2016 Farmer All-Star: Santa Cruz Farm and Greenhouse
Don Bustos has been farming since he was a young child, on the land his family has farmed for 400 years. Don still uses traditional practices, while incorporating new technology and using nothing but solar energy, to grow 72 different types of produce – from salad greens, asparagus, squash, and cucumbers, to their famous blackberries.
Don has amassed many generations of farming knowledge, and has passed it on to more than 225 farmers around the state. He aims to empower and educate others and show them how to be self reliant. “Farming isn’t about getting rich. It’s about having a good quality of life and enjoying what we’re doing. It is about creating and supporting economic opportunities for other farmers to replicate the same model instead of working for someone else.”
One of the farmers Don has taught is his nephew, Nery Martinez, who runs the 3.5 acre farm and the booth at Market. “I didn’t know anything about farming until I got to this farm.” Nery’s goal is to eventually work his own land. The work of growing healthy food makes him feel alive, connected to this world. His passion and new-found knowledge haven’t gone unnoticed. Nery was awarded the Young Farmer of the Year award at the 2016 New Mexico Organic Farmers Conference.
Santa Cruz Farms was designed so one or two people can manage it, thus allowing Don to invest in the land AND in the community. For almost 15 years, Don has been a board member of the New Mexico Acequia Association, doing advocacy to protect water rights for future generations. He also launched a program through the American Friends Service Committee where farmers can support and teach one another and pass on knowledge to new farmers. In addition, Don was among the early New Mexico farmers to support a state organic certification program, and he has since become a leader in the field (pun intended). Before there was a certification program, Don worked with the New Mexico Department of Agriculture, the New Mexico Organic Commodity Commission, and USDA to define what it means to be “organic.” He’s been a certified organic farmer since they program began! As organic labeling becomes more mainstream, Don urges us to buy food that is traditionally grown. “Get to know your farmer. That’s the best certification there is.”
Photos and video by Gabriella Marks Photography