Country Woman

Shelter in the Storm

When the pandemic prevented some internatio­nal students from going home, a New Mexico farm gave them a place to stay.



Our farm sits on 10 acres at the end of the Pecos River Valley in northern New Mexico. In Spanish, the area is El Valle de los Palos Amarillos, the Valley of the Yellow Trees. Bueno Para Todos farm is a women’s teaching cooperativ­e and farm founded five years ago by the El Valle Women’s Collaborat­ive and led by Yvonne Sandoval. We use Indigenous practices to grow organic produce and work on building rural economies through healthy growing practices.

I’m a relative newcomer here, having moved from Los Angeles just 10 years ago after visiting. Villanueva is tiny—300 people on a good day, although it’s the biggest community in the valley. Locals here can trace their roots back generation­s and through multiple cultures—Indigenous, Spanish and Anglo. It’s a tightknit group of people who often begin conversati­ons by asking who your family is. A colcha, a traditiona­l form of Mexican embroidery, hangs in the local Catholic church and tells the community’s story stitch by stitch over hundreds of feet of fabric.

To carry out our mission at the farm, we have worked with a number of groups—local art collective­s, cultural heritage organizati­ons and conservati­on agencies—to build networks and invite others in so we can learn from each other.

We open our doors to a lot of students who come work with us as well. For the last three years, internatio­nal students studying at United World Colleges have been an integral part of our work, teaching us about their cultures and helping us with everything from planting to covering a massive hoop house.

In return, they learn from us about symbiotic crop planting, such as planting corn, beans and squash together to enhance soil nutrients while naturally keeping insects at bay. We have had more than 70 students during that time, some of them coming once a month and some visiting for more than a week at a time. We often keep friendship­s with these youth after they leave.

In March, we had a planned weekend of major work to install an irrigation system when everything changed. As the coronaviru­s pandemic grew in scope, the school had to act quickly and move students, but many of them could not get flights home because their countries had already closed their borders.

So, during the next two and a half months, five students, from Egypt, Jordan, Cayman Islands, Niger and Nigeria, stayed with

us at the farm and at another property. We had been saving some grant funding for future projects, but instead, we spent the reserves to hire a team of unemployed constructi­on workers to create a clean and light-filled space for the students to stay—and, we hope one day, for WWOOFers (volunteers from the World Wide Opportunit­ies on Organic Farms organizati­on).

The community supported the effort in other ways—the students occasional­ly did their homework in the side room of the Villanueva General Store, which has been run by the Torres family for five generation­s. The students returned the favor, continuing to help us on the farm as their schoolwork allowed.

Several of the students have since traveled to other places to be closer to classmates, and several have gone home as borders reopened in the spring and summer. We remain in contact with them all, and they are always welcome to return. We are glad that we could open our doors and our land to these beautiful young people. We look forward to when we will really

Iam not a horse person. But my daughter Maddie believes having a horse is on par with eating and breathing.

She inherited her horse gene from my sister, who loves them too. So a few years ago when I decided to get a horse for Maddie, my sister set the rules: It must be a gelding, and not too young—at least 10 or 12 years old.

I brought home Diamond, a 7-year-old buckskin mare.

Rules didn’t apply to Diamond. She’d lower her head for Maddie to hoist a halter over one side, remaining patient as the little girl walked around to pull it over.

“This is the perfect horse!” I told my sister.

Her response surprised me. “It’s not a big dog,” she said.

A week later I understood: Diamond walked through an open gate and refused to come back. Dismissing treats and tugs on her halter, she trotted down the dirt road, then into a hilly ravine overflowin­g with poison oak and rattlesnak­es. Gone.

One look at the tears rolling down Maddie’s cheeks and I knew I had to pretend I could retrieve her horse.

After 30 minutes of sliding through the ravine, I found

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