Apart from any possible future conservation easement, a project is under way to continue farming the scenic Trosello tract. About 12 acres beloved for views offered to the Corrales bosque and Sandia Mountains beyond, and four acres on the west side of Corrales Road, where the Wagners’ corn maze has been located, would remain in agriculture, Village Councillor Bill Woldman said at the March 23 council meeting.
That outcome is being pursued with a lease agreement between owners of the acreage, Trosello family heirs, and the Albuquerque-based One Generation Fund, in association with the Native American Community Academy (NACA). Students have already begun planting two acres in vegetables, while most of the rest will be planted in oats and alfalfa. “A couple of weeks ago, I went out and met with Alan Brauer with the Native American Community Academy. They have entered into a lease agreement on the Trosello fields …the lease is not going to be through the farmland preservation program,” Woldman explained.
“They brought a number of students from NACA, mainly Navajos, to the fields to take a look at it. I liked the presentation from Alan for what they propose to do there. It would be about 16 acres, 12 on the east side and four on the west side.
“I think it’s going to be an absolutely terrific project once they get going.” He said the lease covers the entire tract along the east side of Corrales Road. “There will be no condos or skyscrapers or other developments there at least for as long as the lease runs,” he suggested. Woldman said he wants to add a presentation on the project to a future council meeting agenda. Subsequently, the date for that presentation was set for April 13.
Possible use of the Trosello tract by NACA was under discussion at least five months ago. Hopes resumed after three members of the Village Council voted against the proposed conservation easement for the12-acre Haslam farm last July. One of the three dissenting councillors, Bill Woldman, told Corrales Comment last October that he had met with the Farmland Preservation and Agricultural Commission’s co-chair, Lisa Brown, to discuss that opposition and learn why the effort to save the Trosello tract had fizzled. “She reached out to me about why I hadn’t voted for the Haslam easement, and so we had a walking tour of that farm. In the course of that, we discussed the possibility of some kind of joint operation of the Trosello fields.”
“When voters were asked to approve general obligation bonds for farmland preservation, it was the Trosello tract that people were excited about,” Woldman recalled. “The Trosello field was the number one target for use of those funds, and about 80 percent of Corrales voters were in favor of that bond proposal. I wanted to know why nothing was happening with that.”
When Corrales Comment raised the same question to the Village’s negotiator, Michael Sisco of Unique Places LLC last year, he said that the owner of the Trosello tract had lost interest in participating in the Village’s conservation easement program. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXIX No.10 August 8, 2020 “Farmland Preservation Easement Decision Explained.”)
At that time, Sisco replied, “We have not given up, but the expectation of land values of the landowners and the documented appraised value for vacant farmland in Corrales are fairly far apart. And the current landowners of the Trosello tract are not interested in doing a conservation easement, they are only interested in selling. “We tried multiple creative ways to finance the deal, bringing in third parties, trying different configurations, etc., but it typically ended in someone paying more than fair market value for the property or having the current landowners do the conservation easement, both of which were not possible at the time. We will continue to search for solutions.”
He added: “We exhausted our options on Trosello before Haslam became a potential project.” Then, a creative solution apparently surfaced. According to Woldman, the possibility arose that an agreement might be reached for a joint operation of the fields that included participation by NACA.
That school was founded by Kara Bobroff, a former deputy secretary of the N.M. Public Education Department. She is the daughter of the late Jack Bobroff, long-time superintendent of Albuquerque Public Schools. Preliminary discussions began on a possible joint operation of the Trosello farm included using it as a site for instruction about agriculture and marketing.
Bobroff, a Corrales resident, was recognized by former President Barack Obama as one of the nation’s top social innovators. She shares heritage with the Navajo and Lakota tribes. The academy she directed is a tuition-free public charter school for grades kindergarten through high school at 1000 Indian School Road NW. Members of more than 60 tribes have been enrolled. She now heads the One Generation Fund, which collaborates with NACA.
Minutes of the September 9, 2020 meeting of the Farmland Preservation and Agricultural Commission state that Bobroff had expressed interest in the school’s involvement in farming in Corrales. “She is interested in the Trosello field as a possible site for indigenous and local farming/education,” according to the minutes. In a telephone interview April 3, the One Generation senior program director, Alan Brauer, said the one-year lease may continue in the future. “It’s typical to have a year-to-year lease for a farming operation. We intend to build a relationship with the landowner, Beverlee Henry. “But, of course, we could hardly have chosen a worse year to get started giving the irrigation potential this year.”
The Trosello tract is the foundation’s first “indigenous farm hub” although another quarter-acre parcel here is also under cultivation, Brauer said. More acreage in Corrales could be added in the future, including the possibility of reclaiming farmland that has been abandoned. Brauer forwarded the following information about the project to Corrales Comment. “The Indigenous Farm Hub engages Indigenous communities in creating a network of farmers and families that will strengthen local and sustainable food systems by providing access to healthy foods, build prosperity for farmers and local communities through land reclamation, and reconnect the bond between language and culture to Indigenous practices of agriculture.”
The material further explains the relationship between the academy and the fund. “The Indigenous Farm Hub is a project of One Generation Fund currently led by Executive Director Kara Bobroff and Senior Director of Programs and Initiatives Alan Brauer. Alan will be responsible for implementing the farm hub’s priorities with the guidance of an advisory board of Indigenous farmers and language experts.
“Ms. Bobroff is an Indigenous leader who has dedicated her career to working for positive change and Indigenous principal of the Albuquerque-based Native American Community Academy (NACA) and has more than 25 years of experience in Indigenous education. She was recognized by President Obama as one of 100 top social innovators in the nation and was the New Mexico Public Education Department Deputy Secretary of Identity, Equity and Transformation prior to founding One Generation Fund.
“Mr. Brauer spent his formative years and early career on his family’s dairy farm in western Maryland. He moved to New Mexico in 2001 to teach first grade on the Navajo Nation in Smith Lake. Mr. Brauer entered into teacher coaching and non-profit management with Teach For America in both New Mexico and Baltimore. During his time in Baltimore, he launched Stony Branch Growers, a CSA [community supported agriculture project] that provided 25 shareholders with weekly subscriptions of produce raised on his farm. He joined the NACA Inspired Schools Network in 2015 to lead the fellowship implementation and manage technical assistance and school supports. Most recently, Mr. Brauer served as the director of the Charter Schools Division at the New Mexico Public Education Department.
Mr. Brauer and the advisory board are overseeing the launch of the Indigenous Farm Hub, which will be supported by a team of three full time staff in the immediate term, with the goal to grow to nine by 2023-24.” The fund’s strategic five-year plan, concluding in 2026, calls for launching 15 more farm projects across North America. “It will strengthen Indigenous communities in four ways:
• Create a systemic impact on the access, quality, and abundance of locally grown food for families in need.
• Develop economic development and prosperity for food system workers and farmers in Indigenous communities.
• Embed Indigenous language and culture vitalization within each created initiative.
• Reclaim Indigenous sovereignty over local food systems.
The overview for what would occur at the farm hub here in Corrales is described as follows. “The Indigenous Farm Hub (IFH) will be located in central New Mexico and will be a working farm that provides the venue for a comprehensive, paid fellowship that integrates sustainable agricultural practices, traditional Indigenous farming knowledge, and Native culture, language, and customs.
“IFH will recruit, identify, select, and support fellows to participate in a two-year program that culminates in the launch of community-responsive farms in their home communities. During year one, Farm Hub fellows will work full-time on the training center farm while engaging in learning experiences that will build on their experiences. The fellowship curricula will cover traditional Indigenous food systems, historical context, diverse planting and growing techniques, sustainable agricultural practices, ties with language and culture, food justice and sovereignty, land reclamation, business planning and viability, and community activism and involvement.
“In year two, fellows will launch their farm operations in their home communities and will receive start-up funds and operations support from the Farm Hub staff. As a working farm, the Indigenous Farm Hub will provide fellows with a robust agricultural experience while also fostering local community fresh food access through a CSA model, producing value-added products and partnering with established distribution centers.
“Integral to the model is a strong partnership with local communities in which community-responsive farms will be located in order to ensure the localized farm enterprise amplifies access to fresh produce, fosters job creation, and economic development while also facilitating the vitalization of land-based language and cultural practices.”