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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Outstanding in his field

Curtis Miller is one of those charmed individuals who can grow just about anything. In an area where you aren’t supposed to have enough growing season to produce butternut squash – Curtis has a field of big ones ready for harvest. He’s sold his crop to Cid’s food market – a grocer who makes a point of buying organic produce from local growers.

Butternut, acorn and other kinds of squash are hidden under the deep green and broad leaves of the vines where they are secretly ripening. Most farmers have experienced the heartbreak of an early frost that devastates a squash patch.

It’s no secret to anyone who’s tried to grow anything around in and around the Taos Valley, the climate can change by simply crossing the street. One property might be able to eke out a decent subsistence while another can barely keep grass alive. It just depends.

Miller’s fields are in the Taos foothills, an alluvial plain which forms a rich slope that seems to capture all the sun has to offer. It is also shaped just right to maximize any moisture nature cares to bestow.

He’s married to Taos Day School first-grade teacher and Taos Pueblo tribal member, Nola Romero-Miller. They are adding to their fields when they can, hoping to expand next year. With a serious green thumb in the family and some of the best planting land around, the rains this year along with the warm days has helped produce a potent harvest with no need to introduce pesticides of any kind.

“I hate bugs,” Miller said and toed his way through the squash and pumpkins to show off where a particularly huge pair of pumpkins were sleeping.

“I call them The Twins,” he said, chuckling. “Once they turn orange, they are ripe. There is no advantage to keeping them on the vine any longer.”

He’s grown three different kinds of corn – crops for chicos, popcorn and sweet corn. He tore off five ears and handed them over.

“I’m willing to bet this is the sweetest corn you’ve ever tasted,” he said with confidence, then opened the door to the shed to show where the chicos are strung up, drying.

Miller owns the animal feed store Critters Nutrition Center, 203 Bertha Road, plus he’s also known for his beekeeping. The hives are arranged in his field -- just so -- making use of the industrious pollinating bees. They seem to have blessed Miller not only with their honey but with a bumper crop of organic vegetable goodness. He is truly a man outstanding in his field.

For more info, call 505-758-0888.


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