SILVER CITY — This year's Mimbres Valley Harvest Festival is shaping up to be one of the biggest ever. It's the second year in a row that organizers had to turn away vendors for lack of space, festival organizer and co-founder Kate Brown said.
"It's exciting, we are on a really lovely upswing in building this strong community in not the best of economic times," Brown said. "We are growing in a really positive way with the seeds of local agriculture."
And that's what the festival is really all about — building community — and fun.
Started by the Mimbres Valley Health Action League in 2006 to celebrate the Mimbres Valley's agricultural roots, and to bring the community together, the festival is also the largest fundraiser for the Health Action League, which produces a number of programs to benefit Mimbres Valley residents like the Mimbres Messenger newsletter, the Mimbres Community Garden and Mimbres Farmers Market, and, with the Rio Mimbres Baptist Church, helps with commodities distribution in the Valley.
While membership in the Mimbres Valley Health Action League is limited to Mimbres Valley residents, this year non-residents have an opportunity to support the League's activities by becoming a "friend" of the League for just $10.
Sixty vendors will spread out on the lovely back lawn of the San Lorenzo Elementary School, which is also very involved in the festival. This year, San Lorenzo students will lead a tour of their own little greenhouse and garden, which they started last spring. The festival also benefits the school, which has its biggest fundraiser of the year during the festival via a bake sale and a brisket dinner, available inside the school. And with cuts being levied on school districts across the state, they depend more and more on fundraisers for additional programs for kids, Brown said.
Vendors will include 10 or 11 growers including local beef from the Susieville Cattle Company, some local apples and other fruits and produce, plus artisans like Brown, a potter, who will be offering a sale on some of her older work at the festival.
Another new offering this year will be a gardening tip and recipe spiral-bound book featuring gardening advice from Sharlene Grunerud, who owns and operates Mimbres Farms Greenhouse and Nursery in the Valley. Grunerud's gardening tips will cover the four seasons, and recipes have been contributed by Mimbres Valley residents. The book will be available for $10 at the information booth, along with beautiful Mimbres Valley calendars produced by Nancy Coinman, for $12, and Harvest Festival T-shirts for $13. And don't forget to pick up a raffle ticket for one of more than a dozen great prizes, like a two-night stay for two at Georgetown Cabins, a $50 gift certificate for dinner at Little Toad Creek Inn & Tavern, a wine gift from La Esperanza Winery, lunch for four at La Mexicana restaurant, an airplane ride over the Mimbres Valley, and others. All of the money raised goes into supporting Mimbres Valley Health Action League programs, the next of which is to get a community kitchen for food processors to use, open in the Mimbres Valley, Brown said.
"We are very grassroots and completely funded by these kinds of things," Brown said.
The Harvest Festival usually raises between $5,000 and $7,000 each year, but Brown said organizers are aiming for $10,000 this year.
"That would be a great year," Brown said.
Two agricultural workshops will tap into the festival's, and the Valley's, agricultural roots — one on soil and another on rainwater harvesting.
There will be the usual pie contest, with many people making pies using local fruits and nuts — but be quick if you want to sample a slice, last year the pies sold out within 15 minutes of judging.
New this year will be a Bake Walk, with baked goods donated by the Living Harvest Bakery and other Mimbres Valley residents like Coinman. Contestants will walk the Bake Walk path, lined with rocks painted by the San Lorenzo Elementary students, stopping when the music stops, and winning the baked goodie that stands before them.
Live music and storytelling will spice up the day.
"It's a wonderful experience," said Brown of the festival overall.
Volunteers are still needed to help set up on Friday night and the Booster Club is supplying meals for those setting up starting at 5 p.m. More volunteers might also be needed on Saturday morning, but more importantly, new volunteers are needed to help produce the 2013 festival.
If you go:
What: 7th Annual Mimbres Valley Harvest Festival
When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday
Where: San Lorenzo Elementary School on Highway 35, just off Highway 152
Cost: Free activities, food will be sold
Information: Call (575) 536-9935, or visit www.mimbresharvestfest.com
9 a.m. Open to the public
9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Health Fair
9 to 10:30 a.m. Pie Contest entries accepted
9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Raffle tickets sold
9:30 to 10:15 a.m. Music by the Irish Seisiun Group
10:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. Stories and poetry of the Mimbres Valley with MC Rudy Dominguez:
¥ Charles McCargish on ranching
¥ Joan McCargish on Valley history
¥ Adam Roybal on family history
¥ Cindy Lee on Acklin Store
¥ Marilyn Markel on Mimbrenos
¥ Francesca Veltri on Apaches
¥ Silver City Poets
11 a.m. Pie judging begins
1 p.m. San Lorenzo Elementary Greenhouse & Garden Tour
1:15 p.m. Pie Contest winners announced
1:45 p.m. Sand: New Mexico Soil Remedy: Workshop by Cheyenne Thomas
1:30 p.m. Music by Bayou Seco
2 p.m. Bike winners announced
2:30 p.m. Rainwater Harvesting: Workshop by Patricia Pawlicki
2:30 p.m. Music by River's Bend (old-time gospel)
3:30 p.m. Illusion Band
4 p.m. Raffle winners announced
5 p.m. Festival closes
¥ Farmers Market
¥ Craft Fair
¥ Food Court
¥ Children's games and crafts
Christine Steele can be reached at (575) 538-5893 ext. 5802.