Kent Paterson, Frontera Norte Sur -- Valerie Hernandez and Jailin Escobedo kneel on the weedy ground, pulling up pesky plants so a clump of tomatoes will have breathing space. A light but steady rain falls on this parched land, seeming at last to herald the start of the summer monsoon season in the heat-soaked Paso del Norte region of the U.S-Mexico border. Their words conveying determination, the two young women say they like working at La Semilla Food Center’s 14-acre farm in the southern New Mexico community of Anthony.
“I’m happy here because I’m with the plants now,” declares Jailin, a 15-year-old who attends Santa Teresa High School. “Plants are something we can’t live without; the food- it’s something everybody needs.”
A graduate of Gadsden High School’s Class of 2014, Valerie plans on attending Dona Ana Community College to study radiology. But the 18-year-old also enjoys working the land. “I like being outdoors,” she says. “It’s fun to grow your own food.”
Bundled up to protect their bodies from mosquitoes and the elements, Valerie and Jailin have spent the summer as La Semilla apprentices. As such, the two Dona Ana County residents are part of a multi-faceted La Semilla project to involve youth in farming, food justice and healthy living. Continue reading here.
Kent Paterson, Frontera Norte Sur News -- On a blazing July day, the temperature in El Paso’s Union Plaza District was almost as hot as the brassy sounds of the local musical group Riboflavin that entertained the crowd at the Downtown Art and Farmers Market (DAFM) with bursts of jazzy R&B.Located below the Texas border city’s new baseball stadium, the market offers fresh produce, eggs, jewelry, leather, doggie treats, paintings, digital drawings, and other imaginative forms of art. Food trucks dish out hot sandwiches, donuts, traditional tacos and burritos, and not-so-typical morsels of Caribbean cuisine.
“We want to provide something for everyone,” said Valerie Venecia, the market’s manager. Held every Saturday from 9 am to 1 pm, the market could be considered a leader in the field of inter-institutional, inter-generational, inter-cultural and inter-state cooperation. Continue reading here.
(Healthy Kids Healthy Communities New Mexico, Spring 2014 Newsletter) -- Intuitively, a school edible garden seems like a logical way to expose children to fruits, vegetables, nutrition education, and the adoption of healthy habits.
In reality, school gardens are often short-lived projects that fall by the wayside without an organizational structure and people dedicated to ensuring their continued existence from year to year. Despite the initial excitement associated with the idea of creating a school garden, many teachers end up thinking they’re too much work and wonder what the point is … and who is ultimately responsible.
In southern New Mexico, La Semilla Food Center is effectively challenging the status quo. With an overarching mission to build a healthy and sustainable regional food system, La Semilla works with children, youth, and families to provide hands-on education and training to increase awareness around food issues. Aside from broad-based initiatives focused on agriculture, food policy, and economic development, La Semilla manages the establishment and maintenance of seven school gardens in the Las Cruces and Gadsden public school districts. As a fundamental part of their Edible Education program, La Semilla places service members with a group of teachers who then work collaboratively to integrate a comprehensive nutrition education curriculum into the classroom, school cafeteria, and weekly after-school clubs. Service members also conduct family cooking activities highlighting New Mexico grown produce, seasonality, healthier twists on common recipes, and easy food substitutions (such as honey for sugar). Edible Education gives students the opportunity to prepare many recipes from scratch, taste locally grown produce, learn about culture and food traditions, plant seedlings, and participate in fun miscellaneous activities like installing garden butterfly patches to attract pollinators. Continue reading here.