The stalwart volunteers who keep Corrales’ non-profit Seed2Need project going are stepping up again this growing season, but with a difference.

According to Manager Dom Tafoya, coronavirus circumstances meant the typical spring gathering of students and others at the usual greenhouse to plant seeds in seed beds could not happen. Instead, a few masked people picked up the plastic seed beds, plus seeds for tomatoes, chiles and some eggplant, cucumbers and zucchini, as well as soil, and carried everything home for planting.

They then dropped them off at the greenhouse, about a week later. “Everybody had to rinse off the outside of the returned beds —with about 32 slots per bed— in soapy water. And we used an alcohol spray as well.”

Remarkably, volunteers produced about 8,000 seed starts, similar to totals from years past, in spite of restrictions. “It was a big coordinated effort,” reported Tafoya.

Soon, a few Eagle Scouts will do the first drilling of the soil, separated and masked. It’s then likely that the founders of Seed2Need, Penny and Sandy Davis, will begin the planting, along with Tafoya, possibly joined by another small group of scouts. This year it will be scouts only, no family members joining in, no invited grandparents, no fun with little kids and dogs racing around.

And, all those working in the fields will be masked. “And it’s so tough to work outside in a mask,” as Tafoya put it.

Yet, as Tafoya underscored, “Never has there been a greater need for the produce Seed2Need grows and donates to area food banks. Many food banks really are hurting this year.” Tafoya aims to begin planting earlier than usual, after last year’s heat badly pummeled a good portion of tomato plants, which refused to form fruit. But since the farmers will be few, while Tafoya expects tomato plants will be caged, eventually, he doubts any will be covered in row cover this year, as that has to happen on day one or not at all. And that requires many coordinated hands. As he explained it, “Get one leaf hopper in there, and that’s like trapping a bull inside a china shop.”

Instead, the team will use neem oil or mineral oil on the plants as needed to combat pests. Seed2Need has donated over 500,000 pounds of produce to food pantries in both Sandoval and Bernalillo counties since 2010.

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