Down to Earth

Matt Draper and Minor Morgan started North Valley Organics on two plots of land in Albuquerque, and have made a commitment to the People-Planet-Profit model for their business. Working with diversity and resilience as core principles, they want farm work to be something that not only produces healthy, nutrient-dense food, but also provides a long term sustainable and joyful living for the people doing it—and the communities around them.

This interview is part the Good Earth series, a project supported by the New Mexico Department of Agriculture Healthy Soils Initiative and led by photographer Esha Chiocchio. It features a set of eight videos on soil stewards in New Mexico. Please check out the short videos here.

All photos by Esha Chiocchio

2’44 how Minor got into farming in Albuquerque
3’15 doing organics from the beginning, and using pre-industrial wisdom
4’09 thinking about land use and urban dirt lots that used to be farms
4’31 looking at how land is used in Ecuador
5’42 developed a lot into a garden
6’12 studied planning at UNM, met Minor
7’06 farming as an ethical activity, socially transformative
7’48 having a sustainable labor market–people, planet profit
8’19 best farm land is in the city
9’02 development pressure on what could be farm land
9’40 certified organic
10’31 entirely saved seeds, acclimating seeds to the land they’re grown on
11’10 taking a data-driven approach
11’43 too much diversity can be hard to keep track of
12’38 sometimes you grow stuff that isn’t very marketable, like kohlrabi
13’16 balance between being sustainable and being inspired
13’56 learning to shift your persepctive to see the positive–planning for failure
15’06 the emotional piece of learning farming, learning that there’s a lot beyond your control and failure is normal
16’26 thinking differently about yield
16’41 farming two crops: cash crops and cover crops that feed the microbial life
17’39 the space between the cash crop rows are always covered
18’22 when there are four cuttings of alfalfa, you leave the third one on the field; after a while you greatly improve yield even with fewer cuttings
19’24 alternative to keep yields up by adding chemicals or GMO: the biological approach, which is based in healthy soil full of microbial life
20’04 plants are a two way street–they take up nutrients and also add them to the soil
20’49 the US food system is based on minimizing labor. If you look at the productivity per acre it’s not that good
21’26 in Japan they grow ten times the amount of food per acre than we do in the US; other countries are similar
22’0 we need to grow more food per acre–not per farmer
22’31 Matt wants to do farming in such a way that his kids want to do it, that it’s joyful and satisfying–and grow more food on less land
24’07 the nutrient value of vegetable grown in healthy soil is very important
24’54 a potato grown in healthy soil has 300x the nutrition of an industrial potato
25’54 how they use compost, compost = microbes
26’18 moving toward more fungal compost
26’46 making their walkway rows between crops perennial cover crops that don’t get tilled
28’01 diversity minimizes risk and maximizes resilience
28’14 diversity of plants
28’51 diversity of water sources
29’23 diversity is now nature does things
29’54 selling to farmers market, school districts, and CSA aggregators
30’26 also selling to organic grocery stores
30’58 having small children on the farm and teaching them how to work with plants
32’14 kids making connections between foods and their sources
32’58 kids learning stewardship by seeing and doing it
33’56 sustainability on a human level means that they can do it for a lifetime
35’01 pest control
36’30 working together
37’19 being in service to the community
38’24 slavery was all about farming–moving toward sustainability on all levels is a great challenge
39’20 reconceptualize farming not as an annual activity but as a perennial activity