Here’s one thing I know: you can’t talk a seed into growing. No amount of advertising or strategic marketing will persuade a crop to yield. The word “authenticity” has become a value proposition, a word used, often with little to no frame of reference, to impart “realness”, something true. And in today’s world, “authenticity” is valuable precisely because there is a communal sense of something lost, a disconnect. For me, seeds and the farmers who nurture them, are the essence of authenticity.
As a farm-to-table photographer, I have the distinct pleasure of going out to see and document first-hand the amazing abundance of fresh produce that our regional farmers cultivate. I call my photographic subject “farm to table”, but in truth, it’s the people at both poles of this edible ecosystem that bring the subject alive for me. Really, I’m a farmer-to-chef-to-eater photographer.
I’m fascinated by, and feel deep gratitude towards, the people who dedicate their lives and land and hands to actually making this happen. No one becomes a farmer out of a desire for glamour, social prestige or vast wealth. I wouldn’t presume to speak on behalf of all farmers to say why they do what they do, but I would hazard a guess that some do it out of a desire to continue the family traditions they were raised with, or to create new ones with their own children. That some do it for the deep satisfaction of feeding themselves and their community after a hardday’s work, and out of a personal commitment to growing food sustainably. And maybe some farm for the pleasure of companionship, working beside friends with shared values out in epically beautiful landscapes.
But no matter the reason, one thing is sure: these are folks waking well before the rest of us do, working long days under the hot sun, sometimes with unsure results; they are the backbone, heart and soul of real, sustainable, healthy food. Those who farm in the high deserts of New Mexico, a region of drought, monsoon, infertile soil, are to my eye our regional heroes.
Gabriella Marks is a San Franciscan expat music shooter turned chef-and-farmer groupie. She arrived in New Mexico on pure intuition, but knows why she stays: the spectacular high desert light, the lenticular clouds, and the humbling experience of urging a single squash plant from the dry clay soil and ancient pueblo pottery shards in the garden. Her respect for, and relationships with, the farmers and chefs in the region grows daily.