UNM is teaming up with local farmers to feed and educate its neighbors.
UNM students collaborated with South Valley Academy Charter School to create a program aimed at teaching students the importance of local organic food.
Richard Brandt, founder of Dragon Farm at South Valley Academy, said the program allows students to get their hands dirty in every aspect of farming.
“The students are exposed to the full gamut of farming. They help prep the beds, plant, harvest and market the produce at the farmers market. It’s full circle; we produce food nine months out of the year, and we’ll get started again next spring.”
Dragon Farm not only educates but improves the community, Brandt said.
“This is the first year some of the produce went to the lunch program. We’ve painted two murals with agricultural themes and designed and planted a one-acre corn maze,” he said. “We donated the corn to the Albuquerque rescue mission.”
Lurdes Ortiz, a junior at the South Valley Academy, said working on the farm allows her to be involved in the production of what she eats.
“I think it’s fun,” she said. “It teaches you a lot about how the community used to be when we didn’t have companies making the food. I’m getting my own lettuce and I can say, ‘I helped with this.’ I’m pretty proud of it.”
Despite past budget problems, the Dragon Farm has received assistance from federal programs, Brandt said.
“It’s been a rocky road getting this program started in terms of funding, but the McCune Foundation has been very generous. Next week we will receive some funding from a USDA grant.”
Brandt said Dan Young, of the Research Service Learning Program, and Bruce Milne, of Sustainability Studies, invested in Dragon Farm.
“I owe a lot to those guys,” he said.
UNM student Derek Crook said he started working with Dragon Farm though the UNM Service Corps and an anthropology course taught by Patrick Staib. He said more awareness and participation would benefit the Dragon Farm.
“I think there are a lot of people who would be interested but just don’t know about it,” he said. “A lot of people show up every day for a week and then they get burnt out on it. It would be a lot more useful for people to work possibly one day a week, but keep coming for a month. That would show them a little bit more about what happens.”
*To be involved with Dragon Farm go to unm.edu/~unmsc/ *