From growing food with her grandmother as a young child to owning Loose Leaf Farm in Albuquerque’s North Valley, Sarah Robertson has had a long history of understanding the critical role of farming in global food systems and climate change.
Robertson graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2012 with a degree in communications. Shortly thereafter, she started working in a management position for La Montañita Co-op Food Market, where she began to seriously consider farming as a career option.
Robertson said La Montañita was where she was able to work closely with local farmers, which set in motion profound conversations with her now-husband about local food.
“Seeing, on a (more personal) level, how broken the food system is, I realized that one of the only ways I was going to be able to make the world the place I wanted it to be — to see the change I wanted to see — was to farm,” Robertson said.
Loose Leaf Farm is operated by Robertson and her husband Mark, with support from their part-time employee Charlotte Steiner. The farm has approximately three-fourths of an acre of land, with dairy goats, laying hens, geese and a broiler chicken operation, according to Robertson.
“They have a wonderful combination of fastidiousness and non-perfectionism,” landlord and close friend David Rubin said. “You have to have that to be a good farmer. If you want to pick every single weed, you’ll drive yourself mad and end up with a Japanese garden.”
The Robertsons live on Rubin’s property in exchange for helping with his greenhouse, which grows ginger and turmeric, Rubin said. They sell their crops separately through their respective markets, but farm on the same land.
“(Sourcing locally) is important on an ecological level with the soil health and management practices,” Robertson said. “Plus, you’re supporting someone in your community — a real person, not a big (agriculture) corporation.”
The U.S. food chain relies on importing internationally grown produce during seasons when it can’t grow locally, Robertson said. She said another benefit to sourcing locally at a place like Loose Leaf Farm is that the food is better quality and isn’t grown with chemical fertilizers.
“It really isn’t reasonable to grow a bunch of food in one place and try to send it somewhere else,” Robertson said.
Though Robertson and her husband had long intended on developing a community-supported agriculture (CSA) system, the pandemic was the push they needed to get it started.
“It’s just a natural, orbital thing for me that I gravitate towards fresh and local food,” Robertson said.
Loose Leaf Farm has a 24-week CSA which is structured around when they have the most product available, though Robertson said they grow year-round. This season, the farm has 18 full-share and 12 half-share customers. Additionally, they sell at the Los Ranchos Growers’ Market and do some restaurant sales.
“Our CSA is, by far, our favorite mode of sales,” Robertson said. “People pay upfront and come pick up one a week or biweekly, depending on if they signed up for a half- or full-share, and then we don’t have to have any exchange of money. They just come to the farm for the rest of the (season).”
The CSA model is particularly valuable to small farmers because they get their money for the season upfront and are able to purchase materials before the season, according to Robertson.
Robertson said their CSA predominantly consists of seasonal fruits and vegetables that are grown on-site, chicken eggs and the intermittent availability of pickled products.
“It just seems like their vision of a CSA brings a lot of joy to the people who are members,” Rubin said. “They don’t just come and get their food; they kind of wander around the property and get to know the animals.”
Rubin said he has learned a lot about farming and “the unique satisfaction of daily life” from Loose Leaf Farm.
Rebecca Hobart is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @DailyLobo