spring 2013

Noticias de las Acequias
New Mexico Acequia Association
July 2013
In This Issue...
Truchas Farmer Receives NRCS Hoop House Assistance
Mayordomo & Community Response to Drought
Escuelita de las Acequias: Tarea Summary and Reflections
NMAA Collaboration with FoodCorps
USDA Deadlines & Announcements
Truchas Farmer Receives NRCS Hoop House Assistance
NMAA Farmer/Rancher Outreach Team
Truchas Hoophouse, before photo
Above photo shows Eugene's staking the hoop house area. 

Eugene Vigil is an organic vegetable farmer and small animal producer in the village of Truchas, NM. Along with rows of potatoes, onion, and cabbage, Eugene tends to hens, hogs, and goats at the farm at his home. He also produces corn, beans, averjón, and row crops at another field up the road with his father, Eugene Sr.  


Eugene has farmed with his family for his entire life and became certified organic last year. His farm is named High Harvest and he currently vends at the Pojoaque and Taos growers markets. He markets fresh greens, radishes, and beets to his local community and sells to wholesale markets at Cid's in Taos and regional restaurants.  


He and his father attended an NMAA Farmer and Rancher Outreach workshop in Chimayo in November of 2012. It was there that he learned of a variety of programs that could help him to irrigate more efficiently, conserve topsoil, and extend his growing season. Eugene decided to apply for the Environmental Quality Incentive Program, or EQIP, before the deadline in December 2012. His application ranked well and he was awarded cost-share opportunities for various practices that he will implement.


In total, the EQIP program will assist Eugene in implementing a drip irrigation system covering over an acre of land, installing a water retention tank, and the purchase of a high tunnel/hoop house. The first practice that he has been able to complete is the hoop house construction. NMAA Farmer and Rancher Outreach team assisted Eugene in selecting an appropriate style and dimensions for his hoop house. We also figured a way that he could receive a 120-day credit from a hoop house supplier based on his approved NRCS contract. Typically, the EQIP program functions as a reimbursement after the project has been completed. However, through FarmTek, a commercial supplier, a successful applicant can get approved for credit, construct the hoop house, and receive the reimbursement after NRCS inspection and pay off the credit.  


Eugene's hoop house after construction was completed. 
Eugene broke ground on his hoop house in June. He constructed it with help from his father, Eugene Sr., his brother J.D. and community members including Sembrando Semillas mentor, Eduardo Gonzáles. The model they constructed is 72' long and 36' wide. It has roll-up sidewalls and large bay doors on the end walls. We last visited in mid July and Eugene already had the new hoop house planted with tomatoes, carrots, and chile.  

  Truchas Hoop house, after photo

Eugene has been very pleased with the EQIP process. He feels, "it works well and the people in the office and the field staff are great." He encourages community members and parciantes to look into the programs at NRCS as they have benefited him significantly. Eugene shared that people in the community have noticed. He hopes more people take advantage of these programs that will help to improve local producers output and growing season. Eugene is looking forward to the next projects to implement drip irrigation and water retention along his acequia.

Mayordomo & Community Response to Drought
Quita Ortiz
Mayordomo Panelists 2013
Mayordomo panelists, from left: Harold Trujillo, Juanita Revak, Lorenzo Candelaria, Georganna Gore, and Gilbert Sandoval. Photo by Seth Roffman. 

The New Mexico Acequia Association is inherently conscious of the drought that our acequias are having to endure this year. We hosted a statewide acequia workshop, "Tradition and Adaptation" in late-June to address our water scarcity issues and acknowledge our ability to live with such extreme drought. The NMAA highly reveres the local management of water by those who are working the land and maintaining the acequias and we wanted to bring attention to the significance of that local knowledge, much of which is embedded in the duties of a mayordomo.


The event featured a number of mayordomo panelists who shared their insight and experience regarding water sharing practices on their acequias.  Panelists included Lorenzo Candelaria, Arenal Acequia de Atrisco; Georganna Gore, Rio de los Pinos Acequia; Juanita Revak, East and West Sandoval Ditch; Gilbert Sandoval, East and West Sandoval Ditch; and Harold Trujillo, Acequia de la Isla.


All mayordomos agreed that the current drought is having a profound effect on acequias. For example, Lorenzo mentioned that aside from the sheer shortage of water, they're dealing with a reduced pressure head which is making it quite a challenge to deliver water to fields. "It's very intense, but we're making every effort to conserve water and not let any go to waste," said Lorenzo. Georganna mentioned that it's typical for the parciantes at the end of the her ditch to run out of water by late-June, but this year even those at the upper end of the ditch, who generally have water year-round, also ran out by late-June. 


Acequias are finding ways to cope with such water shortage. A few years ago, after realizing the dwindling water availability, one of Harold's acequias altered their usual watering schedule to what they call a "half-schedule", reducing water allotment by half. On his other acequia though, the water hasn't even reached the diversion so they haven't irrigated at all this season. 


During a typical shortage situation, acequias manage in finding ways to adjust to what little water is available. In the Jemez River Basin, acequia users share water with their downstream pueblo neighbors. "We got a priority call on the water rotation," said Gilbert, "one day for non-Indian; six days for pueblos." He said this situation was obviously very challenging, "We do it reluctantly, but we do it with a good heart." He remarked that our ancestors survived drought and that we can also survive it by agreeing to be a good neighbor.  


Due to an ongoing acequia construction project and minimal water supply, Georganna's acequia had two large ponds installed at the top of the ditch and collectively agreed to make that water available to any potential fire needs.


Juanita said that when it comes to water sharing, she's happy to see that the parciantes are conscious of the shortage and are very open to sharing the water. Harold mentioned the obvious decrease in livestock and how it has impacted the land because of the minimized amount of grass to feed on. "I haven't raised hay in 3 years," he said, "and I'm down to 20 bales from leftover hay, so there are other impacts taking place."


Parciantes on Lorenzo's acequia have cut back on production and planted smaller gardens and drought tolerant grasses this year. He said, "It's an agreement among all parciantes through the years. It's a community effort and I'm lucky to have understanding and cooperative neighbors." He acknowledged that they are by no means devoid of conflicts, but as a community they are active in finding ways to understand the difficulties and frustrations that this drought is causing. "It's going to take a sense of community to ensure we practice the repartimiento in a way that's fair to everybody," he said.


When conflicts do arise, mayordomos are often at the center of the efforts to address them which can be troublesome. Lorenzo told the story of a community in the South Valley that jointly used a portion of the ditch and every year cleaned it out together as a community. But one year a parciante used his tractor to clean out the ditch and then proceeded to designate a fee to the other parciantes for having done that work. They refused to comply so he blocked the ditch using a bulldozer. The court system wasn't helpful in their attempt to resolve this issue so this year during the annual limpia, the two parties in litigation got together to discuss the issue. "The purpose and use of the acequia should not be something that makes criminals out of parciantes", Lorenzo said. This incident spurred leaders in his area to establish a Concilio de los Mayores, council of elders, that have experience with conflict resolution to address issues that can't be resolved by the mayordomo or any other means. "The reason for this is because we don't want criminals," he said, "we want parciantes that are using the ditches wisely, and the less conflict there is in doing so the smoother things will run, especially during our current water shortage situation."


According to Harold, a source of pressure results from investments made by parciantes. He mentioned a mayordomo that had a large sum at stake with 50 steers that he wanted to keep during the summer. He needed to irrigate his fields for pasture and when the water situation got rough he started to hoard the water for his herd while everyone else was suffering and downsizing their herds. Instead of taking legal measures though, Harold said, "we decided to remember that it's a community that has coexisted for hundreds of years, so you have to question the consequences of taking legal measures for the next 20 or 30 years because people do remember such conflicts." He added that a good mayordomo tames their tempers and remains as objective as possible to avoid potentially volatile situations. In spite of that, Harold acknowledged that in some cases, going to court is unavoidable, but should be used as the last resort.


The panel was brought to a close with a request that they offer their consejo, or advice, regarding water sharing. Their responses varied: Harold stressed that we not forget to keep tabs on what takes place at the legislature, "We need to be very aware of what's taking place in the policy arena to protect our water rights," he said. Gilbert gave us a lesson in humility by reminding us how we're quick to blame someone when the hard times hit, and instead should keep faith that hard times will pass. Georganna's advice was simple but very practical, "Don't panic, just be patient." Juanita said that she gets through the hardship of drought by looking to the past in hopes that it will lend some wisdom to achieve a bright future. And Lorenzo eloquently brought it back to water by saying, "Imagine we're in a room, surrounded by fire and each of us has one glass of water. Be aware. Be aware of where you put that water. That's my consejo."


These stories and reflections were interlaced with great examples of the tremendous support that mayordomos provide to the acequia. But let us also recognize the power of community - it's a mixed bag of relationships, simple and complex, between parciantes working together to support the dignified work necessary for a local water management system. As a conduit, the acequia was engineered to deliver water to our precious fields, but it's the parciantes working together that manifest a particular energy, or faith, that keeps the water flowing, regardless of how much is available.

Escuelita de las Acequias: Tarea Summary and Reflections
Luis Peña and Beata Tsosie-Peña
Editors note: The NMAA's Escuelita de las Acequias is intended to foster a community-based learning process that affirms traditional acequia knowledge while also cultivating leadership for the future. Using popular education as the method of engagement, the NMAA uses dialogue and reflection as the tools to both teach and learn. The Escuelita de las Acequias is a special program that supports a number of "tareas", or community projects, that are led by acequieros around the state. Below is a narrative of a tarea that Luis Peña and Beata Tsosie-Peña took on last year, followed by their personal reflections on the process. For more info about the Escuelita de las Acequias email Pilar Trujillo at pilar@lasacequias.org

The spring of 2012 began the planning and preparation for the Española Farmers Market Community Garden. The land had been fallow for some time, and ditches needed to be dug and the soil had to be turned several times. Due to some delays and the need for big machinery to turn the soil a third time, planting was done a little late in the season. This preliminary work was done with the help of many friends, community members, and partners involved in the garden. 


It was a great opportunity to combine an agricultural curriculum into our children's weekly schedule. They got to be directly involved in the work, challenges, and dedication it takes to work the land, from digging the ditch, soil preparation, seed planning and saving, planting, nurturing crops, group organizing, sharing water through acequia governance, harvest, selling produce at the market, and finally, putting food up for the winter. They also got to participate in paid Farmers Market activities, special workshops, and make many new friends that they looked forward to seeing each week.


The garden was also an opportunity to engage with local community. Volunteers from Tewa Women United's "Tres Rios Environmental Justice" group participated throughout the season. Informational booths and seed saving demonstrations took place as part of market day. Friends and neighbors would also come to help, just for the pleasure of it and the opportunity to take home an armful of vegetables. In our [Beata] family's Tewa culture, it is tradition to give away the first harvest to the elders of the community. This is what we did with much of the crop. It is very rewarding to observe the young gifting the elderly with fresh produce, seeing the passing of knowledge come full circle, as young hands honor the old who can no longer carry on the labor of the traditions we now carry forward.


We also participated in presentations with local school groups from the Española area. Student groups from La Tierra Montessori School listened as the gardeners all shared their knowledge with them, and they participated in a natural dye workshop and got to explore the booths on market day. Conjunto Preschool came to visit, and got to pick melons, cucumbers, and carrots to take home and also have for their school snack. A youth group from Ghost Ranch volunteered weeding in the garden for a day, and learned the history of acequias and the importance of growing your own food and other agricultural knowledge. A day that began with a traditional blessing from one of TWU's "Circle of Grandmothers." They were also part of a special filming, documenting the work that members of TWU are doing around reconnecting the community with their cultural strengths.


A science intern working with Tewa Women United's environmental justice program also volunteered in the garden, and took some soil samples as part of her graduate work project in collaboration with TWU. She tested the garden for perchlorates and other contaminants out of concern with our close proximity to the nuclear weapons industry. Her results will enable and empower us to enact remediation efforts in the future at the garden site, including mycelium inoculation, earthworks, composting, and worm bins, and hopefully a catchment pond with cattails.



Beata Tsosie-Peña: Last season was a special time in that our family was also preparing for the birth of our third child. The garden and weekly trips to farmers market was an opportunity providing exercise, fresh air, an abundance of organic food to help nurture my pregnancy. As I write this, my husband holds our new son, and I imagine him wrapped against my body enjoying the outdoors as we begin the next garden season at this special plot in 2013, his first tastes of sun ripened fruit, maybe his first crawls amongst the cornstalks. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to have continued access to land that we otherwise wouldn't have, and for the innumerable opportunities for healthy reciprocity to take place in my community.  


Luis Peña: I would like to close in sharing how the work in the garden in tandem with my participation in the morada has been the beginning of reclamation of my language and traditional agriculture practices. We share many stories of planting and harvesting in the morada and I am very grateful to have access to so much wisdom at this stage in my life. Through the lens of agriculture, I have found re-affirmation of the "culture of place" that has been established in northern New Mexico. I am very grateful for having access to so many points of view, many of which the NMAA has made available during the Escuelita. I hope that it is this understanding that will provide our children with the skills they need to survive in a world that is changing rapidly. I pray that they will always work to protect the land, water, seeds, air and spirituality of our home. And when they are grown, my wish is that the communities we have created will be the foundation for the future that they create. Gracias.  

NMAA Collaboration with FoodCorps
Juliet Garcia-Gonzales

In August of 2012, the New Mexico Acequia Association was selected as an organization to host a FoodCorps service member. The Service member selected was Adam Casados from the community of Chamisal, who is also a Sembrando Semillas participant.


Over the course of the year, he was given the opportunity to visit the statewide FoodCorps sites in Gallup, Anthony, and Albuquerque, and was able to attend food-related conferences in San Francisco and Detroit.

FoodCorps Visit to La Tierra Montessori School
Roger Montoya introduces FoodCorps members to La Tierra Montessori School summer participants, as they play in the acequia.


Additionally, Adam has been working at the Peñasco School District, in both the elementary and middle schools on a number of acequia agriculture activities. He has also worked alongside Roger Montoya at the La Tierra Montessori School garden located on the historic Los Luceros property, an agriculturally-focused project at the school.  


In late June, we had the pleasure of hosting a number of FoodCorps Service members, their immediate host site supervisors, and the NM FoodCorps Fellow. Their visit featured tours of various locations, and we also presented information on a number of topics.


On day one of the agenda, we all attended the "Traditions and Adaptations" Statewide Acequia Workshop hosted by the NMAA at the Santa Fe Community College, with at least 150 other attendees. The presentation covered topics on acequia bylaws, acequia easements, infrastructure planning, effective meetings, enforcement, and were able to watch the first time screening of "The Art of Mayordomia".


On day two, the group attended La Tierra Montessori School in Los Luceros, where we walked along the acequia and heard a brief history of the property by Roger Montoya. Bob Dunsmore, a consultant to the La Tierra Board, conducted a presentation regarding his extensive experience working in 20 countries as a community development specialist, learning to purify water and grow crops organically.


For lunch, we had access to the on-site commercial kitchen, and the group was able to roll tortilla masa (dough) that had been prepared by Donne Gonzales, a Sembrando Semillas youth participant. We washed and tore a huge amount of Mesclun greens from the Sembrando Semillas garden, slow-cooked a large pot of pinto beans, and Adam was able to purchase a chile ristra in Chimayo, that he used to show the FoodCorps group how to prepare. They started by despipitando the chile, which simply is removing the stem and the seeds. He then used his Vita-Mixer which was gifted to him for his participation as a FoodCorps member, and processed the chile and ajo (garlic), with some water. Our delicious meal was ready after it slow cooked for about 30 minutes. 
FoodCorps Visit
FoodCorps visitors learn how to prepare traditional northern New Mexico foods in the Los Luceros kitchen facility.  

After lunch, we listened to a presentation about testing soil composition by Carlos Bustos, Acequia Governance Staff at NMAA, and then a presentation on USDA funding by Patrick Staib, Farmer/Rancher Outreach Coordinator at NMAA.


The group then went on to Santa Barbara, at the base of La Jicarita peak, where Adam explained characteristics of the watershed. During this visit, he was able to catch a few fish that were gutted and cooked for dinner. They camped there overnight, sharing with me the next morning that they had a great time.


The third day of the agenda consisted of a full day of activities at the Sembrando Semillas garden in Chamisal. Edward Gonzales, Sembrando Semillas Mentor, led them on a tour of the property and explained how acequias work. We had another great lunch that was prepared with the assistance of Donne Gonzales, and Margaret Garcia. We fried papitas (potatoes), with cebolla (onion), and a large batch of rainbow chard. We also had chile caribe, beans, with another fresh batch of tortillas. The menu was similar to the prior days, but our visitors were seeking an experience, and papitas, frijoles, chile and tortillas are part of that truth.

Margaret Garcia was able to take the guests for a walk in the field, identifying at least 20 plants and shrubs that we use for either food or

remedios. She pointed out plumajillo, red clover, alfalfa, verdolagas, quelites, chicoyole, yerba del buey, malvas, yerba de la negrita, rosa castilla, and some others.  


Edward Gonzales, was able to speak on the crop variety. The importance of the seed to our altitude and short growing season, and was also able to discuss the importance of maintaining the tools, and demonstrated how to sharpen hand tools.


Adam's service year will be complete in early August, but a few of these service members will engage in a second year. The group left quite content, and were eager to come back next year.  

USDA Deadlines & Announcements

FSA County Committees Nomination Deadline - August 1st

FSA county committees help local farmers through their decisions on commodity price support loans, conservation programs and disaster programs, and by working closely with county executive directors. To be eligible to hold office as a county committee member, individuals must participate or cooperate in a program administered by FSA, be eligible to vote in a county committee election and live in the local administrative area where they are running. For more information please visit  http://www.fsa.usda.gov/elections  


FSA: Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) Sign-up Period for the White Water Baldy Fire - August 17th

ECP will provide funding and technical assistance for farmers and ranchers to rehabilitate fences damaged by the White Water Baldy Fire in 2012. ECP program participants can receive financial assistance for up to 75 percent of the cost to implement approved emergency conservation practices. FSA also has a related program for emergency forest restoration. 

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"Strengthening Community in Times of Scarcity"

14th Annual
Saturday, November 23
The Bishop's Lodge
Santa Fe, NM

For more info contact NMAA at (505) 995-9644.
"Value Your Land, Value Your Water"

Sandoval County Regional Acequia Workshop


Thursday, August 22

10:00am to 4:00pm

Cuba, NM 


For more info contact the NMAA Farmer/Rancher Outreach Staff at 505.995.9644
  OMA and IPRA Workshop

The Attorney General's Office will host a workshop on:   


Open Meetings Act Compliance and Inspection of Public Records Act


Wednesday, August 7 

1:00pm to 4:00pm

City Council Chambers

800 Municipal Dr.

Farmington, NM 


Sustainable Grazing Practices to Mitigate Drought     
Open Gate On-Farm Learning Series

Mesteño Draw
Ranch Day
Friday, August 9 
Mesteño Ranch 
Mountainair, NM

At the Mesteño Draw Ranch Day you'll see what local land managers are doing to maintain land health & profitability during  drought:  
  Discuss practical stocking/destocking strategies, better understand critical monitoring criteria, evaluate herd mgt strategies, understand how best to maximize recovery, see how you can improve riparian health for increased forage production, get tips on how to increase upland forage health.    
Hosted by Holistic Management International. For more info visit  http://holisticmanagement.org/mesteno/ 

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.


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.