Honor the earth to create wholesome soil and wholesome meals | Home and backyard
Science and spirit come together at Morning Star Farm to grow healthy and vigorous plants like lettuce, tomatoes, basil, garlic, flowers and more. The farm was born in the remains of the Morning Star Ward kitchen. Melinda Bateman and her partner agreed to repair the meetinghouse for rent and began growing vegetables there.
More than 28 years later, Bateman continues to farm, now on her own land near Arroyo Seco. Her son Rowan has returned to the farm after graduating from Cornell University with a degree in plant science. He brought home the latest small-scale farming techniques to join the farm’s longstanding commitment to steward the country’s living ecosystem.
Growing high quality food on a budget
As a child, Bateman and her father learned to grow strawberries, broccoli, and other crops in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. In Taos, she was a housewife on a budget when she started growing her own food. “I wanted to eat good quality organic food and I thought the best way to do that was to grow it yourself,” she says.
In the year her son was born, she grew 40 heads of lettuce and sold them to Daniel Carmona, the head of the Amigos Co-op at the time. She had a 20 x 20 x 40 foot garden bed that she eventually expanded to two acres.
Lessons learned from cultivating the land
Bateman has been growing in Taos for nearly 29 years and has experimented with various techniques. “We have a very special climate,” she notes. “I learned a lot: when to grow plants, which methods to use and how to extend the growing season.”
Carrots, for example, are difficult to grow here because they need even water for 14 days to germinate. With so many changes in the weather, uniform moisture is hard to achieve, but Bateman discovered that she could grow carrots by covering the seeds with a row cover and regularly dripping them to where she had previously struggled.
Over time, Bateman found that she was successful in growing lettuce in the spring and fall, but not in the hot summer months. Through research and trial and error, she learned how to build microtunnels to protect the lettuce crop with a shade towel in the summer.
In winter she grows mixed lettuce for sale in restaurants in her greenhouse. In the warm season, she focuses on grains to support her family and the growing garlic production. By August, she plans to be at the Taos Farmers Market with garlic made from her own seeds and maybe other products as well.
When son Rowan returned to the farm to study plant science, some new practices became part of the farm approach. “We’re using more soil tests and covering the ground. Our approach is a combination of all of the years of practice on the ground and the techniques learned through science,” says Bateman.
She adds that her son is a skilled arborist, so they plant an orchard and experiment with windbreakers to protect the trees.
On the Morning Star Farm, they follow the principles of biodynamic agriculture. “It’s really a big concept and has become a passion for life. My journey started as an organic farmer who wanted to improve his soil, ”explains Bateman.
Biodynamic agriculture was one of the first methods of organic farming. Developed in 1924 from the ideas of Rudolf Steiner, the method treats the farm as a living organism. Certain preparations made from vegetable, mineral and animal substances are added to the soil in order to improve its fertility.
“It’s a call and an answer,” explains Bateman. “As a living organism, the earth reacts to the preparations. It’s a bit like homeopathy for the earth.” Biodynamics takes forces from the cosmos into account. Just as some people like to have their horoscopes made or read their horoscopes, plants are also influenced by heaven according to the biodynamic philosophy.
As a farmer, Bateman is less interested in theory and more in results. Over 20 years ago she tried for the first time to bury cow horns full of cow dung on the farm. After sitting in the ground for the winter months, the horns were dug up and the dung turned into a biodynamic preparation that is offered to the earth. “Suddenly our compacted clay soil was like brownie batter, not clay. I was so impressed with the results that I started studying it.”
Homestead Gardening Series, Demystifying Biodynamics, Compost Making
Bateman explains that it is not necessary to understand the entire system of biodynamics in order to use it. “When you start working with the prep, something will unfold for you,” she says.
To this end, Bateman has started teaching courses in horticulture, biodynamics and compost making. During the pandemic, she taught a Zoom course through the Taos Initiative for Life Together (TILT) and 40 people attended. Now that COVID restrictions are being eased, Bateman is offering a range of courses on their farm. She looks forward to a more personal connection with people interested in growing their own food.
In the courses she presents a number of solutions that she describes as simple and elegant solutions. Everything that is taught is based on natural approaches with plants, minerals and animal elements serving as sacrifices to the earth. “Biodynamics regards the earth as a sacred being. It helps us to get out of the materialistic view of nature and to honor and work with the earth, not against it, ”she says. “My goal is to help everyone grow healthy foods to bring into their home and eat.”
Future for Morning Star Farm and Agriculture in Taos
Looking ahead to the future of agriculture at Morning Star and in Taos in general, Bateman says, “I’ve always grown my own food and have been passionate about what happens to the earth and humanity. I plan to take the baton for commercial Pass on garlic production. ” to my son Rowan and focus on teaching food growing. “
Her love for the land is evident when she talks about caring for the plants and caring for her chickens. She envisions a future where visitors could stay on the farm to immerse themselves in the concepts of healthy soils and healthy plants.
She sees the earth as a great macrocosm and notes: “There is a holiness here. I see a connection between everything that happens. Day life. “
For Taos, she hopes for a revival of our agricultural traditions and envisions a day when thistle fields will again produce food to create stronger local agriculture and a stronger economy.
Healthy eating is also a social justice issue; she dreams of a day when everyone can eat healthy and lively. “I wonder how we can all get together and take steps and see where they lead. It is time for our desires and dreams to be put into action in order to pursue our words. We have to shift our paradigms to find solutions. The idea can boil down to growing your own food in your yard, making compost – doing things that can actually make a difference in a simple and subtle way. “
The next course in the Homestead Gardening Series will be offered on Saturday (June 6th) and will focus on soil maintenance. To learn more about upcoming courses, including schedule and cost, visit morningstarfarmoftaos.com.