An Interview with Alex Pino, Farmer
Local Hero: Best Farm, Santa Fe
Photos by Douglas Merriam
Alex Pino was born and raised in Chicago, then moved to New Mexico at age twenty. After years working unfulfilling jobs and seeking solutions to the industrialized food system, he began farming on a rocky piñon- and juniper-covered hillside near Santa Fe. Today, Revolution Farm grows market vegetables on rented land in La Cienega, and sells at Santa Fe–area farmers markets. Pino helps organize farmers through the National Young Farmers Coalition’s local chapter, the Northern New Mexico Young Farmers’ Alliance.
First of all, how are you holding up during this crisis?
I have taken the time (that I am luckily able to spend at home) to rethink a lot of the delivery systems I have had for my products. I am working hard to make sure that I can provide healthy fresh produce to the people of my community. A crisis like this is a time for the community to come together and help each other. We have increased the amount that we supply to Bienvenidos Outreach Food Bank, and continue to offer Triple Up Food Bucks to our customers, which takes the Double Up Food Bucks program a step further.
Tell us a bit of your back story. Why were you drawn to farming and how did you get started?
I have never had an easy time conforming to corporate America and consumer culture. Farming encompasses a lot of things I enjoy: working for myself, being outdoors, and producing something that is a valuable asset to the community. I started small, feeding myself and my close friends and neighbors. Then I grew as I figured out what worked and what didn’t, here in the high desert. As I have grown my business, I have been able to supply more food to our community in ways that fulfill our mission of food justice.
Can you tell us a bit about how you have had to adapt your business model during the lockdown?
We have launched a new food distribution program for a CSA-style weekly box with all produce grown on the farm. Because of this we have diversified the crops we are growing in order to offer more variety in these boxes. In years past, we would grow five to ten varieties of crops and this year we are growing around fifty. We have also had to rethink the way that we display and package our product to make sure it is safe for the consumer.
Personally or professionally, have there been any silver linings for you during this difficult time?
Starting a weekly box program has been something I have thought about in the past, but this has really pushed me to get it going.
Going forward, what do you hope we can learn from this experience, as it pertains to the local food economy?
Local food is important, and we [at Revolution Farm] believe food is a human right which must be equally available to all. Unfortunately, our leaders have decided to prioritize the militarization and industrialization of this nation over simply feeding, clothing, and giving shelter to everyone. Not to mention medical care and education! It’s easy to get really overwhelmed but good to concentrate on building soil and growing food during such turbulent times.