On Silver Ave, between First and Second street, a surprise awaits you! Linnae and I had just discovered that there are no midday Railrunner excursions and were trudging around the exciting downtown atmosphere looking for a picnic spot. Linnae decided going around the block from Gold Ave was OK with her. We like to park close to the train station because I’m essentially lazy about walking in the heat with a three year old. She was excited by all the buses and skateboarders and vendors and pedestrians but it was a bit overwhelming and noisy for her.
I suspiciously eyeballed a young man coming around the corner. We had just dodged some irritating types cadging (and stealing) free food off the hot dog vendor. This one looked like he’d be at home surfing on the beach, but I was preparing for the unexpected, nonetheless.
Rather than avoid my look or do anything outrageous, this young man smiled like the sun coming out from behind a cloud and offered us a carrot, “fresh from the farm.” He generously held out the bunch of freshly-pulled-still-earthy carrots he was carrying. I held up our much-used pirate themed tote bag from le Target and mumbled something about bringing our own snacks, thanks. Admittedly, being among what to me is a crowd of people in a noisy area DOES raise my barriers a bit, but I felt slightly embarrassed at my grumpiness. Part of my excuse was that we were walking next to a parking garage, notorious sites of TV and movie carnage. I was thus totally unprepared for the view as we rounded the corner of the parking garage.
There is a giant garden in the middle of downtown Albuquerque.
Since I am looking into this very kind of thing as part of my Paleo lifestyle change, I felt like I’d been run over by a very large Serendipity Truck. Linnae and I sat on the corner of a raised bed (coincidentally very like the ones I want my dear hubby to build for me next to the driveway) and watched Chris Goblet (self-titled “a farmer” but actually Deputy Director of the Downtown Action Team, I discovered later) and Margaret (an involved guest, I surmise) pick spinach and carrots. Apparently you aren’t quite allowed to leave without produce if you are lucky enough to stumble upon this little oasis in the asphalt, so we came home with a bag of marvelous looking spinach and baby carrots.
Apparently Tuesday and Thursday mornings are the busy times, but a few people stopped in to work and help Chris – raking, pulling some infested plants, etc. Chris patiently encouraged and educated, tending the plants all the while as he spoke. You could see the community being built, slowly but surely.
After our snack, some impromptu education on ladybugs, aphids and when mustard lamentably bolts and becomes bitter, Linnae and I walked back to the car. In my normal irrepressible way, I stopped a man checking his parking meter stub in his windshield and asked him if he realized if there was a farm just on the other side of the office building he had just exited. He beamed broadly and replied “Oh, you mean the one I put up?” Apparently the Serendipity truck needed to back up and reposition in case I hadn’t gotten the idea the first time. This gentleman’s name is Rick Rennie, and he’s with HDIC (Historic District Improvement Company for those of us with acronymophobia) and the Downtown Action Team (incoming board president according to the June ’11 NM Biz Weekly article I scarfed up). He explained the Alvarado Urban Farm from a more top-down perspective and I could tell he had as much excitement for the project as Mr. Goblet had passion. I believe the Alvarado Urban Farm has some committed folks behind it and I hope it surpasses their dreams.
I also found out from Mr. Rennie that the good-natured young man sharing carrots was probably an Amy Biehl Charter High School Student who was spending some time gardening during lunch. Students helped build it, as part of their community service requirement and the school has close involvement with the farm. I immediately thought of those scallywags at the train station, although produce is probably not their style. What a shame that so many people refuse to benefit and prosper from something within two blocks of their daily routine.
Mr. Rennie was very informative, especially considering I probably caught him on the way back from lunch. Kudos to both of these important, driven men for pausing in their day to chat with us about their amazing Urban Farm.
Please drop by the farm on Tuesday and Thursday mornings and see for yourself!
101 Silver Ave SW
(It’s the big open space with uh, raised beds and edible plants and stuff, for those of you who are firm urbanites.)
Alvarado Urban Farm
NM Business Weekly Article