February 20, 2017: Celebration and Citizenship
By Pamela Walker
An essential ingredient of nurturing local farm and food communities is buying as much of our food as possible directly from local farmers, typically at farmers’ markets and through CSAs (community supported agriculture arrangements between farmers and customers). Through direct sales, farmers get the highest return for their labor and are better able to stay in business than through wholesale marketing. And we customers get the freshest, most nutritious food possible.
Though buying directly from farmers is necessary, it’s not sufficient. We can’t simply “vote with our dollars” and assume that local farming and food will flourish. Equally important is voting with our votes – conversing with our elected officials about specific regulatory and policy reforms to advance local food production, marketing, and consumption and holding our representatives accountable at the ballot box every election day.
Food & Farms Day at the Roundhouse on Monday, February 20, 2017, organized by Farm to Table, provided an occasion for conversation with legislators now in session and a chance for New Mexico citizens to advocate for the passage of particular bills that would make possible further progress in local farming and food.
This year’s legislative priorities include passing three bills. The first is HB 208 and companion SB 379, to restore $250,000 for 2017-18 for schools throughout the state to purchase New Mexico-grown fruits and vegetables for school meals. The second is HB 387, to allow the NM Department of Agriculture to run a self-sustaining organic certification program. And the third is HM 27, a memorial, or statement of intent, to create a “Resilience in NM Agriculture Task Force” to establish a statewide agriculture plan. These three priorities reflect a consensus of the NM Food and Agriculture Policy Council, the New Mexico Farmers Marketing Association, New Mexico School Nutrition Association, Farm to Table, Santa Fe Farmers Market Institute, Siete del Norte CDC, and the Southwest Organizing Project.
The Roundhouse event drew over a hundred people, many representing organizations and many participating as individuals. The initial part of the event was devoted to networking and exchanging information in the east wing, where at least ten organizations set up information tables.
Following this was an awards ceremony in the rotunda, which, on a cloudless day, was filled with light and also brightened by a number of colorful banners of participating organizations. Pam Roy, executive director of Farm to Table and Coordinator of the NM Food and Agriculture Policy Council, opened the ceremony. This year’s recipients are Charlotte Alderete-Trujillo of South Valley Prepatory in Albuquerque for Teacher of the Year; La Plazita Institute in Albuquerque for Support Organization of the Year; Barbara Berger of the Las Cruces Public Schools for School Food Service Professional of the Year; Dale Toya of Jemez Pueblo for Farmer of the Year; Aztec, NM Farmers’ Market for Double Up Food Buck Outlet of the Year; and the Downtown Growers’ Market in Albuquerque for Farmers’ Market of the Year.
This is the second year for awards, a practice that will continue. “The awards ceremony truly celebrated the diversity of our communities, true leadership, and the love people have for children, farmers, and food,” Pam Roy noted. “I was humbled.”
In the course of the awards period, a representative of Lowe’s grocery (operating as Food King in Santa Fe), announced that its Albuquerque and Santa Fe stores will soon participate in the Double Up program, matching SNAP recipients’ purchases dollar for dollar for fresh fruits and vegetables grown in New Mexico. This development marks a useful step in broadening access to fresh, locally grown food, one of the main goals of local foods movements.
During the third and final segment of the Roundhouse event, participants fanned out to visit senators and representatives and staff in their offices about the three legislative priorities.
For the status of particular bills and other information, check the New Mexico Legislature website , and call and email representatives and senators to recommend specific actions. Let’s keep the conversation going.
Note from Farm to Table:
First, thank you to all who participated in NM Food and Farms Day, NM School Nutrition Day, and our 2nd Annual Local Food and Farm to School Awards ceremony at the Legislature. It was an action-packed and truly inspiring day! We’ll follow up in the days to come with photos and stories. Follow us on www.farmtotablenm.org.
Action Alert:In the meantime, we continue to focus our efforts on the NM Grown Fresh Fruits and Vegetables for School Meals appropriations request. The House Appropriations Committee did not recommend it for funding in House Bill 2 and amendments.
The Senate Finance Committee will now be working on its contributions to the budget. This is a very important time to reach out to the Senate Finance Committee. Call the Capitol switchboard and ask for the Senate Finance Committee legislators at 505-986-4300. Please ask for restoration of the $250,000 for NM Grown Fresh Fruits and Vegetables for School Meals. See list of Senate Finance Committee members below. Funding was zeroed out in the Legislative Finance Committee’s recommendation to the legislature.
Senate Finance Committee Members
Senator John Arthur Smith D Chair
Senator Carlos R. Cisneros D Vice Chair
Senator William F. Burt R Member
Senator Pete Campos D Member
Senator Gay G. Kernan R Member
Senator Carroll H. Leavell R Member
Senator Howie C. Morales D Member
Senator George K. Munoz D Member
Senator Nancy Rodriguez D Member
Senator Sander Rue R Member
Senator John M. Sapien D Member
Senator Steven P. Neville R Ranking Member