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NMSU Organic Gardening Program Takes Root

LAS CRUCES - An innovative organic gardening project at New Mexico State University is quadrupling in size with the assistance of a Mesilla Valley farmer.

New Mexico State University professor Constance Falk, right, discusses the upcoming expansion of a recently developed organic gardening project with NMSU senior Tracy Wright, left, and research assistant Pauline Pao. (08/02/2002) (NMSU Agricultural Communications Photo by J. Victor Espinoza)

During the spring, students in NMSU's College of Agriculture and Home Economics participated in a new class that established the first organic Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm in the Mesilla Valley. The CSA structure allows area residents to buy shares in the farm's output and receive a weekly distribution of fresh organic produce, flowers and herbs.

"Demand for shares in the organic garden was tremendous," said Constance Falk, professor of agricultural economics and agricultural business. "It was really more than we could handle. More than 50 people are on the waiting list now."

Inspired by the early success of the 1-acre experiment, Falk said Mesilla-based farmer I.G. Prieto has agreed to plant an organic garden this fall and offer 80 full shares in the Mesilla Valley CSA, she said.

The fall season will last approximately nine weeks, from mid-September to
mid-November. Among the crops being planted are beets, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chard, kohlrabi, lettuces, snap and snow peas, radishes, spinach, turnips, and greens such as arugula, cress, endive, mustard.

Full shares, which should feed a family of four, cost $125 and half shares are $70, Falk said. The payment deadline is Sept. 15. Members will be able to pick up their shares either Thursday or Friday evenings at I.G. Prieto's farm in Mesilla, just north of the Four Corners' Gin. To purchase a share or for more information on membership, contact Falk at cfalk@nmsu.edu or (505) 646-4731.

Supervised by NMSU faculty members Falk and Chris Cramer, the organic on-campus farm is called OASIS (Organic Agriculture Students Inspiring Sustainability). It is funded in part with a three-year $147,000 grant awarded to the college in fall 2001 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Hispanic Serving Institutions grant program to develop a student-managed CSA farm on campus.

Falk said the larger garden means Prieto will need a core group of volunteers who will help manage distribution and other activities. "Core groups of volunteers are commonly used by CSA farms to help reduce the labor associated with distribution, communication and financial management," she said.