the fields after a morning of prayer and visitations, an unexplainable energy efficiently drove his plow and oxen forward, completing in little time what normally would have taken anyone else much longer. Later, image makers everywhere, including in New Mexico, would render this energy into the form of an amiable angel guiding the plow and oxen through the fields.


What lessons do we, fast-paced twenty first century people, have to learn from this historical personage in the small agricultural communities and Indian Pueblos of Northern New Mexico? Does the example of San Isidro not serve to remind us that the miracle of life sustaining more life in our fields is just that - a miracle? A miracle which ultimately cannot be mediated or understood by means other than a deep sense of spiritual awe, reverence for life (or the divine), appreciation, and a willingness to share with others, knowing that the Source of All Life is inexhaustible.


Historically, this belief in the inexhaustibility of the Source was given its expression by nuevo mejicano farmers when, in the fall, the chilero (chile vendor) commanded his sons or daughters to "copetear el bote" or fill the bucket that served as a measurement of a certain amount of chile "to beyond heaping" before handing it over to the buyer; or in the case of Pueblo Indian people inviting anyone and everyone to dine at your feast day table knowing that through their presence, blessings were accruing.  


San Isidro is venerated today in feast days and processions throughout Spain, Latin America, and Hispanic communities of the Southwest.  In New Mexico, he is celebrated in many communities on either May 10th or May 15th. Some notable celebrations take place in La Mesilla, a village outside of Española; the community of San Isidro in the Jemez Mountains; and in Agua Fria village near Santa Fe. 

2012 Farm Bill Update
The Senate Agriculture Committee passed a draft of the 2012 Farm Bill toward the end of April.  NMAA has submitted to our congressional delegation some key priorities for the 2012 Farm Bill based on a resolution passed by the Congreso de las Acequias.  These were as follows:  
  • Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP):  Renew mandatory funding levels for this highly popular program, protect set asides for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers, and retain 90/10 cost share ratio for SDFRs.  Add language to the Farm Bill specifically expanding EQIP eligibility to acequias, similar to that provided for tribes. 
  • Socially Disadvantaged Farmer and Rancher Outreach Program (a.k.a. 2501 program):  Authorize mandatory funding at increased or current funding level.  This program was authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill as a result of years of advocacy to improve the participation of minority farmers and ranchers in USDA programs. 
  • Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program:  Authorize mandatory funding at increased or current funding level. 
  • Non Insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP):  Reauthorize the premium waiver for Limited Resource Farmers and Ranchers and expand it to include Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers.  
  • Value Added Producer Grants Program (VAPG):  Reauthorize at current funding level along with set asides and priorities for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.
The initial draft of the Farm Bill that was considered by the Senate Agriculture Committee did not include mandatory funding for the 2501 SDFR Program nor for the VAPG program.  NMAA along with some allies at the national level requested amendments in the Senate Agriculture committee to restore this funding.  The requested amendments were not accepted by the committee so the next strategy will be to try to make the amendments on the Senate floor which will be more difficult because any increases in spending have to offset by cuts in spending in other programs.   While funding was not restored, the committee made an amendment to include veterans in the 2501 program.  Several minority farmer groups from around the country embraced this change.  See the statement here.

The Rural Coalition was instrumental in seeking sponsors for a Senate Floor amendment to restore mandatory funding for the 2501 program. NMAA assisted by approaching Senator Udall and Senator Bingaman for support.  At press time, NMAA and allies in Washington DC are working closely with both Senators.  Senator Udall may be a lead sponsor of such an amendment. He is recommending that with the addition of veterans to the program, overall mandatory funding should be increased from prior levels.  The Farm Bill is expected to reach the Senate Floor by Memorial Day. 

In the 1990s, Congress enacted the OASDFR program in Section 2501 of the Farm Bill par of a response to decades of discrimination among the USDA to socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, which includes Hispanic producers. The purpose of the program was to conduct outreach to these producers to increase their participation in the many USDA programs that are meant to help farmers and ranchers.

For the past two years, the NMAA has relied upon this funding to conduct outreach to acequia farmers and ranchers about USDA programs, which can aid producers in many ways including providing technical and financial assistance for much-needed acequia and individual farm infrastructure.  

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NMAA's Upcoming Events





Water Rights, Water Transfers, and Water Banking

Thursday, May 17th


Conflict Management, Enforcement, and Risk Management 

Thursday, June 21st    


Workshops will take place at The Lodge at Santa Fe

750 N. St. Francis

Tewa/Nambe Room

(off Alamo Dr)

  1:00pm - 4:00pm     


Contact Janice Varela for workshop details at (505) 995-9644 or email  


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Acequias and the Future of Resilience in Global Perspective

A symposium  surrounding the NSF-funded project, "Acequia water systems linking culture and nature: integrated analysis of community resilience to climate and land use changes"    

March 4th & 5th, 2013 

Las Cruces Convention Center 


The two-day event will consist of four panels with questions and discussion, an open round table discussion, a public keynote address, and a post-symposium workshop.


Nobel laureate Elinor Ostrom's keynote address, open to the public, will discuss her research on social-ecological systems.  


Project partners include NMSU, UNM, Sandia Laboratories, and the New Mexico Acequia Association

For more information contact Quita Ortiz, NMAA at (505) 699-5520. 

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Healthy Eating and Diabetic Cooking Classes and Luncheon

Nine FREE sessions focusing on healthier lifestyles, understanding diabetes, weight loss, food substitutions, and culinary techniques 


May 24
June 28
July 26
August 23
September 20
October 25
November 15
December 13



To register call the Taos County Economic Development Corp at  

(575) 758-8731 or email 

Town Hall on New Mexico Fire and Water

 The 2011 Las Conchas Fire in Northern New Mexico had devastating affects in the state. The purpose of this meeting is to explore the impact of the largest wildfire in New Mexico's history and develop recommendations that can help mitigate the impact of such a fire in the future.


June 5th & 6th

Hyatt Regency, Pavilion I-III, 330 Tijeras Avenue NW Albuquerque, NM   


 The registration fee is $50, which helps cover the cost of food. Fee waivers are available.


To register, visit
New Mexico First

For more info call 505-241-4813 or email   

Water: The Foundation of Agricultural Sustainability

Participants at South Valley Workshop

August 7th, 2012  

8am to 5pm

Santa Fe Fairgrounds


Conference agenda includes:

Balancing Ag & Urban Water Use

The Acequia System

Rainwater Harvesting

Low water use crops

Efficient Orchard Irrigation

Low-tech Irrigation Strategies

Small-scale Hydroelectric Gen.

Renewable Energy Technology for water pumping  


For more info contact Stephanie Walker at (575) 646-4398 or email 

USDA Deadlines

 EQIP Organic Initiative   

Final 2012 application Ranking Period is  

June 1st, 2012


Tree Assistance Program (TAP) 

Orchardists and nursery tree growers who experienced losses from natural disasters between Jan 1, 2008 and September 30, 2011 could still be eligible for TAP. For more info visit your local FSA office or go to the TAP website.    


2012 Direct and Counter-Cyclical Payment (DCP) Deadline - June 1st

The DCP provides payments to producers on farms enrolled for any of the 2008 through 2012 crop years.  

The Art of Mayordomia    

The Art of Mayordomía


Technical Assistance 



The NMAA offers technical assistance on Acequia Governance and USDA programs for landowners. If any of these questions apply to you or your acequia, please submit a Request for Technical Assistance.

Become a Member!

Become a member of the New Mexico Acequia Association! Parciante and Supporter Memberships are $20/year and includes a quarterly newsletter subscription. Membership for an Acequia is $40/year including a newsletter subscription for all four officers.


The NMAA is a charitable, educational non-profit organization that relies on membership contributions and foundations for its general operating expenses. We rely on folks who join as members and to contribute membership dues and donations to support our work. It has never been more important to have a united front to protect our acequias and strengthen our food and agricultural traditions.


Thank You!!!  

The New Mexico Acequia Association greatly acknowledges the support and dedication of the many parciantes and supporters who are NMAA members and who have made donations.


Thanks to our foundation supporters including (in alphabetical order) Catholic Campaign for Human Development, The Christensen Fund, Marguerite Casey Foundation, New Mexico Community Foundation, McCune Foundation, Panta Rhea Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.


We'd also greatly appreciate the financial support provided to us by state and federal sources: the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office of Advocacy and Outreach; and the State of New Mexico's Department of Finance Administration.


NMAA Staff   

NMAA staff, August 2011 
(From left): Quita Ortiz (Mapping and Special Projects), Lori Spillman (Administrative Support), Janice Varela (Community Organizing), Virgil Trujillo (Ranch Specialist), Lucille Trujillo (Membership Services), Pattie Ravenheart (Administrative Director), Pilar Trujillo (Program Director), Paula Garcia (Executive Director), Kenny Salazar (Technical Assistance), Juliet Garcia-Gonzales (Community Projects), David Garcia (Community Education), and Patrick Jaramillo (Community Outreach). Not pictured are Margaret Campos (Farm Advisor), Pearl Maestas (USDA Outreach), and Elena Misumi (Bookkeeper).