‘Food security’, ‘food sovereignty’ and ‘food autonomy’:  these words are heard  buzzing around food nowadays.  What are the issues at hand?  Each concept conjures up various images around that perfect juicy red King of Tomatoes perched on your plate upon a throne of spotless emerald green leaves.  In essence, and very simply, these words all reflect a growing concern about where our food comes from, what’s really in the pretty salad ready to be devoured for lunch, and about the cost of the food we are eating. These phrases also suggest some resolution towards ensuring the certainty of our food supply in changing times.

          Let’s take ‘food autonomy’.  ‘Autonomy’ resonates with a rooted simplicity that speaks to the very core of the matter:  SELF-RELIANCE.  Self-reliance in food growing, food harvesting, and food accessibility means autonomy – independence – at the individual, household, community or regional level, or all of those:  whatever enables ‘reasonable’ distances for the food to travel from farmer to you, ensuring freshness and availability. Food autonomy implies the cycling of local resources (including dollars), freedom from the hidden perils of industrial agriculture, including GMOs, and just plain satisfaction.  Local autonomy means that we know that the food is fresh, isn’t toxic, and is not flown from somewhere across some ocean.  The wonderful Farmers’ Markets all around New Mexico allow for ready access to abundant fresh, naturally or organically grown meat, dairy, fruit and veggies on a regular basis.  It’s very reassuring to know your farmer and to know where your food is coming from – and that it’s healthy, too.  And, you’re supporting the experts who grow a bountiful variety of food right here at home. 

          Growing at least some of your own food is a step further towards achieving total self-reliance. Growing vegetables for year-‘round harvest need not be a daunting task in New Mexico.  Growing just a little bit of the vegetables you eat every week is a great way to connect with the Earth and the place you live. Even with limited space, using container gardens, you can be self-reliant in providing some of your own food.  The climate in NM is very amenable to extending the harvest season for vegetables into late fall and early winter and starting the season with an early harvest in late winter or early spring.  Extended growing can be fairly simply accomplished by use of frost cloths anchored over outside garden areas or by the covering of a simple hoop-house.  

           In fact, in most of New Mexico, the climate is suitable for actual four-season harvest of vegetables, a step beyond extended growing.  The main concern of the plants for year-‘round productivity is the amount of (hours of) sunlight they receive every day to support growth, more than the actual temperature. Many vegetables will grow at temperatures below freezing as long as they have adequate sunlight.  But with our temperature ranges, particularly in northern NM above 7000’, a greenhouse may be necessary for protection from icy winds and extreme cold. It is possible to harvest many of your favorite vegetables all year “round, including delicious juicy red tomatoes in winter and artichokes in early spring – and, you’re providing some of your own food!