- Learn - Make - Connect -
Here are a few plans in the works:
Administrative Assistant - Lindsey McDonald has been approved through the Workforce Connections On-The-Job Training Program and will be starting next week!
Print Order - New trifolds and Lea W. - S. business cards have been ordered. They should be in the first week of December.
Finances - As we near the end of the year expect Lea Wise-Surguy and Margaret Neill during Tuesday and Thursday evenings to hunker down to wrap up 2019 finances and get ready to start 2020's.
Congresswoman Xochitl Torres Small - This past Friday Lea Wise-Surguy was able to meet Congresswoman Torres Small during a meeting with the Arrowhead Center. She was able to share the great impacts our Job Shop has had and shared future plans to grow Job Shop and eventually our facility. The news was well received.
Cruces Creatives is constantly changing, growing, and becoming a better place because of the great work you're doing. Here are a few updates to know about:
BRB Sign - There is now a "Be Right Back" sign for the front desk so if you need to give a tour, use the restroom, or walk away from the desk for more than a quick minute you can have a sign to welcome folks and let them know you'll be back soon. It is located above the Lost and Found area.
Thanksgiving - This upcoming week we're closed Wednesday, Thursday and Friday for the holiday. Have a wonderful time with your families!
Thanks for the incredible giving and work you do to make Cruces Creatives an amazing space for learning, making, and community.
This week a special thank you to volunteer couple Tricia and Colin Salazar. Tricia is an active monitor, our lead volunteer event coordinator, and helps with marketing. Colin has been working behind the scenes making our website more user-friendly and appealing. This past week they worked together to make our website even better!
Thank you to our fun-loving, hard-working, maker couple, Tricia and Colin, for helping make Cruces Creatives!
Charitable Crafters and Jardín de Los Niños
The beneficent elves of the Charitable Crafters are hard at work this season making holiday presents for the children at the Jardín de Los Niños shelter, and you can help!
To make sure that every kid at Jardín de Los Nińos gets a present, volunteers will be cutting patterns, sewing, stuffing, and decorating stuffed animals at Cruces Creatives on Saturday, November 23, from 9:00 a.m. until all the stuffed animals are finished (http://www.crucescreatives.org/event-3421444). You can help even if you have no previous sewing experience—there are roles for everyone. If you’re free this Saturday, you can join a great team and do a good thing.
Extra-Special First Friday on December 6
The First Friday ramble on December 6 will be an extra special one! As always, there will be a stellar gallery exhibit—this one featuring the work of Michael Ponce—and an all-original open mic, and at the next First Friday ramble, there will be two bonus attractions. Thanks to Dave and Mary Ann Robinson, who donated the holiday tree back to Cruces Creatives for more fundraising, you can still take home the tree and over 35 one-of-a-kind miniature paintings and textile ornaments created by local artists. If you’re looking for holiday gifts, you can also support youth entrepreneurs from the Kids Can program, who have developed their own products that you can buy straight from the kids at Cruces Creatives during the art ramble.
Facility Updates and Special Activities
Did you know we've had a guest intern from NMSU's Department of English? Emily Joy Rosa has been attending events and writing blog posts about Cruces Creatives events to help new folks understand the activities and community at Cruces Creatives.
In case you didn't catch the posts when they came out:
The Branigan Library Mural
Reflections: The Mesa Art Show
Reflections: The Basic Wood-Shop Safety Training
Thanks Emily Joy, your writings help bring out the ways folks can get involved and how meaningful it feels to part of the creative community!
Open Studio Art Sessions Starting!
Beginning December 10 and continuing every second Tuesday from 3:00-6:00 p.m. and again from 6:30-8:30 p.m., there will be open studio art sessions at Cruces Creatives! The sessions are open to the public at a drop-in rate of $5 (free to members), and the sessions offer assistance from artists Mary Diesel and Mike Kling and a wide range of donated art supplies. For more information or to register, visit http://www.crucescreatives.org/event-3620844.
HAZLO Program Update
Starting this Friday, a group of students from Las Montañas Charter High School will be working at Cruces Creatives to create wooden furniture and textiles for a clinic at their school. Special thanks to Steve Kanim for volunteering as a woodworking mentor and Dina Honeycutt for volunteering as a textile mentor. This project is part of the HAZLO Program, which provides funding and mentors for experiential learning projects that students propose. More information, student applications, and mentor applications are available at www.hazlofoundation.org.
Admin work was busy as usual as new programs were drafted, new Job Shops have been explored, and many an activity happened at Cruces Creatives. Here are a few plans in the works:
Yearly Party - Our yearly Appreciation Party is coming up on December 7th and plans are underway. If this is your first Appreciation Party, this event is part Thanksgiving, part Holidays, part appreciation to our volunteers, donors, members and supporters. Food and awesome people make this one of the best events all year.
Planning - If you'd like to help with this year's event making food, bringing in music, or helping with thank you gifts, please attend this Wednesday's 6pm meeting at Cruces Creatives. If you'd like to help, say by bringing in a dish to share for the party but can't make the planning meeting, send a message through Slack or email to Lea.
Slideshow - Each year a slideshow of photos helps remind us of the amazing community, events, and projects that have happened. As this slideshow is being prepared, do you have images you think should be shown? If you do please Slack or email those images to Lea.
Secretary - Josh starts this Tuesday and will in weekly Tuesday through Friday, 9am to 6pm. This Tuesday he'll be learning the software systems and starting his first tasks around the building.
Administrative Assistant - Workforce Connections has approved the Administrative Assistant position for Lindsey McDonald. Unfortunately the Executive Director position did not go through, but I'm excited to get Lindsey in full-time to help with Job Shop and facility management.
Other Positions - Given the ED position did not go through we are looking at other possible positions Workforce may be able to cover.
Alternatives - Do you know other programs, grants, or opportunities CC can use to build an administrative team? If you do please send Lea a message.
New Programs in Research:
Private Studios - Numbers have been calculated and a meeting is scheduled for Tuesday to discuss possible lease agreements.
Proclamation - Cruces Creatives was honored as part of this month's "Species in Peril Along the Rio Grande Awareness Month" for the work and support of Henry Hartig's and Raquel Madrigal's "By the Dam" mural painting and for the MESA Art Show. You can see Cruces Creatives being mentioned at City Council starting at 15:40.
Donation Area - Extra donation materials have started to leave CC. If there are materials you'd like to add to your areas please start picking those materials out. Between Josh and Lindsey our donation area should start clearing out and a new system put in place.
Finances - Congrats to the finance team for putting together the first quarter of the STEM Outreach programing reimbursement invoice! It has been approved and CC will be moving forward with our great STEAM programs!
New Programs in Research:
Key - The key for the bathroom paper has gone missing. If you happen around the building, in a pants pocket, or the freezer, please give it to the front monitor.
Project Room Art Show - As one of the shortest shows Cruces Creatives has hosted, the NMSU OutsmART Día de los Muertos Extinct Species Retable Exhibition will start coming down this week. Parents will be stopping in to pick up their child's retablos. If a parent comes in during your shift please help them identify the Project Room and invite them for a tour of the space if this is their first time in.
Events - When starting a monitor shift it can helpful to check out that days events on the online calendar.
This week a special thanks goes out to Margaret Neill for the hard work she's been doing as Cruces Creatives' Treasurer! Did you know Margaret comes in twice a week to do finances, and manages front monitor duties at the same time? She's helped Cruces Creatives get up-to-date and organized, and works weekly to make sure we stay on top of finances. Thank you Margaret!
Día de Los Muertos Extinct Species Retablo Exhibition
Through November 11, you can visit the project room at Cruces Creatives and experience a collection of paintings and collage-on-metal that area youth created in reference to the traditional style of Mexican Retablo ex-voto paintings. The children created the works as part of the New Mexico State University Art Museum’s “OutsmART” children’s workshop series, held in partnership with the Southwest Environmental Center, on the theme of extinct species. The workshop and the exhibit at Cruces Creatives are part of the binational project, “Species in Peril Along the Rio Grande.”
Kids Create Open Build Day Nov. 30
On November 30, there’ll be an after-Thanksgiving open build day for kids at Cruces Creatives. With supervision from makerspace instructors, school-aged kids can work on jewelry making, stop-motion animation, fiber arts, cardboard creations, and much more! Parents are welcome to use this time to take a post-holiday break or do some secret shopping, while your kids learn some new building skills. Early bird pricing of $8/hr is available until Nov. 23. For more information or to register, visit http://www.crucescreatives.org/event-3606920.
Handmade Paper Available in Painting and Drawing Classes
Makerspace member Trevor Bush has been creating lovely hand-made paper, and he’s generously made a supply available for free for participants in the Cruces Creatives painting and drawing classes (http://www.crucescreatives.org/event-3621204 and http://www.crucescreatives.org/event-3621219) . It’ll be exciting to see their beautiful artwork on such a lovely background as Trevor’s paper!
On Friday, September 27th, the Paint-by-Numbers Mural event at the Branigan Library took off with a bang, being met with well over sixty volunteers. The mural, funded by the Rumphius Foundation and designed by local artist Eugenia “AO” Carmona, began the weekend as a white wall with black outlines of images, like a giant coloring book. As the event continued, the outlines sprang to life as numerous community members of all ages grabbed brushes and added blues, browns, greens, oranges, reds, tans—a whole palette of the agricultural and natural colors in Las Cruces. Thanks to a numbering system that matched paint colors with particular outlines on the mural, everyone knew exactly what colors to paint where, so scores of people, many of whom had never met before, were able to work together almost immediately.
The mural held the attention of a multitude from the very beginning of the event. I arrived Friday at the library parking lot at 10:20 AM to find it was completely full as many had showed up right away, excited to get started. After finding a spot and walking to the mural, I went to get supplies to paint with the rest of the large group already painting. The supply area was in the shade close to the library, where the paints were all lined up on one table and the boxes full of paintbrushes were on another across from it. There I was met by a woman I would later discover was the artist, AO, who was there to assign attendees with paint and a specific number that the color aligned with. There were a few others around the supply area who welcomed people as they came in and helped to get newcomers settled with a brush and sent to AO for paint.
I was first assigned Color #21, a rich red for the chile pepper in the middle of the wall. I immediately got to painting with a large brush, soon to be replaced with a slightly smaller one that would fill in the edges. I was later joined in my chile-painting by a woman who told me she was a sign-language interpreter with a class from Oñate High School who were attending the mural painting as a fieldtrip. I would be able to talk to another woman with the same group later on in the day, and in both conversations, they discussed how imperative it is that students participate in art and similar creative outlets, particularly in a community context. Once I was done painting for the day and was helping clean or watching the mural progress, it was great to be able to see the class paint with such dedication and care.
Before finishing painting, I had the opportunity to fill in Color #25, a blue-tinted gray used for parts of the ear and mouth of the dog that was in the middle of the mural next to the chiles. There was something deeply relaxing about the process of painting, lulled by the sun as one either stood out in the bright New Mexican heat or sat on sunbaked sidewalks to paint the lower half of the wall. It was wonderful to be part of something bigger, especially when I was able to sign my name on top of the wall with everyone else’s signatures.
Of course, there was a lot more effort poured into the mural than just painting. Several volunteers spent hours focused on washing the used paintbrushes, sitting under the shade of the library building and using a combination of water and hand-sanitizer to clean off the paint. One of them was a woman named Marie, and after I was done painting, we were able to talk about the event. Both of us were excited about it and the value it has for the public. She told me that she had not been able to paint anything on the mural but stated that she enjoyed watching just as much if not more.
The volunteers who dedicated so much time to making sure paintbrushes were properly scrubbed for Saturday and Sunday’s use were truly some of the most valuable people there as they worked cheerfully to get the task done, talking and joking amongst each other. In between work to address other logistical needs, the mural designer AO would scrub brushes too. As for Marie, she stayed until all of the brushes had been completed before leaving. I hope the volunteers were able to sign the wall as well no matter whether they painted, as their help was incredibly valuable to completing the mural.
I met a few other new people as well, such as a student pursuing a master’s degree in physical therapy who showed me how to take a panorama. Later in the afternoon, a couple of the students who had been in the Oñate class were so kind as to bring back cupcakes for the few people who were still working at the mural at that point, which were all quickly eaten. All of those attending the event seemed to have a great time whether they had known each other previously or not, and the environment was constantly convivial and pleasant.
The mural was such a success on Friday that it had to end early at around 2:45 PM as Friday’s huge turn-out brought some concern that there might not be enough blank wall-space for all of Saturday and Sunday. By the time people had left, the wall showed an incredible amount of progress in comparison to how it started, proving just how much can be done when passionate people gather together.
I was able to stay longer, helping AO clean up with a couple of other individuals until approximately 4:30 PM. This mostly consisted of putting out damp rag towels to dry, organizing brushes by size to get them prepared for the next day, packing up boxes, and eventually moving items into a truck to drive them to Cruces Creatives so AO could get started on mixing paints for the next day. This process of cleaning up, according to the artist, is important in the same way it is to have a warm up and cool down when working out; this was part of the creation process just as much as putting paint on the wall. This statement reflected how vital it was that there were people willing to work throughout the mural-painting on cleaning the paintbrushes, as well as a few volunteers additional to myself who were willing to help clean-up after most had left.
I spoke with AO about various subjects off and on throughout the event. I was first able to talk with her about art throughout history and its changing connotations and levels of prestige and focus in society, where she discussed that mural-art has become very popular lately. AO discussed that she saw her art as a business that she is now trying to build up, at first having started with paintings and now primarily focusing on murals. Later on, she mentioned that while she had helped others with paint-by-number murals before, this would be her first time leading her own and she was floored by the amount of people who were willing to come and contribute to it in just the first day.
While cleaning up, AO told me that her inspiration for the piece came from the prompt word, agriculture. As she started the design, what she wanted the mural to look like slowly came to her, being influenced by folk art and a native tribe in Mexico. With its depiction of plowed fields, rain, and various vegetables among other beautiful images, it is easy to see how that which influenced AO is found in the work itself. The mural depicts not only the land but the hands that nurture and utilize it, and looking at it reminded me to be thankful for how much I benefit from the agricultural work of others.
The Branigan Mural is a gorgeous addition to downtown, a bright reminder of our community and our environment. Over 300 people came to help finish it, truly making it a public art piece. Whether painting or cleaning, everyone who participated were highly-valuable to the creative process. Speaking with AO made it clear how grateful she was for the huge turn-out as it blew away her expectations, especially regarding how much was done in such a short amount of time at the start of the project.
Whether you helped out that weekend or not, if you haven’t yet seen the finished project in person, drive down to the Branigan Library to view such a wonderful piece of art – and maybe check out a few books while you’re there!
As usual administrative work has been busy keeping up with all the amazing activities y'all have been leading while setting the path for new programs, activities, Job Shops, and partnerships. Here are a few plans in the works:
Reserved Space - Job Shop has recently reserved a section of the back area of the Main Room. This area will be used to help facilitate the projects of Job Shop.
Building a Bench - Cruces Creatives Job Shop will soon start a new project building a bench for the Children's section at Branigan Library.
Secretary - Cruces Creatives will be getting a new Secretary through the Youth Program at Workforce Connections. Josh will likely be joining us next week and will stay with us about 3 months. He'll help with re-stocking needed paperwork, entering data, helping keep up with the facility, and implement new procedures.
Administrative Assistant and Executive Director - Cruces Creatives is also working with Workforce Connections to see if Lindsey McDonald and Lea Wise-Surguy can be hired through Workforce's Training Program as Administrative Assistant and Executive Director. Lea has been working unpaid as Executive Director for over a year and half, and Lindsey has been working to assist Lea after Lea put in $1,200 to hire her for a short while to help catch up on needed tasks. If the training program goes through, and it's a good fit for Cruces Creatives, 75% of both individuals pay will be paid through Workforce for up to a year while we work to increase programs, Job Shops, events, and memberships - and hopefully to hire even more administrative help!
New Programs in Research:
Private Studios - Research is being done to see if a new satellite site for private studios would help Cruces Creatives meet its goals of supporting the arts, sciences, and economic development in Doña Ana County, while bringing in another dependable revenue stream.
Proposals in Progress - Cruces Creatives is regularly being asked to create program proposals for local schools. The planning and work time to create proposals is fairly consuming. Currently we are working on a proposal to Picacho Middle School, Crossroads, and DACC.
Programs in Progress:
STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) - Instructors Brittany Ontiveros and Sandy Smith have experienced great success launching the 4th and 5th grade STEAM Team programs this fall with 5 different groups of students spanning classes at CC to classes that are located at partnering LCPS locations. They are working on new Family and Student programs to further fulfill our work for NMSU's STEM Outreach Center. Let them know they are awesome next time you see them.
Zone Grant, Seeding Regenerative Agriculture - Work is wrapping up for Patrick DeSimio's Seeding Regenerative Agriculture 1 year planning project. Last Sunday and Monday Patrick and Lea were in Albuquerque to meet with other planning grant recipients and to share results for this past year's work. Check out Patrick's amazing research and results here. Pat gave a great presentation to funders and we'll hear back around the 18th of November whether or not we'll continue this project for the next 2 years.
Programs in Progress:
Dumpster Lock - The dumpster now has a lock. Ask a monitor to unlock the dumpster if you need in.
Project Room Art Show - This Sunday or Tuesday, Karen Conley will be coming in with ex-votos to hang in the Project Room. If she comes in during your shift please help her bring in the art work, help her find and use any tools she may need to hang the work, and help her hang as you have the time and ability.
Counters - During monitor shifts make sure to check for quick tasks like wiping countertops. Cleaning spray is located in the Break Room, upper right cabinets.
To our volunteers and monitors - thanks for the incredible giving and work you do to make Cruces Creatives an amazing space for learning, making, and community.
For just a few examples, your work has helped hundreds of community members learn more about tools and the making process, has helped our STEAM programs take off for 4th and 5th graders, has helped artists make joy for the community, has helped members start new businesses and create new wares, has helped technology development for sustainable agriculture, and has helped many an individual connect and find a place where they feel at home.
Your work has rippling good effects in our community. Thank you - you are amazing!
Regenerative agriculture--which works with natural cycles by maintaining living root systems, minimizing disturbances, keeping soils covered, maximizing biodiversity, and considering local conditions--can prevent topsoil loss (Wall et al., 1991), address climate change by capturing carbon in soils (Sherrod et al., 2003; Lal, 2004) , increase soil water infiltration and water retention (Dlamini et al., 2016; Toosi et al., 2017), reduce the need for inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides (Litsinger and Moody, 1976; Scott et al., 1987; Brown et al.,1993; Ochsner et al., 2010), while increasing profitability for farmers and ranchers through increased yields and/or reduced input costs (Ziyomo et al., 2013).
To help promote the adoption of regenerative agricultural practices throughout New Mexico, Cruces Creatives was awarded a $30,000 grant from the Thornburg Foundation and McCune Charitable Foundation, with the primary goal of developing a comprehensive theory of change that could be implemented through a follow-up grant that would provide significantly more funding.
Over the course of the planning grant, which ran from January to October 2019, Cruces Creatives and its partners achieved the following results:
We were also able to identify several significant obstacles to the spread of regenerative agriculture, obstacles that we could address in future work.
As revealed in interviews with Seed Group members, surveys of farmers and ranchers involved in the MESA Project, the statements of expert regenerative agricultural practitioners and consultants (such as Gabe Brown, Ray Archuleta, and Rudy Garcia), and a review of business and marketing literature, a central obstacle to the spread of regenerative agriculture is the lack of knowledge about how to apply the general principles of regenerative agriculture under specific local conditions. In interviews, Seed Group members identified the lack of such knowledge as the primary obstacle they face, a finding that was mirrored in surveys of MESA Project participants, for whom the lack of localized knowledge was the most commonly cited obstacle (Appendix C). All Seed Group members reported having to experiment significantly with regenerative agricultural techniques and technologies; the techniques don’t simply work. Expert consultants such as Gabe Brown, Ray Archuleta, and Rudy Garcia confirm that this is the normal state of affairs. As Rudy Garcia attested at the Soil Healthy Workshop in Las Cruces on October 22, “The principles are universal. The tricky part is . . . context.”
The need for regenerative agricultural practices to be reinvented locally is slowing the adoption of regenerative agriculture even among producers who are willing and able to invest in the experiments required to get regenerative agriculture to work under their specific conditions: each and every technique must be reinvented, and progress at that can be slow. As Gabe Brown advised would-be practitioners at the Las Cruces Soil Health workshop, “You will fail.” Success requires a long process of experimentation and learning. Worse, scientific literature from the fields of business and marketing suggest that, until regenerative agricultural techniques simply work—without the need for experimentation or trial-and-error—regenerative agriculture will not spread beyond the small subset of producers who have the interest, time, expertise, and capital to experiment (Moore, 2014, pp. 24-26, 56, 58, 62). For practices and technologies to succeed in the mainstream market, they have to just work.
Technologies that support regenerative agriculture are also, for the most part, at an early phase of development. Farmers and ranchers report that regenerative agricultural technologies, like regenerative agricultural principles, generally require experimentation and an ongoing learning process.
From scientific literature and the testimony of producers in Seed Groups and the MESA Project, social pressures are also a barrier. Regenerative agriculture is not a normal practice within the agricultural sector, so it faces the same obstacles that confront any deviation from a largely homogenous social system—socially, norms are supported, and counter-normative practices are suppressed. In a further impediment, sustainable/regenerative/organic agriculture are associated with liberal political values and beliefs. Since most farmers and ranchers are not politically liberal, producers may not adopt alternative practices even when there are no knowledge barriers and the alternative practices are more profitable (Press, 2014).
On the topic of politics, policies may deter or fail to adequately promote regenerative agriculture. The New Mexico Healthy Soils Act was a significant step in the right direction, but producers still report frustration with many policies, which often were not developed with regenerative agricultural practices in mind.
The relative unusualness of regenerative agriculture also introduces challenges in market development, from regulatory issues to supply chain creation and management. In conventional systems, marketing processes and channels are known; in regenerative agricultural systems, producers often need to develop not only new agricultural practices, but also new marketing and distribution systems.
It is important to note that, although regenerative agricultural principles are interconnecting and mutually reinforcing, regenerative agriculture is a continuum. It is possible to implement one or several regenerative agricultural principles without implementing others. This fact makes it possible to productively target solvable obstacles to particular regenerative agricultural principles, producing incremental progress toward the mainstream adoption of regenerative agricultural principles as a whole.
To address these obstacles, Cruces Creatives has applied for follow-up funding from the Thornburg Foundation and the McCune Charitable Foundation. Over the course of two years, Cruces Creatives and a team of partner organizations would work to address the obstacles to regenerative agriculture, focusing especially on helping regenerative agriculture thrive within concentrated socio-geographic areas.
Our plan for change, in essence, is modeled on how beneficial adaptations can originate and spread through ecological communities: a small group, well positioned for change, adapts; the adaptation proves beneficial; the adapted individuals interact with other individuals; and the adaptation spreads. In many instances of social behavior, groups follow “tipping point” theory, and once a small, critical mass of practitioners has been reached, a new behavior can quickly spread through an entire group. Our goal is to build regenerative agriculture in New Mexico toward its tipping point, starting from socio-geographic areas concentrated around the Seed Groups established in the planning phase (centered, roughly, within a radius of about an hour of driving time from Santa Fe and an hour of driving time from Las Cruces). We will work to make regenerative agriculture the dominant practice within socio-geographically defined market segments, from which regenerative agriculture can spread.
To succeed, we must address the obstacles to regenerative agriculture, we have planned a mutually reinforcing, systemic approach that draws on four key areas of intervention: Seed Groups, technology development, Meetings for Environmentally Sustainable Agriculture (MESA) events, and scientific research.
A. Seed Groups
Seed Groups are geographically concentrated, long-term cohorts of regenerative agricultural practitioners who meet regularly for peer-to-peer knowledge sharing, networking, and support. Seed Group members meet, on average, once per month for a workshop or a participant-led field day, followed by a meal.
Figure 1. Seed Group members at a field day workshop on soil contouring for passive rainwater harvest
The Seed Groups provide multiple benefits for their members and for regenerative agriculture. Within the Seed Groups, which are concentrated geographically, many producers have part of the puzzle for how to apply regenerative principles under local conditions. By bringing these practitioners together into a supporting network of friends and collaborators, we can help producers put their knowledge together and learn from each other about how regenerative agriculture can be implemented locally. In the pilot phase of the Seed Groups, which ran for six months (May-October), over 85% of participants reported being able to implement new regenerative practices, thanks to peer-to-peer knowledge sharing.
Thanks to field days, where a Seed Group member familiar with a regenerative practice invites other participants to a barn-raising style event to expand that practice, over 85% of participants were also able to expand regenerative practices that they had already implemented to some extent on their farms or ranches—while teaching other farmers and ranchers how to do the same. Since learning requires spaced repetition, the field days are designed to be iterative, with events of the same type (e.g., filling Johnson-Su composting bioreactors) often spiraling out through participants, who can share what they learn from each iteration.
The Seed Groups also offer social support, since within the Seed Group, regenerative agriculture is the norm. This inverts the social pressures of the mainstream market, creating an environment where positive social pressure supports progress on regenerative agriculture. The resulting social network also provides a rich environment for business and research partnerships, which—like the establishment/expansion of regenerative practices—over 85% of participants reported developing through the project.
The direct goal of the Seed Groups is to create subsections of the agricultural sector, concentrated geographically and socially, within which local practices for regenerative agriculture are known and social pressures support regenerative agriculture. In other words, the goal is to create sectors of the market within which regenerative agriculture is the new normal. These successes, created within the Seed Groups, can then be spread through the larger market through participants’ social networks, through the involvement of neighboring farms and ranches, and through local marketing of Seed Group events.
B. Technology Development
From the 35 obstacles/desired technologies identified by Seed Group members, we have collaboratively chosen five obstacle/technology pairs to address during the implementation phase: a knowledge-gathering and sharing system for local instantiations of regenerative agricultural principles, easier-to-implement Johnson-Su composting bioreactors, simplified inoculation systems for the beneficial microbes produced by Johnson-Su composting bioreactors, cloud-connected soil temperature sensors, and a grain cleaning system for amaranth and other small grains.
As the technologies are developed, they will be shared with Seed Group members, who can use the technologies to facilitate regenerative agriculture at their sites while also testing the technologies and offering feedback. The feedback from Seed Group members will then be used to further refine the technologies until they are suitable for a mainstream market.
Within the work of the Zone Grant, the technologies will be developed primarily at Cruces Creatives, but lists of obstacles and desired technologies will also be shared with entrepreneurs in the network of the Arrowhead Center, facilitating product development on the open market.
During the planning grant, the Cruces Creatives team was able to develop/improve working prototypes for the soil temperature sensors and the amaranth grain cleaner. If the initial list of 5 target technologies chosen during the planning grant is completed ahead of schedule, we may collaboratively choose additional, even more ambitious technical challenges to address.
C. Scientific Research
As Seed Group members implement and progressively expand their regenerative agricultural practices, their farms and ranchers will offer excellent sites for scientifically investigating the impacts of regenerative agriculture under a range of localized conditions. The resulting data can offer valuable feedback to Seed Group members and serve as demonstrable, quantitative evidence for farmers and ranchers socially and/or geographically adjacent to Seed Group members, to whom regenerative practices can spread. The results may also develop into publishable findings.
Scientific research funded in the implementation phase would be led by personnel from the Sustainable Agricultural Science Center at Alcalde, who would perform baseline testing on the lands of Seed Group members, install monitoring equipment on the lands of Seed Group members, work with Seed Group members to set up simple experimental/control conditions on the land, and train Seed Group members in soil sampling approaches.
Several of the current Seed Group members also have advanced degrees in science and agriculture, and they are well positioned to use Seed Group resources and connections to launch additional scientific inquiries. For examples, see the work of Starrlight Augustine and Rachael Ryan in “Achievements.”
D. MESA Events
MESA Events are multi-course gourmet meals, prepared by local chefs drawing heavily on local ingredients, that bring together stakeholders from all sectors of the agricultural system: farmers, ranchers, agricultural scientists, chefs, policy makers, restauranteurs, grocery store and co-op owners/managers, farm supply store owners, etc. At MESA events, anyone who feels they have a stake is invited to “Have a Seat at the Table.” The MESA events began in 2017 as an avenue for networking and knowledge-sharing, and in the planning phase of the Zone Grant, the MESA network served as a valuable recruitment channel for Seed Group members in the southern part of the state. Through further MESA events, conducted in both the northern and southern parts of the state, we would be able to expand the network of Seed Group members.
Through the Zone Grant, we also learned that a large network of agricultural stakeholders, of the sort put together by MESA, can be very useful for policy improvements: as reported by Jeff Goebel, a leader of the Healthy Soil Working Group that developed the successful 2019 Healthy Soils Act, support from the MESA network helped sway the votes of key committee members in the southern part of the state, who ultimately recommended that the Healthy Soils Act move forward. Building on this finding, we plan to use MESA events during the implementation phase to host consensus-driven discussions on possible policy improvements that would support regenerative agriculture. The discussions would be coordinated by staff from the Healthy Soil Working Group. The resulting policy proposals, crafted by consensus among stakeholders from all sectors of the agricultural system, would be able to rally support from stakeholders in all sectors of the agricultural system, increasing the likelihood of successful passage into law.
In an additional benefit, the broad cross-section of stakeholders created by MESA events offers productive opportunities for market development. For instance, through surveys at previous MESA events, we have identified a network of 26 farmers and 15 chefs who are interested in cultivating and cooking unconventional but environmentally friendly crops, such as amaranth. A handful of partnerships has developed independently through this network, but support from a coordinator/facilitator, which proved essential in arranging Seed Group field days, could significantly accelerate market development for regenerative agriculture through the MESA network. In the implementation phase, the project coordinator would therefore work to help interested parties turn their partnership interests into realities.
Brown, R.W., G.E. Varvel, and C.A. Shapiro. 1993. Residual effects of inter-seeded hairy vetch on soil nitrate-nitrogen levels. Soil Sei. Soc. Am. J. 57:121-124.
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Obstacles to Regenerative Agriculture and Desired Technologies,
as Reported by Seed Group Members
Obstacles (ordered by frequency of reporting, with the most commonly reported obstacles at the top)
Seed Group Events during the Planning Phase
October 14-16. Waste shredding and bioreactor filling with temperature sensors. 5 Seed Group members, 6 guests.
September 26: Technology selection conference call. 7 Seed Group members.
September 25: Bioreactor assembly. 7 Seed Group members, 3 guests
August 28: Land contouring for passive rainwater harvest. 7 Seed Group members, 7 guests
August 23-25: Scrub oak clearing, waste shredding, rock dam construction, pasture mulching, and pasture re-seeding with native grass mix. 5 Seed Group members, 2 guests.
August 14: Half-height bioreactor filling: 5 Seed Group members.
July 12: Bioreactor assembly workshop. 5 Seed Group members, 2 guests.
June 18: Bioreactor assembly workshop. 4 Seed Group members, 8 guests.
June 8: Bioreactor assembly workshop. 4 Seed Group members.
June 7: Northern Seed Group kickoff dinner. 6 Seed Group members, 3 guests.
June 4: Bioreactor assembly workshop. 5 Seed Group members.
June 1: Bioreactor assembly workshop. 12 Seed Group members.
May 28: Drip system design for jujube orchard. 4 Seed Group members.
May 27: Southern Seed Group kickoff dinner. 13 Seed Group members.
Holiday Tree with Custom Art
At this Friday’s Art Ramble, you can support Cruces Creatives will getting a gorgeous holiday tree that features over 30 one-of-a-kind paintings and sewn ornaments created by 12 local artists. The tree and all of its lovely, custom ornaments will be available through silent and not-so-silent auction until the end of this Friday’s Art Ramble, and all proceeds support your community makerspace.
Cruces Creatives to be Recognized in City Declaration
On November 4, Mayor Miyagishima will be delivering a proclamation declaring November “Species in Peril Along the Rio Grande Awareness Month.” Alongside several other organizations, Cruces Creatives will be recognized in the declaration for its work on the “By the Dam” mural.