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Second Annual Farm to School Awards Celebrate Local Food
It takes the dedicated efforts of many people working together to create a movement. On Feb. 20, for Food & Farms Day and New Mexico School Nutrition Day, people from all over New Mexico came to the state’s capitol to demonstrate the importance of local food and its connections to the land, heritage and the future. The day was sponsored by the New Mexico Food and Agriculture Policy Council and coordinated by Farm to Table.
New Mexico Food & Farms Day at the Legislature also demonstrated the relationships between the health of communities and food and farming. And it highlighted ways people and diverse organizations are working together to increase affordable and healthful food access and support local farmers’ efforts to reach local markets, such as advocating for policies that bring more fresh fruits and vegetables into schools.
People who are making the concept of farm to school a reality were celebrated. The 2nd Annual Local Food and Farm to School Awards, a peer-nominated process, recognized outstanding programs and partners that have successfully linked food, farming, kids and community, and have supported the local food economy. Nominations were evaluated through a lens of providing justice and equity, commitment to land and culture, use of innovative and creative approaches to complex problems, and a clear investment into a future of local and sustainable food.
Farm to school is a nationwide movement that, in addition to encouraging the use of more local produce in schools, provides educational opportunities such as school gardens, cooking lessons and farm field trips. The movement in New Mexico has worked to protect and restore the state’s rich agrarian heritage.
This year’s award recipients, from la frontera to the South Valley and from Jémez Pueblo to the northwest corner of the state, represents an abundance of ecologies, lived experiences and cultural identities. Their work paints a picture of the landscape of local food economies in the Land of Enchantment.
Teacher of the Year
Charlotte Trujillo—Principal and Teacher, South Valley Preparatory School in Albuquerque
Charlotte is the executive director and a co-founder of South Valley Preparatory School, a state charter middle school whose mission is to provide a small, safe and unique family learning community where students are prepared for high school and beyond. SVPS embeds programs that focus on the total health and wellness of students.
Farmer of the Year
Dale Toya—Traditional Farmer from
Dale Toya is an advocate for farm training and teaching the younger generation how to grow food by connecting to their core culture. He has developed relationships with organizations, groups and individuals doing similar work throughout Native American tribal communities. One benefit of this was the acquisition of a high-tunnel hoop house for the Jémez farming group called Strictly Roots Farm and Greenhouse.
Organization of the Year
La Plazita Institute in Albuquerque
La Plazita Organic Gardens (LPG) and Learning Center is a program of La Plazita Institute, founded in 2004. LPG grew out of the grassroots need to manage Bernalillo County Open Space in the South Valley. Today LPG has become an agro-ecological learning center, where organic farming, sustainable agriculture and traditional land-based ways of living and knowing are formally taught to students, community members, volunteers and families throughout the South Valley and Albuquerque.
School Food Service of the Year
Barbara Berger—Health and Nutrition Specialist for Las Cruces Public Schools
Barbara Berger is a community nutritionist and registered dietitian with 36 years of experience promoting healthy eating to various target audiences in New Mexico. She has held the position of Health and Nutrition Specialist at Las Cruces Public Schools for the past 12½ years.
Double Up Food Bucks
Outlet of the Year
Aztec Farmers’ Market
The Aztec Farmers’ Market, in the Four Corners region, is currently in its 17th season. The market is a member of the NM Farmers’ Marketing Association. It offers SNAP, Double Up Food Bucks, WIC and Senior Farmers’ Market programs. The market, which is known for its homey appeal, strives for diversity and inclusion in its products, vendors and customers.
Farmers’ Market of the Year
Downtown Growers’ Market in Albuquerque
The Downtown Growers’ Market has been operating in Robinson Park since 1996. Originally a summer market composed of a handful of farmers and vendors, it has grown to 100-130 vendors every Saturday morning throughout a 30-week season (April-November). As the market enters its 21st year, it is committed to continue hosting a vibrant platform that supports the local economy, empowers the local agricultural community and showcases the diverse cultures of New Mexico.
Kendal Chávez is Farm to School director at Farm to Table, a small nonprofit based in Santa Fe that focuses on food systems work at local, regional and national levels through innovative, community-driven programs and partnerships. Chávez previously served as a service member and state fellow for the FoodCorps-New Mexico program.
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