A Brief Overview of the Project

Honoring Heritage: Farming Then & Now

You know the old saying, “Food is Medicine?” Well, Sandoval County’s Community Services Department set out to explore its meaning in action, along with the old and new ways of farming, with family growers during the planting season of 2018.

In partnership with Sound Seed Productions, we sat down with first to fourth generation farmers to record oral histories of their farming and food practices, challenges, and big ideas for the future of small farming. So let’s introduce you to some of your neighbors through their own voices and photographs.

Pictured Above: Alejandro Gonzales and his wife Teofila Martinez

Pictured Above: Gilbert Lopez and his family

Pictured Above: Mary Colangelo 

Pictured Above: Penny Davis plants with a boy in an education class

Pictured Above: Ashley and Chantelle with their grandfather Gus Wagner

Pictured Above: Sunrise over the Fresh Possibilities Family Farm

Alejandro Gonzales Family

Alejandro Gonzales, who passed away in October of 1941, was a progressive and innovative farmer of the early 20th century in Corrales; nicknamed “Celery King of NM.” He is well-known for sending a gift of celery to President Calvin Coolidge for Christmas dinner in 1924. He was a founding member and on the Board of Directors of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District and advocated for a Corrales cannery and co-op organization. Frank Perea was interviewed about Alejandro in April 2018 by phone, and the group video interview was recorded in May 2018 in home of Audrey Martinez. Audrey’s cousins Arthur, Anita, and Yolanda are siblings.

Gilbert Lopez

95-year-old Corrales resident Gilbert Lopez is still farming, cooking, and canning on his family property where his grandfather and father farmed in the early 20th century. Audio interviewed February 2018 at his home in Corrales, he was joined by his daughter Loretta. Mr. Lopez is a descendant of Corrales’ Juan Gonzales Bas, distant relative of Alejandro Gonzales (“Celery King of NM”), and nephew of Octaviano Lopez. He served in the U.S. Coast Guard in Europe and the Pacific during WWII, and had a long career as an electrical engineer with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Mr. Lopez is also an avid painter and has created oil paintings depicting farm life with his family.

Mary Colangelo

Sandoval County Senior Volunteer and canning enthusiast video interviewed in March 2018 at her home in Rio Rancho. Mary was raised on Long Island, NY and moved to Rio Rancho after years living in Arizona. In 1984 Mary adopted three Vietnamese children, refugees brought to the U.S. after the Vietnam War. She raised them, along with her daughter, as a single parent and remained very close to her aging father, who was a prolific cultivator of flowers, fruit trees, and produce. Mary takes pride in her Italian heritage, enjoys cooking with her children and grandchildren, and educating school children about nutrition, healthy eating habits, and table manners.


Founder, Co-chair and Master Gardener Penny Davis video interviewed in April 2018 at the Corrales Senior Center. Penny is originally from the Midwest (Columbia, Missouri), where she learned to love the outdoors and growing. As a resident of Corrales and Master Gardener, she began Seed2Need after her retirement with PNM. Seed2Need was developed in response to need during and after the recession of 2008. Seed2Need’s volunteer base plants, harvests, and serves area food pantries and is breaking previous annual records with its 2018 harvest. They also enjoy having Boy Scout troop members and young students from area schools join them in planting and harvesting, educating and inspiring future farming generations.

Farmer’s Daughters

First cousins and fourth generation farmers, Ashley Wagner and Chantelle Wagner (granddaughters of Gus Wagner of Wagner Farms in Corrales) video interviewed separately and together in April 2018 at the home of Chantelle Wagner. Ashley and Chantelle work together as “Farmer’s Daughters” to help connect local food growers with markets and restaurants through farm-to-table events, raise awareness for farmland preservation, and educate about the importance of locally-grown healthy food. They are also leading a transition to organic growing methods in their own family farming. Chantelle has a 4-year old son whom she home-schools and enjoys raising, as she was, on the farm.

Fresh Possibilities Family Farm

Rob and Monica Pizana (husband and wife) video interviewed together on in April 2018 at their church in Pena Blanca, where they are active leaders in church and community. These farmers grow organic and are beginning their second year farming on their 3 acres near the Rio Grande River. Six-year-old son Aiden helps on the farm and is home-schooled. Rob served in the U.S. Marine Corps and is originally from Texas, while Monica is a Pena Blanca native. The Sandoval County Community Services Department contracts with the Pizana’s to grow produce for county meal programs.