Forty-four working families in Albuquerque’s South Valley planted backyard gardens as part of CSC’s Sembrando Salud Project this summer. The families planted organic vegetables and used drip irrigation systems provided by Sembrando Salud Project Director Omar Torres Valverde. In addition to providing guidance to help design and plant each garden, Sembrando Salud has organized food preparation and nutrition field demonstrations by trained chefs and nutritionists. Each family is now eating healthier and has the capacity to feed themselves healthy vegetables throughout the summer. Sembrando Salud’s goal is to help 2500 families living in the Rio Grande Basin to plant their own backyard vegetable gardens.
CSC’s Cooperative Development Center (CODECE) has helped organize and launch a healthy foods cooperative in Zuni Pueblo, NM. The cooperative members are Zuni health professionals who will hire local Zuni residents to farm organic produce as a way to create sustainable income at the Pueblo. The coop has farmland with permanent water sources to begin planting in the 2018 season. CSC is continuing to provide technical assistance to build out the farming infrastructure and implement fully articulated business systems.
Former program manager, Javier Rojo, is already attending classes at the Princeton University Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy in New Jersey. He worked at the Center for two and half years.
Joining CSC as Associate Director is Lehua López. Lehua has a long career in NGO management, fundraising, programs, nonprofit training, and policy issues. A native Hawaiian, Lehua brings 40 years of nonprofit experience to the Center. She has a master’s degree in cultural anthropology from the University of New Mexico and has been an instrumental founding director of numerous NGO organizations, including The Native Lands Institute: Research and Policy Analysis (an indigenous technical assistance organization), 1000 Friends of New Mexico (a nonprofit that was devoted to sound land and water-use planning), and most recently, Ho`omalu Ka`u (a native Hawaiian archival and cultural preservation group). “It’s quite an honor working with such a progressive staff who are all passionate about assisting indigenous and Chicano/Mexicano communities,” she said.
The Gallinas Cultural Tourism Cooperative has received its formal incorporation documents and is already busy organizing its tours and services for official launch of operations in summer, 2018. The cooperative has identified local cultural resources and cultural leaders to become part of its Nuevo Mexicano traditional cultural offerings to clients from the Four Corners States.
Now in its fifth year, La Chinampa Farm Coop in Albuquerque’s South Valley is growing organic produce for sale at local farmers’ markets, including the Downtown Farmers Market and the Railyards Market, according to Coop President Rafael de la Rosa.
CSC’s Story Riders Project, headed by Program Manager Marco Sandoval, had a rousing start at Dolores Gonzales Elementary School this past spring semester. Located in the Barelas neighborhood, the school has a student body comprised of predominantly Mexicano and Chicano low-income students. With bicycles provided by the Project, a dozen 4th and 5th graders (9- to 11-year- olds) learned bike safety and bike maintenance before heading out for rides along Albuquerque’s Bosque twice a week. Almost every other week, students met to interview and photograph a local elder, or a biologist, or an artist, to learn more about the culture, history, and environmental resources of the city’s public lands along the Rio Grande. “The thing I like about Story Riders is that I like riding bikes and [I] get to know new people. I like [learning] about rivers and … [local Barelas elder] Martin Torres because he told us all kinds of stories!,” said Jose Encarnacion, a Dolores Gonzales 5 th grader, about his participation in Story Riders.
Molino de la Isla Farming coop in Pecos, NM, has had a banner year. Coop President Ralph Vigil II said the coop expanded its growing capacity by planting one new acre of Concho corn to produce chicos. Chicos are a centuries-old corn developed in northern New Mexico that is dried and baked in hornos for use during winter months, usually added to frijoles de la olla. The coop also joined the Santa Fe Farmers Market and continued its successful participation at the Tri- Counties Farmers Market in Las Vegas, NM.
The Center has helped local farmers in Medanales, NM, form an organic farming cooperative. The new cooperative will sell its product to the Ghost Ranch Conference and Retreat Center. Both the Medanales Coop and Ghost Ranch are located along the Rio Chama in Rio Arriba County. Ghost Ranch is located only about 24 miles upstream from Medanales, making it a local, sustainable market for the Medanales Coop. The president of the cooperative is world-renowned weaver Cordelia Coronado, daughter of internationally–known weaver Agueda Martínez
There are now five organic farming coops in full operation at Isleta Pueblo. All of the coops are family-based for-profit coops. They are coordinating their efforts to achieve savings and economy of scale; for example, the five coops are bundling their product to obtain larger markets and they joined to purchase organic seeds and infrastructure to create cost savings by buying in bulk.