One recent mid-Winter mid-morning I found myself running fashionably late for my interview with farmer and writer Stanley Crawford. Exacerbating the situation was some unfortunate roadwork happening up on highway 68 right before the turn-off to the quaint hamlet of Dixon, where Crawford lives on his El Bosque Garlic Farm with his wife Rose Mary.
Blasé state road workers jawed with one another behind black shades under white winter sunlight as they leaned on shovels. A short, wiry bro in a white helmet wore a stern look as he tentatively directed the flow of mid-week commuter traffic through the tiny funnel of valley en route to Santa Fe in one direction, Taos in the other.
Once through their clutches, I stamped on the accelerator to make up lost time. As I flew along, I remember feeling self-conscious about tearing through town, sleepy as ever, with its snail’s pace lifestyle. Such a thing would be considered inappropriate and very gringo. I’m aware of that fact due to having landed in this exact spot thirteen years ago.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, just up the river a quarter mile-or- so from where I landed was Crawford’s El Bosque Farm and house. However, in spite of such proximity, mine and Stanley’s paths never crossed. It wasn’t until a couple years later when I came across Crawford’s Mayordomo in the Taos Library that I came to know of him.
We finally met face to face this past fall when I was on assignment for Edible. The piece I’d been assigned was to be on the Farmers Market in Santa Fe and I knew Stanley would be among those I would want to interview.
In the intervening years between my first glimpse of Mayordomo and the writing of this, I’ve come to know Stanley’s unique viewpoint via his personal and detailed recollections of life in Northern New Mexico’s Embudo Valley, particularly A Garlic Testament, and more recently, The River In Winter: New and Selected Essays.
His meditative and amusing style gives perspective to the current environmental malaise and the onslaught of unsustainable suburban sprawl, as well as celebrating the mundane without relying on an Orientalist perspective, managing to capture a Confucian common sense while exhibiting the Taoist beauty of the non-dualistic image with all its poetic accouterments.
He’s woven his way into the history of Northern New Mexico through literature as well as through stewardship of his land. However, it may be his decades-long relationship with the Farmer’s Market that might be his most enduring legacy, making the low-key cynic an improbable community hero.
The Myth of Self-Sufficiency
I dislike being late. I don’t like it when others are late, and the fact I am is gnawing away at me. And so, as I pass the old country road that goes down to my old landing spot and the small dirt lane that meanders along the river to Stanley’s, it occurs to me I could take it and get there quicker, even though Stanley’s given explicit directions to go all the way through town, cross the river, and then turn onto the small dirt road.
I hastily flip a u-turn on the main road and dive down the small lane, minding my speed, but still hurrying. The road is small as I remember with blind curves and small patches of brown ice here and there to keep one on their toes. I pass the old place and a few others, head swimming with memories, when suddenly the road comes to an abrupt end. Where there once was a road, there’s now a small beaver dam and the river.
I beat a hasty retreat while cussing myself out and head back out to the main road, defeated. About five minutes later I’m pulling up the long drive of El Bosque trailed by a large dog that’s intent on following me up to the main house. Stanley meets me outside and guides me past the dog into the cozy house and offers a cup of coffee before we settle in.
Crawford looks as if he wouldn’t engage in idle chatter, but could argue passionately. Like the Acequia he intimately knows, his reserved, yet honest face seems to say it “doesn’t care at all about your last name or the color of your skin or how long you have lived anywhere,” as he writes in River in Winter.
Eventually we start talking about how he came to New Mexico, and he tells the common story of the “escapee” from the big city to enchanted New Mexico, although with no discernible traces of nostalgia, referring to the act happening under the “myth of self-sufficiency,” and chalking it up to part of the growing pains experienced by the baby boomers and their earnest attempt to re-write American history.
We go for a stroll around the farm and my interest is piqued by an antique automobile’s nose protruding from the garage. “A Citroën?” I meekly ask Stanley, as I pull my camera out and start heading in the direction of the car with him on my heels. “A 2CV he replies, “It’s the Perrier- Jouet edition, hence the green ape hood ornament.” he coolly replies.
I start shooting photos and inspect the vehicle further as Stanley launches into the utilitarian origins of the French economy car that was produced from 1948-1990,espousing the merits of the car as a practical benefit of France’s Socialist government, and in truth, the 2CV was designed to be much like Volkswagen: a car of the people. It is a piece of art in and of itself. Its angular Bauhaus-inspired lines and long, sloping hood hold a particular late nineteenth- early-twentieth century charm that remind one of a horse drawn carriage, particularly with the convertible roof. “It’s not very fast,” Stanley deadpans. “I usually get honked at a lot when I drive it down to Santa Fe on the big highway.”
“Yeah, but you arrive there in style, right?” I jokingly add, and Stanley musters a snicker. It comes to mind that the 2CV is more than an automobile to Stanley; indeed, it may best represent the deliberate way in which he has gone about carving out a life in this remote valley over the past fifty-five years.
Additionally, his transition from international man of letters to small-scale Northern New Mexican garlic Farmer has transpired against the backdrop of the venerable institution of the agora, or public market. The relationship between the two entities having an indelible effect upon one another, and while he may appear to the neophyte market- goer as just some old-timer selling garlic, the truth is far more complex than one might imagine. Like the old Citroën, there’s a long history of functionality there, it’s just taken a while to come to fruition.
The End of the (Chile) Line
Stanley reckons it was 1974 when he first came across what was then referred to as the “Santa Fe Area Farmers Market” located on Alto Street, at the senior’s center and swimming pool. By then, the market had been in operation for six year’s previous as a project of the agricultural program of the League of Women Voters in 1968.
By the time the 80’s came around Crawford’s largest customers were restaurants, so he stopped selling at the market to fulfill their orders. By 1984, though, he began to feel he was “missing something,” so he went back to the market, which, by then had become its own organization under the guidance of the Cooperative Extension Service.
Somehow, he became board chair in 1985, and immediately commenced the long work of creating a functioning organization. He vividly remembers the moment at a meeting in Española when then – Rio Arriba County Agent Max Martinez “with utmost tact suggested that a budget might be a good idea. A budget! What a concept!”
Once the ship started sailing somewhat straight, it caught the attention of Joe Schepps, who had recently renovated the old Santa Fe Builders Supply building, Sanbusco, on the Railyard, and invited them to move the Market into his parking lot and they did so in 1986.
In retrospect, Crawford has mixed feelings about the move. While it was a plus for the farmers to move into a more affluent neighborhood, he has some regrets about abandoning the Alto Street neighborhood and the potential development that could have come to the area. Crawford says that at the time, “Politically, we were still babes in the woods. Our only contact with the city had been over the key to the swimming pool restroom, an always contentious arrangement.”
There was a period of growth and stability until the early 90’s, when the 50-acre Railroad property bordering Sanbusco became the object of a dense high-rise development plan by its owner, Catellus, the real estate arm of the Santa Fe and Southern Pacific Railroads.
The city roundly rejected the proposal, and through what Crawford refers to as a “miracle of political leadership,” then-mayor Debbie Jaramillo engineered the purchase of the area in December of 1995 with backing from the Trust for Public Land.
Crawford remained somewhat cynical of the plan in light of the Railyard’s historical importance and strategic location. The Southern terminus of the Denvery and Rio Grande Western narrow-gauge Chile line until 1940 and the western terminus of the Santa Fe Railroad’s 18-mile spur that connects it to the east-west main line at Lamy, the property was also dead center in the middle of a historic district and therefore a lightning rod for public opinion.
Somehow, a plan emerged for the Farmers Market to use a portion of the yard while a commuter train to Albuquerque would remain operational. Once again, a honeymoon period ensued until 1998 when Sanbusco let it be known that they planned to use some of the property the Farmers Market relied on for development. Fortunately, a New York based nonprofit, Project for Public Spaces had gotten involved with the market and wisely advised them to move next door to the city-owned Railyard, which they did, moving their offices into the Gross Kelly Building.
Around that time Crawford and the Farmers Market obtained a Ford Foundation grant under the auspices of a 501c.3 non-profit entitled, Friends of the Farmer’s Market, a project Crawford worked on with executive director Pam Roy which managed to raise money from the USDA, Congress, and a half-dozen private foundations for the future Railyard Plaza and Alameda.
The timing was perfect as the red tape continued to multiply, and it was mandated that a nonprofit administer the city-owned Railroad properties. Their first attempt at a contract with the nascent Railyard Community Corporation was rejected, however, by a narrow margin and it wasn’t until architect Steve Robinson, a firm believer in community planning (as opposed to centralized, top-down planning) got involved and an agreement finally reached and approved by the City Council in 2001.
Thus began a seven- year odyssey full of lucky breaks, several mayors, and gubernatorial influence. The project, however, had the hearts and a mind of the parties involved, and was bound to come to fruition. It did so completely on Saturday, September 6, 2008.
To Crawford, the road to the Railyard is paved with memories of those he’s known and loved: Truman Brigham, who sold at Market from 1970 to 1997; Amadeo Trujillo of Nambe Pueblo, whose widow and daughter still carry on his tradition; and fellow University of Chicago alum David Hall, who collapsed from an aneurism upon pulling up to a parking spot at the Tuesday Sambusco Market.
He sees the market as a sort of culmination of the technological advances since the 70’s, not only in community planning, but in the machinery of farming. The introduction of the hoop-house to extend the season, drip irrigation, and improved storage techniques are cited by Crawford as tools which have helped usher in a new era of small-scale agriculture. In conjunction with last decade’s growth in consumer’s awareness of food sources, it seems fortuitous that Crawford and his kind prevailed over the years of doubt to bring the vision to completion.
As a frequenter of Davis, California’s renowned market, as well as San Francisco’s lauded Ferry Building, among others, I can confidently say their efforts have squarely placed Santa Fe’s Farmers Market among the best in the country: for now, and into the future.
Back at El Bosque Farm Stanley and I are now up on the balcony of the tower belonging to the guest house he rents out occasionally, shooting the breeze. We’re both Southern California transplants to New Mexico who can remember a more idyllic, undeveloped time in our home state, yet, he’s old enough to be my father. It turned out we share a love of French film and I was fortunate enough to recommend the Louis Malle film May Fools to him, which he’d not seen.
I’d done so because the film seemed such an appropriate metaphor for his and his generation’s story: France, May 1968, students rioting, strikes had shut the system down; everything came to a stand-still. Meanwhile, off in the countryside a shabby estate clings to the last vestiges of the previous century. Bees lazily buzz out in the countryside, crawfish meander in a stream…but the recent death of the matriarch hovers over the tableau. In conjunction with the massive social upheaval in the city, there’s a conspicuous sense of doom impending, and as the film transpires the folly of humanity is played out.
Back in California in ’68, the affiliated clampdown against the forces that were demanding change impelled Stanley to get out of dodge and head to a safer, slower, and saner environment, much like the characters in May Fools, arriving in the Embudo Valley in 1969. He’d been fortunate enough to land in a place where the civil rights struggle was deeply embedded in the populace. The Farmers Market is a symbol of that time, and much like Crawford’s Citroën, it’s taken its time getting here, but it’s arrived in the grandest of fashion. The best part, like the Citroën – it’s built to last.
***Special thanks to Stanley Crawford for allowing the use of portions of his forthcoming essay, The Santa Fe Farmer’s Market: A Personal History.
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