Photos by Stacey M. Adams
An edible Local Hero is an exceptional individual or organization working to create innovative, vibrant, and resilient local food systems in New Mexico. Last fall, edible readers nominated and voted for their favorite food artisans, growers, and advocates in nearly two dozen categories—including six new awards. Each issue of edible will contain interviews with several of the winners, spotlighting the important and exciting work they do. It is imperative to the local food movement that we come together as a community to support each other, our local economy, and our environment. Please join us in thanking these local heroes for being at the forefront of that effort.
Tom and Mary Dixon with Ned Conwell and his son.
Green Tractor is a family farm in La Cienega, which grows certified organic vegetables, flowers, and grapes on three acres. They are committed to water conservation and soil building practices. Rachel Dixon and Ned Conwell run the farm’s day-to-day operations and handle marketing. Tom and Mary Dixon are the landowners and founders of the farm. They lend their expertise where necessary and manage the onsite vineyard and grain production.
How did you get to where you are now?
Tom and Mary Dixon established Green Tractor Farm in 2000 on the land Tom grew up on in La Cienega, just south of Santa Fe. They became certified organic in 2006. Rachel Dixon grew up on the farm as well, watching Tom and Mary grow alfalfa, corn, beans, and chile throughout her childhood, much as Tom had learned from his parents.
Rachel worked on farms in the Bay Area before she and her husband Ned Conwell moved to New Mexico to help take over the heavy lifting at Green Tractor. Ned grew up in suburban San Diego, and after college attended the Farm & Garden program at UC Santa Cruz, where he learned to combine his passions for nature and sustainability through organic farming. Rachel and Ned now have two young children, who are constantly getting in the way, but who are incredibly lucky to be third-generation farmers.
What is a local food issue of that is important to you?
An overlooked need in our foodshed is the need for small grains such as wheat, rye, and oats to be grown organically (and locally) on a scale that could provide local bakers with a steady supply of flours. The closest large farms now doing this are in our neighbor states. How amazing it would be to see some irrigated sections in eastern New Mexico brought into this effort!
And, of course, the availability, management, and future abundance of water is of great importance to all of us because, without it, our livelihood is impossible.
What is a substantial problem facing your business?
Access to fresh produce is of utmost importance. Currently, one example that is helping is the Double Up Food Bucks program which subsidizes and increases the buying power of the EBT card system. If this program were a permanent policy, both local farmers and those who have limited access to fresh, local food would benefit. Our hope is that the funding will be established as a guaranteed, continuing budget item.
And, of course, land access is an issue facing farmers everywhere, not only in Santa Fe. Many organizations are doing great work here and all over the country, but we need to keep doing good work to protect land from development. [We] would like to see land [priced low enough to make agriculture feasible] and that can be made available to farmers who are committed to sustainable farming practices.
What is a typical day on Green Tractor Farm?
We begin the day with coffee, then go over the list of what to harvest for orders and farmers markets; harvest vegetables and flowers; wash vegetables and bunch flowers; drink more coffee; and finish the day with one of the never-ending tasks—weeding, planting, irrigating, etc. Rinse and repeat.
Describe your perfect day off.
We get days off?! A day off in any sort of water is always rejuvenating.
How does your CSA work?
We have a local box CSA that has an on-farm pick up because we like to make the food available to our nearest neighbors. We also have a market debit CSA that allows members to shop from our stand at a discount and we track their account. It’s a great way for people to support the farm while allowing flexibility to get exactly what they want when they want it.
A CSA is a great way folks can directly support a farm. By putting money up front in the spring when cash flow is slow, members receive the bounty of the harvest as well as a connection with their farmer. Farming and marketing can be such an unsure business and so much is out of the farmer’s control; it’s a great thing to know that people are committed.
What is your favorite vegetable and your favorite way to prepare it?
Sweet potatoes! We love to make sweet potato fries because the kids will eat them and we can call it dinner.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with edible readers?
We are honored and humbled to be voted Best Farm. It is an amazing opportunity to be a part of such a strong community of local food growers, processors, and buyers.