By building strong partnerships with local farmers and organizations, Agriculture Implementation Research & Education (AIRE) addressed the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic challenges affecting farms and families through their expanded Growing Community Now CSA, with support from a $15,000 grant from the New Mexico Farmers’ Marketing Association’s (NMFMA) COVID-19 Local Food Supply Chain Response Fund.
Beginning in the summer of 2020, AIRE distributed weekly “Farm to Family” boxes of healthy, nutrient-dense food at no cost to families in Taos and the Taos Pueblo that were financially impacted by COVID-19. Each weekly box could feed a family of four with three meals per day and were filled with vegetables, fruits, beef, bison, and pantry staples — including some including flour, beans, artisan bread from Geronimo’s Bakery, corn, and chile — from local farms and ranches.
Through the CSA last year, AIRE, a Taos-based nonprofit, ensured consistent sales for 22 small-scale farms and ranches in Rio Arriba and Taos counties by buying their products and including them in the CSA boxes of 100 low-income families. The families in need were identified and served in a collaborative approach with Taos Municipal Schools, Shared Table, Las Cumbres, Youth Heartline, Not Forgotten Outreach, Taos Pueblo elders, and other community organizations.
“We are engaging with farmers who are building farming systems and realizing that these networks are connected through markets, equipment, and storage,” Micah Roseberry, executive director of AIRE, said. “We are able to increase production and support each other through climate, economic, and health risk changes.”
Beyond their own CSA, AIRE is also working to create access to institutional markets for local producers through the Taos Municipal Schools. This effort not only increased access to locally grown, nutrient-dense food for thousands of school-aged children, but also secured ongoing sales for local producers through school procurement. Though the social and economic disruptions caused by the pandemic may have initiated or accelerated these initiatives, Roseberry views the work as just the beginning. She continues to work with an expanding network of local farmers and ranchers to build a strong cooperative foundation for the project, and to reach out to the many organizations and individuals in the Taos community engaged in the work of building a more resilient regional food system.
“We are working to keep our local markets engaged and supportive of the value of local food in our New Mexico economy,” Roseberry said.
This story is part of a series featuring the many farmers, ranchers, nonprofit organizations, and collaborative groups who received grants via the NMFMA’s COVID-19 Local Food Supply Chain Response Fund. The Fund was designed to reduce economic hardship caused by market disruptions linked to the ongoing public health crisis and accelerate a sustained and equitable recovery among farmers and low-income communities. In total, $484,653.89 was distributed in 2020 to 100+ producers and groups. The tireless work and generous spirit of these individuals help solidify New Mexico’s local food system and ensure food access by those in need during an historic, global health crisis. Visit the NMFMA website to learn more and to contribute to the Fund.
By NMFMA Staff | September 2021