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Shade cloth in Kewa Pueblo

Blocking some of summer's sunlight into a coldframe helps plants grow

Working with a tribe to build a coldframe
Working in a Pueblo to build a coldframe Photo: Patrick Jaramillo / AFSC

In June, AFSC New Mexico co-director Patrick Jaramillo helped the Coriz family install shade cloth on their coldframe in Kewa Pueblo, formerly known as Santo Domingo Pueblo. (A Pueblo is an Indigenous community; "tribe" may be a more familiar term to people outside New Mexico).

As mentioned in previous updates, a coldframe is a piece of season-extending equipment that allows farmers to start growing earlier and go later in the season. However, once the threat of frost has passed, a coldframe is not as useful during the warmer months. The passive solar gains provided that are so useful during cold nights are harmful to plants once things start to heat up.

One way to manage the heat is to reduce the amount of sunlight entering the coldframe. In the case of the Coriz family, we chose material that blocks 60% of sunlight. With this shade cloth installed, the coldframe was better suited for the array of native chile, melon, and squash starts the family was growing to provide other farmers in Kewa and neighboring pueblos (tribes), as well.

Providing technical support and infrastructure to small-scale family farms is only one method AFSC New Mexico uses, but it is a very useful and tangible thing we can do to better the lives of those who steward the land and those of us who benefit from their labor.

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