Farming with Fish

By John R. Roby

March 29, 2023 at 12:00 am MDT

The women took their lettuce seriously.

They watched over shreds of mixed greens sized for kid-portion trays. The shreds filled a clear plastic food-grade bin almost too big for one person to heft. The just-uncovered bin sat on a countertop in the prep area of Salazar Elementary’s cafeteria on a recent morning. In about an hour, Caesar salad would be on the menu for 170 hungry learners.

“We don’t ever leave it out like this or it would get mushy—not look as fresh as it does now.” The words from Cecilia “Cece” Tapia, cook and cashier at Salazar, came across as a promise. The bin would be covered and chilling if not for the press.

To understand why Tapia and cafeteria lead Paula Herrera gave the produce such care, start by thinking about a typical encounter with lettuce in the wild. Think about that floppy skim coat on a fast food sandwich bun, machine-cut with disturbing precision. This was not that. This looked like what you’d pull from your own garden, if you had the time and space and skill.

The lettuce came from bags stamped Desert Verde Farm of Santa Fe, with a harvest date of two days before.

“Looks good, right?” Tapia said.

“That looks pretty,” Herrera agreed.

It looked like lettuce you’d want your kids eating.

But it probably didn’t arrive in the cafeteria the way you’d expect. About a month before ending up in front of Tapia and Herrera and the hungry 170, the lettuce had sprouted in a cavernous office space near Meow Wolf.

To read the rest of the article, click on the link below

Santa Fe Reporter article, March 29, 2023

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