people who feed us: Tejinder
By Beverly Miriam Post, photo by Kate manchester
“This is Tejinder, I need help finding zucchini….” The logistics coordinator of the Santa Fe Alliance’s Farm to Restaurant pilot distribution project was in a pickle; local restaurants, part of a trial project to increase the amount of northern New Mexico produce in local eating establishments, were expecting zucchini, and one of the project’s farmers had run out. So now the scramble was on to fill the zucchini gap before Friday’s delivery.
The pilot distribution project, funded by the US Department of Agriculture, delivered twice a week to a dozen or so restaurants during the 2010 summer and harvest season, dropping to once a week in late September. The project is in hiatus over the winter and will resume again for the 2011 growing season.
Raised in Los Angeles, Tejinder (who doesn’t use a last name) came to New Mexico in 2009 seeking sustainable community. He had been working in Hollywood doing film production, and then for California’s governor coordinating events among a variety of different entities. “Los Angeles is crazy and completely unsustainable–it takes 45 minutes to get anywhere. I was meditating a lot, and it came to me in a vision, that I needed to come to New Mexico.”
Tejinder is a spiritual name given to him several years ago while going through a Kundalini yoga training. The name means “he who radiates the aura of the moon and dwells in God-consciousness.” His yoga practice influenced Tejinder toward eating a mostly vegetarian, organic diet. “And working at [Wolfgang Puck’s] Spago, one of the world’s prestigious restaurants, I saw the organized chaos of restaurants and the importance of having the best-quality ingredients and the healthiest food available.”
Freshly arrived in the Land of Enchantment, Tejinder volunteered at several organic farms in northern New Mexico, including Seeds of Change farm, and Khalsa Farm in Espaňola. “Everything presented itself effortlessly once I got here. I’d meet someone, and the next thing I knew I was working on farming, and then I got heavily into learning about alternative fuels.” His passion to learn about biofuels led to being asked to teach biofuels production at the Santa Fe Community College’s Sustainable Technologies program. Biofuels production can be a kind of alchemy; Tejinder turns used restaurant cooking oils into fuel. Currently, Tejinder is teaching a hands-on, advanced-level biofuels production course. Biofuels could potentially be used to provide heating, transportation, and electricity for farmers. “For growers that do grow in the winter, their heating costs are the largest costs, it kills them. This is the next step in my learning curve, testing to see how we can best produce biofuels to elongate our growing season in northern New Mexico, how we can use waste products from our community to heat greenhouses.”
With Tejinder’s vision of closed-loop sustainability, somewhere down the road the leftover cooking oil from your favorite Santa Fe restaurant could recycle into energy to help grow the next crop of local zucchini.
Beverly Miriam Post is Membership and Development Director for the Santa Fe Alliance.