"We are all one big community with deep ancestral knowledge and practical knowledge," commented an Espanola Valley farmer that AFSC supports at our annual statewide farmer meeting. Thirty farmers we train and/or support were brought together to build relationships and collaborate on ways to feed our NM communities. The farmers at the meeting ranged in age from 18 to 70 years old, and shared their stories of why they farm and their connections to the land and culture. At the conclusion of the meetings, they made a pact to support and not undercut each other in the marketplace.
AFSC has incubated three farmer networks in New Mexico: Agri-Cultura Network in Albuquerque, Cosecha del Norte: A Growing Co-Op in the Espanola Valley, and Sol y Tierra Growers in southern NM. We've linked the farmers we've trained and the networks we've incubated to move food throughout the state, using aggregation and collaboration to meet the demand for local food and support local farmers.
The AFSC affiliated farmers have established vendorship in three public school districts: Albuquerque, Espanola, and Las Cruces. They also sell to the Mora senior citizen center and a daycare in El Paso. Due to the range of climates in NM, farmers can support each others markets. For example, in the small town of Anthony (near Las Cruces) the AFSC affiliated farmers are able to grow tomatoes in November. Tomato growing in Espanola is over by November but Espanola consumers still want local tomatoes. So AFSC has created an informal distribution method to fill that market. Farmers in Espanola in return sent food to fill orders that the Anthony farmers had for cauliflower, carrots, and turnips when heavy rains flooded their farms and set back production and they were not able to fill orders from their customers.
AFSC trained farmers have been taught the same methods for crop selection, planting, harvesting, and post-harvest handling which helps with quality control and consistency of product especially when farmers work together to fill large orders for institutional buyers.
We are excited by the development of this statewide network which is farmer driven and feeding more of our communities!