Santa Fe Living Treasures – Elder Stories

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Truman Brigham



Honored September, 1984

Truman Brigham

Living off what the land can be coaxed to yield became a way of life for Truman Brigham early on. The first president of the Santa Fe Area Farmers' Market was born in rural Arkansas on a "rock pile cotton farm." After two years of high school, he left home in search of a better life and landed in Clovis, New Mexico, where he found a job as a ranch hand.

Because he didn't feel at home in that windy country, Truman gladly accepted an offer from Mr. Whiting to work on his apple farm north of Española in 1932. The young man earned $25 a month, with board. Whiting thought highly enough of him to help him buy six acres and a two-room house next door. That same year, he became the gardener on the estate of painter Randall Davey in Santa Fe.

Truman went back to Arkansas to be married. In 1939 he and his wife moved to their fifteen acres in Fairview, New Mexico, where they established a truck farm. For the next fourteen years, they supplied stores in Santa Fe with their fresh produce. In 1953, Truman became chief gardener at the New Mexico School for the Deaf, while continuing to grow and deliver fresh produce in Santa Fe.

But times were growing ripe for Truman's special contribution to the community from his own knowledge and experience of the land. In 1968, a group of five families got together to sell their fresh vegetables in Los Alamos; the following year they moved their trucks to a church school parking lot on Agua Fria Street in Santa Fe. With Truman's guiding energy and vision, those first attempts at bringing the fresh produce of northern New Mexico growers directly to the public evolved into what is now one of Santa Fe's most vital and beloved summer rituals—the Santa Fe Area Farmers Market in Sanbusco Center, where dozens of growers congregate with delighted buyers of fruits, vegetables, flowers, wreaths, jams, pestos, and freshly baked goods every Tuesday and Saturday morning.

"If you just grow onions," Truman explained, "people can only buy so many. Some ranchers just take apples to the farmers market. But I grow five kinds of lettuce. You've got to know the varieties, what to plant, and what people want, if you want to make it a success. It's a skill, just like a plumber or a carpenter."

Please see Volume 1 for complete text.
Photo ©1997 by Joanne Rijmes