L A U R I E T Ü M E R A R T I C L E S
My Interview with
L a w r e n c e L u c e r o a n d S u s i e L u c e r o
Lawrence and Susie Lucero live in Dixon in a house they built together. Here they raised their two daughters, Rayette and Patricia. The acre they farm is an enchanted few minute walk from their home down a narrow tree-lined road that has not changed much in decades. This land was given to Lawrence by his parents. His father grew chili, corn, and other vegetables for his family. Lawrence learned to farm from his father and his grandfather.
Thereís nothing like fresh vegetables. Lawrence Lucero
Susie also comes from a family with a long history of farming. She is from Velarde. She remembers as a child, in the late 1940ís, how her father took what he grew up to Taos, going door to door, selling his medium-sized cucumbers for 5 cents, and bartering for bars of P & G soap.
I could live on spinach every day. Just boiled. Maybe with a little butter.
Or with a little sautťed onion. Susie Lucero
About six years ago the Luceroís had so many tomatoes that Susie convinced Lawrence to take them to the EspaŮola Farmerís Market to sell. He found he liked it ≠ particularly visiting with other others and they have been participating in the market every year since.
Last year, water was scarce and many of their crops didnít make it. This was the most difficult year they can remember. However, they did manage to bring to market the very few tomatoes and cucumbers that survived, along with the spinach that actually did well from early in the season. With these and the fruit their cousin gave them to sell, they were in business!
"Water is the matrix of culture, the basis of life."
Susie and Lawrence would rather be outside than inside. These days they do most of their farm work in the early morning and late afternoon when it is cooler. When they were younger the heat didnít bother them as much as it does now. There was a time when they could be found outside all day. Susieís least favorite chore is thinning because of the discomfort of her hip, which was replaced in the 1970ís. While indoors she crochets blankets, makes quilts, and embroiders tea towels with images often of the vegetables she grows.
This is the tree where we rest. Susie Lucero
Before her hip replacement, Susie worked as a nurseís aid at the Embudo Hospital, in the alcohol treatment center. Lawrence worked for many years with Stanley Crawford, author of A Garlic Testament: Season on a Small New Mexico Farm. He helped Stanley with all aspects of his farm, from plowing, irrigating, and picking. Both Susie and Lawrence are mentioned in Stanleyís various books. He acknowledges them for their friendship and invaluable assistance.
To dream a garden and then to plant it is an act of independece and even defiance to the greater world. Stanley Crawford
When I asked what their favorite crop is, they both at the same time said, "Chili!" Susie says that probably that is because she canít eat a meal without it! Their red chili powder is labor intensive though because of its exquisite taste, it is, according to Susie, "worth it!" Most of the chili they grow is for their family, their daughters and Susieís sister in Ogden, Utah. They only sell about 5 lbs at the market and often bring last yearís chili powder at the beginning of the season when most of their vegetables are still growing.
Susie and Lawrence have always farmed without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. They only put down manure to fertilize their soil. When I asked why they didnít use these chemicals there was a long pause as if any other way of farming was unimaginable and the question didnít exactly require an explanation. When I pressed them, they said that they simply donít believe in it. They expect a certain percentage of their crops to be eaten by insects. Period. And, they have never had any serious infestations either and whatever wilt has come, it has naturally gone away without any help from chemicals.
Susie asked me, "What do you do about these ants?" We passed many ants and many very large anthills. I told her that on several occasions Iíd used baits thinking she would next ask what sort of baits I used. Instead, she went on to tell me that what they do about their ants is sit on their porch, throw crumbs to them, and for pure entertainment, watch the ants them bring the crumbs back to their anthill.
No matter how dangerous, annoying, or economically detrimental a "pest" appears to be, we are not wise enough to safely conclude that we would be better off without it. Some fierce and dangerous pests inhabit extremely delicate and environmentally valuable areas. Eradicating them might do the world immeasurable harm.
When I asked Lawrence what advice he would give to someone who wanted to get into farming he said, "Iíd say, come over and see how to plant and take care of a farm." His 22-year old grandson, Adrian L. Gonzales, who currently lives with them, has become very interested in learning to farm. So the Lucero farming tradition continues.