Agri-Cultura addresses food insecurity in the South Valley and other food deserts of Albuquerque
Joseph Alfaro, a farmer at Valle Encantado Farm in the South Valley of Albuquerque, reaches down to pull a bright, orange organic carrot out of the rich, dark earth. Birds chirp as the morning sun warms the air. “There are a lot of elderly living here, and we’re able to bring nutrition right to their front door,” said Alfaro.
Valle Encantado is one of nine farms that work together through Agri-Cultura Network to create a healthier food system and positively impact the health of vulnerable families. The collective grows fresh produce and creates access to nutritious foods.
Three out of every 20 people in Bernalillo County struggle with hunger and have to choose between paying bills and buying food at some point. According to Feeding America’s 2014 study, more than 104,000 people in Bernalillo County are food-insecure. That means 15 percent don’t have reliable access to nutritious foods. The South Valley has twice the unemployment rate of the statewide average, at more than 10 percent, according to the 2012 Census.
When families have to stretch their money to put food on the table, fresh fruits and veggies are often the first to go. Per calorie, fats, processed carbohydrates and sweets are significantly cheaper.
Agri-Cultura Network’s programs get healthy foods into the homes of local residents. The network sells to schools, subsidizes fresh food for low-income families, brings food to food deserts in collaboration with the Healthy Here Mobile Farmer’s Market and provides free educational cooking classes and community events.
La Cosecha is one of Agri-Cultura’s programs that provides bags of produce to 310 members, of whom more than 70 percent are subsidized or sponsored. Households get local, pesticide-free produce grown in their neighborhood.
“Because the need is so big, we also have allied farms that participate,” said Agri-Cultura Network’s director, Helga Garza. In 2015, the organization delivered $106,525 worth of produce from New Mexico farmers to the community. About 80 percent was from network members. The rest was from other New Mexico farms. This is money that stays in the state and supports local farmers and the local economy.
“Another thing Agri-Cultura Network does is keep the spirit of agriculture alive in the South Valley, where it has a long history rooted in tradition and culture. And it has inspired an educational process that gives people the opportunity to make healthy lifestyle changes when it comes to nutrition,” said Garza.
For more information, call 505.217.2461 or find Agri-Cultura Network on Facebook.
Katherine Michalske is pursuing her master’s degree in Occupational Therapy at UNM. She works with Agri-Cultura Network to help build healthy food systems and promote healthy communities. Katherine can be contacted at email@example.com