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Celebrating Dolores Huerta Day

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — No doubt, a few future farmers of America are in this group.

On Friday, about 350 elementary and middle school students from eight Albuquerque Public Schools converged on the Sanchez Farm in the South Valley to participate in the eighth-annual Dolores Huerta Day of Service and Learning.

Organizer Kira Luna said the annual event is designed to teach kids about “where their food comes from” and about the legacy of César Chávez, Dolores Huerta and the United Farm Workers movement.

The students cycled through 15 hands-on workshops in which they planted native and low-water-use trees, shrubs, plants and grasses. Other workshops taught them about acequias, solar ovens, worm composting, medicinal plants and herbs, foods from the garden and more.

Michelle-Desiree Lobato, a teacher at the Janet Kahn School of Integrated Arts, said that, in addition to the obvious lessons about food sourcing, the day of service is also intended to convey “a huge message about social justice and non-violent movements,” exemplified by the United Farm Workers in their fight for fair wages and a safe working environment.

Further, she said, students learn important lessons about civics, hard work, community service and making healthy food choices.

“I did it last year, and it was fun,” said Lilyana Woods, 11, a fifth-grader at Janet Kahn. “We planted stuff and made a salad, and I helped to paint a mural. I learned it’s good to plant things and to take care of the earth, and that food is better from the garden, because sometimes the things from the grocery store were sprayed with pesticides to keep the bugs off of them.”

Huddled beneath an overhead shelter, a group of eighth-graders from the Cien Aguas International School were watching a demonstration by volunteers from the Kids Cook! program, who prepared a healthy salad from locally sourced kale. A number of the students said they didn’t like the bitter taste of kale or had never tried it before.

Daniel Topa, 14, was among the skeptical, but after tasting the salad, he became a believer.

“I guess kale can taste good if you mix it with the right ingredients,” he said.

In this case, the mixture included radishes, dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds, feta cheese and a dressing of olive oil, honey Dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Ten-year-old Emilio Murphy, a fifth-grader at East San Jose Elementary School, had just finished helping to plant a tree.

“If you have mulch and add water, the mulch will absorb the water and contain it for like a week or two,” he said. “We should plant more trees, because they’re like a ventilator and they release air and provide shade.”

The 12-acre Sanchez Farm is now Bernalillo County open space. The county leases the property to the La Plazita Institute, which operates it as a certified organic farm in its teaching programs for marginalized youth.