Crawling in the Fields
By Lesley S. King
High in the mountains above Santa Fe, two brothers at Gemini Farms face daily the challenges of this desert’s mercurial temperatures. In a green canyon at 7,500 feet elevation, brothers Teague and Kosma Channing grow mostly cold-tolerant crops. Out among the rows, they kneel as though praying to this natural world that frequently reminds them of its force. “We got pounded by hail last night,” says Teague, the older and more philosophical of the two, as he stands looking across seven acres of spinach, beets, parsnips, and kale. “We pretty much had everything covered though,” he adds, pointing to cloth tents shielding much of the garden. He paces along rows of arugula, and then he kneels, cutting the spicy leaves with a small sharp knife and dropping them into a white cotton bag.
Here in Las Trampas, Native Americans, such as the Picuris—a local Pueblo tribe—have grown corn and beans for centuries. The first Spaniards began farming here some 300 to 400 years ago. Even though the Channing brothers irrigate with an acequia from those days, they are relatively new to this land. They were raised in Santa Fe and at an early age learned to speak Spanish, which helps them up here, where most people are of Hispanic origin. “When Teague was in college, we talked on the phone,” says Kosma. “We knew we had to get to the country, but we had only a little knowledge of farming.” Their Polish mother, however, had taught them the value of good food. “We had worked in an orchard, where we’d dry fruit and make jam,” he adds.
Once they found and leased this farm, they learned quickly, following the lead of the area’s oldest farmers. They acquired seeds from nearby villages. “We got corn and fava beans from Truchas, pinto beans from Trampas, squash from Ojo Sarco,” says Kosma. “It helps to use seeds that have in their memory the understanding to ripen before the frost comes.”
The growing season is short and intense. “We have about six months of really hard work and the rest of the year to let down,” says Kosma. He looks across the land and tries to describe what draws him to this life. “It’s about self-sustenance,” he says. “We become increasingly independent from mainstream culture.”
“We do lots of walking,” says Teague, and it is clear by his long, lean frame that he loves that aspect. “Six days a week.”
“And crawling,” adds Kosma, with a laugh. “You feel like an infant again.”
Like his brother’s, Teague’s appreciation for his vocation goes beyond the physical fitness it affords. “It’s the freedom,” he says. “Its based on a principle. We’re the masters of our lives—second to the great creator, who dictates the seasons, storms, water and sunshine.”
Adds Kosma: “In our hearts, in our core, we know we’re children of the earth.”
Their lives celebrate that knowledge. They bathe with a solar shower in water that flows down off the peaks and carries the scent of pine. Their summer is a constant flow of friends coming to help harvest or simply to eat the feasts prepared from food they have grown and cooked themselves—wood-fired pizza and breads, spiced pickles, and sugar-pumpkin pies. Then, of course, they go to town and sell at the market. Gemini Farms deals in volume. Piles of beets, carrots, and parsnips stand before them, all still dusted with the dark earth of the northern mountains.