Fire destroys popular South Valley organic farm

Albuquerque News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The 2020 curse has hit once again. An Albuquerque farmer who works a lot with the community says he lost all of his crop for the upcoming year in a fire.

Wilfred Ortiz and his 72-year-old mother live in a house near Bridge and Isleta. He’s the owner of Barelas Farm, which he operates out of his house and garage.

On Sunday night, Ortiz’s mother said she smelled smoke. “I realized that the garage had smoke coming out of it. When I kicked the door open, huge flames came out,” he says.

The garage was where Ortiz kept the bulk of his produce. Now, all that’s left are ashes. “The fire went really fast. It had all my seed stock for the plants and the farm for this coming season, 2021,” he says.

While his entire garage was destroyed, luckily, Ortiz, his mother, and his home were saved, which left him with a sense of hope. “We’re alive and our house didn’t burn down. I’m going to continue to farm and I’m going to continue to provide,” he says.

A farmer for the last five years, Ortiz has used his garage to provide lettuce, onions, garlic, and corn to the people in the South Valley. During the pandemic, he even opened up his home for people to come by to buy his crops.

With all of the damage the fire has done, Ortiz says he saw all of his hard work disappear right before his eyes. “Last night, I felt like giving up when I saw all my seed stock melt, all of my equipment…everything, all my computers. All my plans. My calendar. Everything,” he says.

But with his last remaining bag of sunflowers and the only tools he has left, Ortiz says he will continue to pursue his goal of bringing fresh organic food to the South Valley. “I’ve started a season with less,” he says.

Right now, the cause of the fire is unknown but Ortiz believes it was sparked by a propane heater in the garage. Luckily, the crops Ortiz has in his yard were not damaged by the fire. He says he will rely on that produce for the 2021 season. His neighbors have created a GoFundMe page to help him rebuild his full crop.

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