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This summer will see a “U-Pick” organic flower planting on the front field of the Juan Gonzales Bas Heritage Farm west of Wells Fargo Bank. Planted by the Silverblatt-Buser brothers, Aaron and Elan, of Silver Leaf Farms, it will operate under the honor system. The field awash in marigolds, zinnias, black-eyed susans, celosia, and, of course, sunflowers brings a smile to Elan Silverblatt’s face. It’s possible the flower field may be open, under some supervision, only on weekends.

Asked what U-pickers might be supplied with, or encouraged to bring, for appropriately cutting flowers, such as pruning shears, secateurs or flower snips, Silverblatt answered, “That’s a good question.” This could coincide with a similar U-Pick at Heidi’s Raspberry Farm, at 600 Andrews Lane. Silverblatt said the Heidi’s people had been “awesome and helpful” on U-Pick tips for the flower project at the Gonzales field. Dates and time for Heidi’s summer 2021 are not yet posted, but possibly masks still will be required, and visitors are asked to use only East La Entrada to access the farm along the Interior Drain. In 2020 parking was $5 per car, berry baskets were handed out and each filled basket cost $6. Reservations likely will be required. See https://heidisraspberryfarm.com.

The never idle, 30-something brothers who own organic Silver Leaf Farms, have thus far weathered the pandemic in part by partnering with Milagro Winery on an order online, pay, drive-thru and pickup shop at 125 Old Church Road. The shop runs Thursdays from 1 to 5 p.m. Learn more at http://www.milagrofarmstand.com. And it has served not only to sell wine for Milagro and veggies for Silver Leaf but also has given a boost to local purveyors of coffee, cheese, olives, almonds, butter, bread, kombucha, chocolate and ristras.

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Participants include Corrales’ Candlestick Coffee and Heidi’s Raspberry Jam; Three Sisters Kitchen in Albuquerque; North Valley chocolate, with new items becoming available, such as organic plant starts, including thyme, sage, marjoram, and similar. Currently, you can even buy Silver Leaf’s own potting soil, as well as organic chicken manure from Arizona.

Elan Silverblatt says they intend to continue the project as long as it meets the needs both of customers, told to go to supermarkets when the Growers’ Market had to be on hold, and vendors. People providing restaurants with items had “no business anymore” when the lockdown was more stringent, and they have been aided as well.

The primary challenge has been that the drive-thru “leaches into” the normal Silver Leaf workday, as Silverblatt put it. But, “we’ll keep doing it if it helps out other businesses and still makes sense.” A Silver Leaf best seller? Corrales Butter Crunch Living Lettuce. Silver Leaf plans to resume its usual mid- to late-summer selling season at the Corrales Growers’ Market, too. (See http://www.eatsilverleaf.com)

The connection with Milagro Winery began four or five years ago when the two businesses connected on the topic of soil science. Milagro was segueing to all organic production, sought suggestions on fertilizers —now the same that Silver Leaf uses— and Silver Leaf learned quality grape growing and wine production techniques.

Now farming between 20 and 25 acres in Corrales with a team of 12, and seeking to hire as many as two more crew members, Silver Leaf also is working the Juan Gonzales Bas Heritage Farm west of the bank. After lying fallow or growing only cover crops for years, the acreage considered the centerpiece for Corrales farmland preservation program is leased to them.

The Village installed an irrigation well and pump at the heritage farm in August 2020 so that the land could qualify for organic certification. Silver Leaf was concerned that use of ditch water for irrigation would not allow such a designation.

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