When the Jones sisters inherited their family farm, they knew one thing for certain: they wanted it to remain farmland.
Their parents raised the sisters on their small three acre farm, irrigated off the historic Cristo Rey acequia in Albuquerque’s South Valley. Growing up, they enjoyed their rural lifestyle on the fringe of Albuquerque, and the sisters wanted to ensure another young family could experience that same connection to the land and community. They were aware that the farmland and agricultural water rights contributed to the viability of the culture and tradition of the historic Pajarito Land Grant community and that the patchwork of small irrigated lands contributed to viability of the Valle de Oro Refuge. They had grown up watching the rural south valley farm land be subdivided and developed into housing, threatening the cultural and rural integrity of the community they so loved and they didn’t want to be part of it.
The sisters initially listed the land as available for farming on a website where farmers could search for agricultural property to lease or purchase. That is how young farmers, Eric Chrisp and Michelle Natale, first connected with the sisters. The couple fell in love with the land and saw the farming potential, especially with the pre-1907 water rights still intact. The Jones Sisters and the young farmers, and the couple soon moved to the property. Though Eric and Michelle were interested in purchasing the land, as young farmers, the market value was beyond their reach. Fortunately, the Jones sisters found a way to make the young couple’s farm dream come true.
Despite the substantial financial gain possible if the Jones family were to sell the land for development, they chose to protect it and help ensure it could be kept in agricultural use. The Jones sisters knew a conservation easement (CE) would help reduce the value of the land making the land it more affordable for the young couple; they also hoped to gain some tax benefits for their charitable donation of a CE. They saw a conservation easement as a win-win for everyone. They contacted RGALT and through this new partnership, they were able to place a conservation easement on their irrigated property protecting the land and agricultural water rights for future generations.
Just days after closing on the CE, the Jones sisters sold the land to the young farmers who, as a family, have transformed the once dilapidated fields into Abundia Farms, a small sustainable farm operation.
Since 2013, Abundia Farms has hosted Sandhill Cranes in the winter, small farm animals like chickens and goats, beehives, as well as llamas! Fresh produce has grown in newly dug rows under the careful watch of Eric and Michelle. They even cultivated a small community supported agriculture business (CSA) membership!
This year, the fields of Abundia Farm are resting, but probably not for long. As Eric writes on the Abundia Farms website:
We love [farming]. Simple as that. We love the feeling we get when we walk out our door and see our happy chickens wandering unchecked in our field. We love the sensation of sticking our hands in dark earth to bring new life forth, and knowing that we are part of a cycle of consumption and production and renewal. We are of this earth now. We are these plants and these animals. We are connected to all of it, the acequia water, the cottonwood forest, the warm dry air and the bright shining sun that powers our lives here on planet earth. We farm because at the end of the day, there is nothing we would rather do.
With the majority of New Mexico’s farmers over age 65, RGALT looks forward to working with even more landowners to help make New Mexico farmland accessible to the next generation of farmers. To connect with RGALT or refer a friend, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 505-270-4421. To learn more about RGALT, please read more about us on our website at www.rgalt.org.