At times of loss, we can count ourselves lucky when we are able to put the loss into a positive perspective.
Earlier this month, I lost a friend and life mentor, as Paul “Joseph” Moya turned his big green tractor from the family farm to drive through St. Peter’s pearly gates on Oct. 3, 2022. Joseph served for 25 years on our Valencia Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors in roles ranging from treasurer and parliamentarian to the chairman, and our current leadership already misses him.
As noted in this newspaper two weeks age, Joseph was a remarkable man; in his more than seven decades of life, he positively affected lives beyond count, always there to lend a hand to someone in real need, or to tell a joke when the moment called for laughter.
He also knew when to be serious and how we can best make our mark in life with the finite time we are given. He shared with me that he felt “our society is living on borrowed time, and if we don’t make a better balance between what we take from the Earth and what we give back, the quality of life for all is threatened.”
Joseph was one of the first large-scale farmers in Valencia County to grow organic alfalfa, believing it was an experiment worth trying.
“I can save money on chemicals, use less water, and grow healthier food — what’s not to love?”
This traditional farmer changed his approach in his mid-50s, telling me he was going back to how farming used to be done.
We talked about the philosophy behind the regenerative farming movement, which can be boiled down to using lessons learned from our ancestors, while incorporating compatible modern technologies that promote sustainability. Joseph joked about trying to use biochar, a natural soil amendment he’d never heard about but was reportedly used by the Mayans to improve soil fertility with the beneficial soil bugs we’ve previously talked about in these pages.
I was complaining how I had tried to build a mound of biochar in my garden, but forgot to charge it with nutrients, like manure or urine, to pulverize charcoal pieces down to pebble size Joseph began to chuckle. “Well, at least your wife will be OK with you doing your business outside for a while,” he quipped.
With Joseph’s recent passing, I reflect on how he represented an old-world fellow, polite and respectful, who walked the difficult line between being a man of his times (one of the first to laser-level his farm fields) and one who honored the cultural traditions of the Rio Grande Valley that the Moya family long ago made their home.
I blend the apparent wisdom from the regenerative farming movement to fit into my lessons learned from the times I spent with Joseph. He always led with compassion and kindness, while being ingenious on all things farming and mechanical. He was a master of taking a little from here and a little from there, to make a custom solution to nearly any problem he faced.
Like many who grieve, I ponder the challenge of responding positively to the loss of one held dear. Joseph’s legacy, which I will seek to carry forward for myself, is one of a can-do attitude empowered with a sense of community — treating all as family at the end of the day.
On Saturday, Oct. 29, visit us at VSWCD’s Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area, 2424 N.M. 47, just north of Rio Communities, for a fun and educational outdoor public event, Fall Festival & Whitfield Under the Stars. Join us anytime between 3-9 p.m. for a fire prevention talk, a live owl presentation, and a presentation about bats and nighttime pollinators. At 7 p.m., we’ll have telescopes on hand for viewing the night sky, and so much more. Visit our website at valenciaswcd.org.
Andrew Hautzinger, guest columnist
Andrew Hautzinger has been the district director for the Valencia Soil and Water Conservation District since 2020. Prior to that, he was a volunteer VSWCD board member for 12 years and spent many years volunteering at the Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area.
Hautzinger has a bachelor of science in watershed sciences from Colorado State University. He worked for more than 27 years as a federal hydrologist working for agencies within the Department of Interior including the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. National Park Service, and for the final 20 years of his career, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services’ National Wildlife Refuge System.