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Organic Farming in Awaswas

The first Spring storm cleared and the sun shone today. After the rain watered our plants for about a week, the plants receive the nourishment of the sun again. Many of the gardeners spent time cleaning, planning, and hanging out in our beautiful garden. About 23 gardeners work an individual plot of land in our community garden. Don Domingo Mendoza is the lead gardener and his plot glistened with life today.

Don Domingo worked his part of Mother Earth in a circle. A gladiola and Don Domingo’s water source, a hose and city water pipes, greet you before you enter the Don’s land. Don Domingo fenced in his land with various types of fencing materials. If you have been to Mexico, or to the land of a Californio/a, you will recognize this style of fence. Through the fence you see chayotes, frijol (beans) and maiz (corn).

As you enter, you should turn to the left to begin the circle that will guide you amongst the loved and worked Mother Earth. The largest, strongest chayote grows sheltered under the entrance’s awning. After you exit the awning (to the left), you see five chayotes just beginning to sprout. Above these sprouting chayotes, Don Domingo has built what he calls a “house” for one chayote. One chayote needs a ladder or awning to grow on. Further on, under the chayote’s house, onions thrive. The land to your right and center holds rows of beans with some corn.

At the North end of these rows, lives a potato or a squash. Just past the onions, as the circle turns, a rosemary bush and two lemons grow. As the turn continues to the North side of the plot, Don Domingo planted three tomato plants this year. If you have continued the circle, the tomatoes will be on your left and the rows of beans on your right.

After the tomatoes, Don Domingo planted maiz, then Mexican yerba santa, then maiz again. The walkway continues with the maiz growing on the left and the beans with squash and corn growing in the center. Daisies and gladiolas mark the Southern border of Don Domingo’s land.

After the flowers, you will see the nopal, an edible cactus. A path encircles the nopal to ensure harvesting of nopal and tuna, the nopal’s cactus, in the coming months. Another lemon tree neighbors the nopal. Then another nopal neighbor’s the lemon tree. Four rows of gladiola live in the middle of the circle with the corn, beans, and squash. An avocado tree now lives amongst them, too! Before you exit, you see the cabinets filled with the farm tools used by all gardeners.

As soon as you enter Don Domingo’s parcel, a sense of calm engulfs you. Working the land is tradition amongst many cultures. Don Domingo comes from and maintains a planting culture with ancient, knowledgable and sensitive roots. If you spend time with him, he teaches you a sacred way of interacting with Mother Earth and her beings. The land of Don Domingo humbles, teaches and honors you. In this way, we organically farm between the San Lorenzo River in the Monterey Bay, in the land the Ohlone call Awaswas and the Americans call Santa Cruz.

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