Q&A with Armando Vigil, RGFP education coordinator
Story and photos by Owen Woods | email@example.com
THE Rio Grande Farm Park is about to welcome Armando Vigil as its new education coordinator. Vigil was born and raised in Alamosa. For the past 20 years, he’s been working at his family’s business doing collision repair.
After dealing with enough chemicals and insurance companies, he said it was time to do something else. But it all really started about a decade ago. That’s when he “got bit by the farming bug.”
“We have an indoor vertical farm. We have pigs, chickens, and goats. Then we also farm outside as well, a small market garden. We’re looking at getting mushrooms going. I also do vermicomposting. That’s using worms to compost. That’s about me in a nutshell.”
Vigil and his wife, Tiffany, have three kids who they homeschool.
Alamosa Citizen and Vigil spoke over the phone about how he got the education coordinator job and his plans going forward into the new year.
Alamosa Citizen: What led you to become the Education Coordinator for the Farm Park?
Armando Vigil: I saw the job description. I said, ‘Well that’s pretty much made for me.’ I’ve been doing it for a little bit. I just kind of thought it would be a good opportunity to give back to the community a little bit and educate people. I also will be setting up a lot of education events, some workshops, and things of that nature. It sounded pretty interesting. I applied and got it.
AC: With the position, you’re not just teaching kids, it’s also a community education position where anybody who wants to learn can come and gather those resources?
Vigil: Correct. Yeah.
AC: You’ll be mainly leading the Rising Stewards program – I know that’s at the top of the list – but what are your plans with that program going forward?
Vigil: With that program, I’m kind of looking to get them exploring different career opportunities, not just agriculture. Definitely agriculture, but outdoor activities. Fishing, rock climbing, BLM, forest service, just any kind of outdoor jobs that are out there that are paying a living wage. We’re exploring those opportunities. Also, I’ll have a business module so they can work with the small business development center and work up a business plan and start a business if they choose to.
Different field trips, fish hatcheries. Archery stuff. Working with the Alamosa Bicycle Coalition to get them out. Just getting them more educated and ready to go out into the workforce, work on work ethic, personal development skills, leadership. Then cooking, healthy living, little bit of health and fitness involved – at least learn about it and do some daily walks, and possibly some yoga. Whatever interests them I just want to get them really enthusiastic and find out what each individual is excited about and help them pursue that.
AC: Are these summer-based, are these extracurricular – when do high schoolers and kids have opportunities to do these things?
Vigil: We’re gonna have a diverse group of high schoolers, I believe, from freshmen to seniors. We’re still working out if there’s going to be credits involved. I’m not sure if there is going to be. We’ll start in May, probably before school gets out. They’ll be able to either come in on Fridays or Saturdays so they can get started on the season, get their plots planted. They’ll also be farming their own plots and selling their own produce.
The enthusiastic kids can stay until September and finish their harvest and keep the program going, as long as we have kids who want to participate throughout September, October, once harvest season’s done. It would be more of a summer-based program and a little bit during the school year.
As far as job opportunities, it would be more for kids who will be graduating. A lot of other ones can start exploring and take apprenticeship roles during the summer months if they’re not doing the Rising Stewards.
AC: As an Alamosa and San Luis Valley local, what does having the Rio Grande Farm Park, and places like it, mean to you?
Vigil: My kids love going and playing there. I was an incubator farmer when it first started. It’s just a great opportunity for a lot of folks who want to get into farming. To have a chance to do that where people who don’t have access to a garden plot, there’s access for people who would like to farm small-scale to grow their own food. It’s just a great resource for people to come and explore.
There’s a trail system. There’s a little lake out there. There’s just a lot of opportunity for it. I really like the place. I think it was a great vision to conserve the land. It’s a great opportunity for the community to get outdoors and farm and get their hands dirty. It’s just a great thing, I think.
AC: For people looking to learn how to grow their own produce and wanting to get into small-form agriculture, what kind of advice would you give them?
Vigil: Probably just try to learn as much as you can. Then just get started. The main thing is just getting going. It’s good to get going. You’re gonna learn some things the hard way. That’s OK. Just stick with it. There’s always gonna be good years and bad years. You’re gonna have dry years. Some years you do really good. Some years the bugs wipe you out. It’s just learning how to always keep learning.
AC: Could you talk about your regenerative agriculture mindset?
Vigil: It’s the principle of leaving things better than you found them. I believe, a lot of the experts say that there’s 60 seasons left of harvests in the whole world, with the way the top soil is being depleted. It’s kind of a way of building up soil health and recruiting more top soil – using animals to control weeds, using cover crops, rotating animals – the bison used to come every so often and they would hammer the grass and then it would grow back, they would fertilize it, and it grows back stronger. It’s just a good method of farming. It gives back to the land. It improves your soil quality, you get nutrient-dense food. You have a lot of minerals in the food. Your animals are more healthy. It’s just that kind of model: leaving it better than what you found it.
AC: Where did you learn that? Was that one thing you’d come across, or learned yourself? Did you learn that from someone? Where did that philosophy come from for you?
Vigil: It came from YouTube – a lot of stuff on YouTube. Just reading books. Joel Salatin, Gabe Brown, there’s just a lot of names that are out there doing it and making a good profit, and turning over good numbers. I just started researching it and then just started implementing it. I started with mulching and eventually moved to animals and different irrigation methods. Just the internet and reading and then it just took hold. I tried it out and it worked pretty good.