The smell of cow manure might be Santa Fe’s one saving grace. Embedded on the fringe of the kitschy western dreamscape that is the city’s commercial tourism industry is a cultural tradition that seems to ever elude the cold grip of the invisible hand of the market.
Agua Fría Village is at once emblematic of old-world agrarian values and a modern day microcosm of grassroots community revival.
The aforementioned cow manure rests stoically in a mountainous heap on the north end of the Santa Fe Community Farm (1829 San Ysidro Crossing, 983-3033). On the hotter days, of which there are plenty, the odor is pungent and wet. But it’s spring. The air is cool and softens the scent. At the moment, the dung heap overlooks pitted mounds of milk chocolate-brown dirt, neatly orchestrated into parallel rows, and farther off, in what looks like a post-modern installation piece, stands the contorted forms of fruit trees whose buds have yet to bloom. One can only imagine the colors and textures that will soon inhabit this handful of acres: The glossy lipstick reds and sour-apple greens of chiles, the candy oranges of ripe apricots, the lemon-yellows of hardy golden delicious apples and juicy plump purple plums. These local delicacies are being harvested as you read, so hitch a ride and check them out.
The farm is a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation serving as both an educational resource to those who want to learn farming and a supplier of free fresh produce to the “hungry, homeless, and disabled” of the community.
“As a native of Agua Fría, I want to preserve it and share it,” says Roy Stevenson, the executive director. Twenty or so paces down the road is the Agua Fría River Park, entrenched in the dusty juniper-spotted hills of southern Santa Fe County. Coursing along the former glory of the Santa Fe River, this walking trail offers new visitors a curious sensory experience.
The air is quiet and eerie, but only at first because silence is so unusual. Soon, the silence embraces you as an unabashed distant European relative would and makes you feel oddly at home.