Book Review: Artisan Farming

As you are aware if you are a visitor to local farmers markets this season, the displays of vegetables in all their colourful glory are dazzling, tantalizing the eye as much as the taste buds. Choosing and eating locally grown food is a sensory delight. A carrot plucked from the earth that morning tastes so alive, there’s really no comparison to the carrot in the plastic bag that has travelled many miles to get to the supermarket. Buying locally grown food is sustainable because it means less fossil fuel is used to transport goods for our consumption. Wherever we live, these issues are relevant. That’s why as I read Artisan Farming. I thought of Vancouver Island equivalents while appreciating the vivid photos and stories, modern and old, of New Mexico.

There are distinct differences of course. New Mexico’s Spanish and Pueblo heritage makes New Mexico foods and agriculture unique. Recipes are included in the book for Chiles Rellenos for instance. (Relleno means "refilled” or stuffed.) I remember seeing many roadside stands of red chile pods when I visited New Mexico. The pods are tied together in long ristras (strands) and hung out to dry in the sun.

In New Mexico, corn comes first. It may have been used as currency when it first arrived in New Mexico and Arizona around 2000 B.C. The largest of the corn dances is held each year on August 4 at Santo Domingo Pueblo, a ceremony that brings the people of the pueblo into harmony with the corn.

Farmers are the ones who rise before the sun and keep traditions alive. It is their stories that are woven throughout the book. The first Spanish farmers, who arrived over 400 years ago, were fascinated to see that the Pueblo Indians used irrigation ditches, acequia, similar to those used in Spain. It’s a system that apportions available water equitably among everyone who needs it.

The author gives directions to follow so you can discover the heart of New Mexico’s small farm country. The roads wind through a striking diversity of ecosystems. In the meantime, take a colourful and mouth-watering trip through the book which offers fascinating stories, folklore, photographs and recipes to delight in.

Mary Ann Moore is a poet, writer and creativity facilitator living in Nanaimo.