A quiet and thoughtful leader, Bryce Townsend, a San Felipe Pueblo farmer, cultivates hope and action to address food access challenges by participating in the FreshRx Program. FreshRx is the produce prescription program from the New Mexico Farmers’ Marketing Association that connects farmers to health clinics and their patients, to increase their access to healthy, locally grown food. Several area Pueblo communities are using FreshRx as a new tool in their ongoing work to address food insecurity and diet-related illnesses.
“The community is struggling with a lot of issues that are related to nutrition,” Bryce said. “We have high obesity rates, diabetes, and the list goes on. I think the diet is the root of that problem and this stretches back decades.”
From July to October of 2022, Bryce’s Black Mesa Farm helped provide fresh, nutritious, and locally grown produce to 150 families through the FreshRx program. To make this happen, Bryce worked with several different farms* and all of their produce went to the Kewa, San Felipe, Cochiti, Nambe, Pojoaque, Ohkay Owingeh, Santa Clara, and San Ildefonso Pueblos. This collaboration provided food for families along a 75-mile stretch from the South Valley in Albuquerque to Velarde in northern New Mexico. Bryce noted that this stretch is his “homeland,” and he was excited to know his food was going directly to the pueblo communities.
For this growing season, plans are underway for Bryce to continue his work in the same Pueblo communities. In addition, he will be expanding his FreshRx work by providing bags of fresh produce from his farm and partners to patients at First Nations Health Source in Albuquerque.
Bryce has been farming fulltime for seven years and has also sold his produce at farmers’ markets and to local food hubs. He noticed that pueblo farmers tend to focus on traditional crops, such as white corn, chile, melon, and beans, and he saw an opportunity to fill in the gaps with more contemporary crops like greens, kale, and root vegetables. Those nutritious vegetables along with fresh fruits like apples and apricots are some examples of the wide variety of produce grown and distributed to families by Bryce and fellow farmers.
“This program has definitely just put it [healthier food] on their table, literally,” he said. “And so now hopefully, it generates some momentum where people do see some benefits and have more interest in eating healthy, local, fresh produce.”
“The beauty of the FreshRx program from the NMFMA’s perspective was that we were able to really support a local farmer in his mission to feed his own community,” Kirsten Hansen, FreshRx Program Manager, said. “Bryce and his partners had a good season financially, and 150 families were able to enjoy the fruits of their labors. It was a win-win for everyone involved.”
The impact of FreshRx has been meaningful and far reaching due to federal program funding since 2021. Additionally, FreshRx received $166,000 in state funding in fiscal year 2023. With these funds, farmers distributed and supplied local food bags to children and families from Las Cruces to Taos. The farming and distribution partners included: Bryce’s Black Mesa Farm (San Felipe), Desert Spoon food hub (Las Cruces), De Colores Farm (Las Cruces area), Red Willow Center (Taos Pueblo), and MoGro food hub (Albuquerque), distributed and supplied local food bags to children and families from Las Cruces to Taos. State funding for fiscal year 2024 has recently been approved.
*The farms with whom Bryce partnered with last season include Rancho de Santa Fe, Velarde Orchards, Rodriguez S & J Farm, Solar Punk Farm, Casa Fresco Farm, Ashokra Farm, Tesuque Pueblo Farm, and Ironwood Farm.