Last week we attended a meeting of acequeros in Santa Fe. Acequeros live and farm along the 400-year-old, community-owned irrigation systems In Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado; the acequias. Acequia communities share the idea that people, land and water belong to each other and that everyone suffers when they are separated from each other. Good ideas, good health and Omigod, really good food, are something we want to be part of. Luckily, we have friends who farm along the Rio Grande who could use a beneficial, high-value crop, and we thought we could offer some advice, since we have three years of mistakes and successes to share.
New Mexico recently legalized the cultivation of industrial hemp, much like Colorado did five years ago, and interest in the new-old crop is intense. The New Mexico Department of Agriculture regulates and supports hemp growers, just as in Colorado. And like many Coloradans, New Mexicans who have had to grow marijuana illegally for the last 80 years are reluctant to fully trust the government and take advantage of the new mainstream culture that is growing around hemp. Hopefully, the government will provide acequeros protection against water raids for short-term profits.
For small-plot hemp growers, collaboration provides fertile ground for growing integrated economies. Because the hemp plant produces everything from superfoods to medicine to clothes and car bodies, it can revitalize once self-sufficient local economies and provide value-added products to export. Pooling small crops together can gain access to privately owned extractors and get a bulk discount in price. Pooling products under one brand name can increase market presence and recognition.
It’s a principle proven since prehistoric times: living networks of land, water and occupants are the basis for survival and wealth. There is no such thing as independence in nature. Lone wolves do not live long or well, but a pack of wolves can feed on just about anything they want. As the economies of extraction and separation reach their limits of survival, there will be struggles and suffering, but the combination of the acequia culture of collaboration with diverse hemp products to sell can be the keystone of a new-but-ancient economic structure, one that is based on proven natural laws. Collaborative economies will be naturally diverse, inter-related, multi-cultural, and they will survive and prosper. Who knows? Maybe some of the thousands of small towns all across the western USA that have been dried up by the separation idea of “get big or get out” will be revived by the crop of a million uses and the idea of acequia collaboration.
Salida Hemp Company