AFSC's Don Bustos awarded New Mexico Organic Farmer of the Year
AFSC’s Don Bustos says his ancestors arrived in northern New Mexico more than 300 years ago to claim the land granted to the family by the king of Spain. His ancestors are both native Pueblo and Spanish and the 150 year migration created the diverse mix of Indo-Hispano people to which he belongs. He and his step-daughter and two grandchildren work those same fields today. Throughout, Don has used his family’s traditional farming methods, with modest technological additions along the way.
On February 19, 2011, Don was named “Organic Farmer of the Year” for his home state. While the award was a personal tribute, he is quick to note that AFSC was mentioned, as well, for the organization’s program that trains and fosters young farmers. For more than 20 years, Don has farmed and mentored interns on his land. And for six years, he’s trained young farmers in an innovative project in Albuquerque. With his leadership, they learn basic organic farming techniques, raising a variety of herbs and vegetables. The produce is sold to some dozen schools to provide healthy food for the lunchrooms. As Don says, “More and more people are interested in where their food comes from and in working on the issues of childhood obesity. AFSC’s project helps with both concerns.” And he’s glad to say that introducing cold frames and greenhouses has expanded the growing season to twelve months a year which has successfully increased both annual yields and income.
In addition to the “new farmers” program, the Service Committee works on water rights and agreements that preceded New Mexico’s statehood. The goal is to preserve that precious resource for small farmers so that they can continue to be economically viable and hang on to their land.
When asked about the Bustos spread, Don says, “My ten-year old grandson told me that he’s coming back to work with me on the land after he finishes college. I like both those ideas!”