October 2017

Staying Power: FoodCorps New Mexico


Leiloni Begaye


Ya’at’eeh shik’éí dóó shidine’é. Shí éí Leiloni yinishyé. Mą’ii Deeshgiizhinii nishłį, Tó’aheedlíinii bashishchiin, Táchii’nii dashicheii, Tł’ááshchí’í dashinalí. Ákót’éego diné asdzáán nishłį.



Residing on Diné bíké’é (the Navajo Nation) in a rural town of 800 people, I did not grow up eating healthy on a daily basis. It never crossed my mind that my family had to travel over 100 miles to the nearest grocery store or how expensive fresh produce was and is to the present day.


However, I clearly remember shínalí asdzáá (my father’s mother), my siblings and I would walk down a path to her field and pick wild red sumac berries. Shínalí asdzáá distinguished between what part was edible and what should be left to continue growing. These berries were rich in nutrients and fed the soul.


Another story I recall is shímásání (my mother’s mother), at the age of eight, came across a single potato and, not realizing what was going to happen, cut it into fours and planted it in the soil. She watered the potato, nourished it, and a few weeks later she began to see the potato sprout. In September, shímásání harvested those four potatoes and—little did she know—she would harvest several pounds of potatoes.


For every plant that was used, my grandmothers always offered prayers so the plants could be replenished. For every meal prepared a prayer is offered, so we as five-finger beings can be blessed with a good healthy life and healthy bodies.


I am not only a Diné woman, relative, or friend but also a mother to two beautiful boys. As a mother, I’m passing down those teachings to my two sons because they’re my legacy. Educating my own children was the first step; next was partnering with schools and reaching as many students as possible. That’s why I decided to serve with FoodCorp, (2014-2015) in New Mexico. As a service member I was able to connect with the youth through traditional foods and storytelling and have my own children listen, learn and lead. It amazes me that no two students have the same story, and I’m even more inspired that, even though our food system has changed tremendously, it connects the youth back to their roots.


Just as I learned from my grandmothers, now in the role as third year Fellow (2015-2018) for New Mexico, I am part of a team that is working towards ensuring the strides we are making in schools and communities will be long-lasting. As a cohort we are building our program for staying power so that these lessons and traditions will be there for years to come.



FoodCorps is the leading national service organization working to provide a healthier future for our nation’s children. Our AmeriCorps leaders transform schools into places where all students—regardless of class, race or geography—learn what healthy food is, fall in love with it and eat it every day. Building on this foundation of direct impact, FoodCorps develops leaders, forges networks and pursues policy reforms that in time have the potential to improve all of our nation’s 100,000 schools.


State Partners

The FoodCorps-New Mexico program is co-hosted by Farm to Table-NM and the University of New Mexico Community Engagement Center. Both are nonprofit educational organizations working collaboratively to manage and direct the state FoodCorps program. The UNM Community Engagement Center brings civic engagement, anti-racism and anti-oppression trainings, and root-cause analysis perspectives to the forefront of our programming. Since 1997, the CEC has been managing the largest campus-based AmeriCorps program in the Southwest. Farm to Table promotes locally based agriculture through education, community outreach and networking, providing a balanced state vision that equally weighs social justice with hands-on technical skills.


State Collaborators

The FoodCorps-NM network is comprised of school-based partners, community-based organizations, academic institutions and producers that strive to collaboratively improve their local and regional food system economies through farm to school work.


Our network has evolved strategically over the past six years and is grounded in community-based organizations as key pieces of the puzzle. Community-based partners host the service members for their year of service, playing the pivotal role of supervising, providing guidance and fostering a working relationship between the service member, the state partner team, school based partners and students. They also allow FoodCorps programming that’s rooted in changing school landscapes to connect to wider community issues like food justice, community health, food security, farmer trainings, etc., making our presence more impactful and meaningful. Schools and school districts are where daily farm-to-school programming takes place and where real change occurs. The school setting is where the program model of knowledge, engagement and access is facilitated every day to improve the overall health of the children and communities we serve across the state of New Mexico.


Recruiting Local Leaders

We seek to avoid the “parachute problem” of bringing in outsiders who tell traditionally marginalized communities what to do. Accordingly, FoodCorps service members are placed under the direction of local partners, and we strive to recruit service members with a strong understanding of the local context. We know that local leaders are the best fit for farm-to-school programs in New Mexico, and we will continue to foster a state programmatic structure that is welcoming, relevant and meaningful to local applicants.


Professional Development

FoodCorps-NM state partners and service site supervisors provide ongoing training and professional development for service members to increase their capacity to build, tend school gardens and teach garden-based curricula in ways that are culturally responsive, innovative and based on local context. Professional development topics include: New Mexico history and context, asset mapping, place-based learning, praxis, being an ally in Indigenous communities, storytelling from an Indigenous elder, preparing traditional foods, service learning, social determinants of health, social justice perspectives, root-cause analysis, civic engagement, nutrition, water issues, procurement and cafeteria tastings.


Leiloni Begaye’s email address is: leiloni.begaye@foodcorps.org. The Community Engagement Center at the University of New Mexico’s website is: communityengagement center.unm.edu. Farm to Table-NM’s website is: farmtotablenm.org






Red Willow Center’s
1st Annual Indigenous Foods Experience

October 19–21, Taos Pueblo and Taos, New Mexico


The Red Willow Center is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization working to revitalize the agricultural heritage of Taos Pueblo. The center, which bridges traditional Native knowledge and practices with the sustainability/self-reliance movement, includes a demonstration farm and farmers’ market. It offers educational opportunities for the pueblo community in health through nutrition, cooking, farming and grassroots economic development.


The center is presenting a 3-day Indigenous Foods Experience (Oct. 19–21) that will bring together well-known chefs Karlos Baca of A Taste of Native Cuisine, and Brian Yazzie of the Sioux Chef Network, along with local Native chefs, such as Taos Pueblo’s Henrietta Lujan, to cook and discuss cultural and systemic issues related to food. “We often forget the importance of food,” said Addelina Lucero, the center’s executive director. “Food as sustenance is no longer a viable consideration in our communities. The result is evident in rampant obesity and diet-related illnesses.”


The first day will include a tour of Taos Pueblo. The chefs will prepare a locally sourced, traditional foods luncheon for the Taos Pueblo Day School children. On the second day, there will be a tour of Red Willow Farm, and then a “Cooking with Community” event where the chefs and the audience will participate in a discussion about food safety, systems, justice and sovereignty in Native American communities. This will culminate in a community meal. Day three will feature a local and wildcrafted foods-tasting luncheon, from 12 to 3 p.m. prepared by the chefs and culinary students. From 6 to 8 p.m. there will be a fundraising dinner to support farm-to-school programs and Red Willow’s youth programs. The keynote speaker is acclaimed artist and author Roxanne Swentzell (Santa Clara Pueblo), who will discuss her Pueblo Food Experience project.


Non-tribal members may attend days one and two for $45 each day, to be paid in advance. The tasting-luncheon on Oct. 21 costs $15. The fundraising dinner is $75 (only in advance). The luncheon and dinner will take place at the Farmhouse Café in Taos. Tickets are available through the Red Willow Center or the Farmhouse Café. For more information, call 575.779.7020 or email redwillowfarm15@gmail.com






Rooted in Love:
A Film, A Farmer, A Movement


“Tell me and I’ll forget. Teach me and I’ll remember. Involve me and I’ll learn.” –

                                                                                             — Benjamin Franklin


Two women with big visions for their community have created an inspiring short film. Rooted in Love, by Taos-based filmmaker Jody McNicholas (Longshotsville, A Wave of Compassion) takes viewers on an eye-opening day in the life of Micah Roseberry, a well-known northern New Mexico advocate for regional agricultural sustainability.


Taos County can be both abundant and harsh. Roseberry has spent more than three decades developing both soil and relationships with community members in the region. She is a farmer, owner of the Farmhouse Café (www.farmhousetaos.com) and founder of the Farm to School lunch program, which currently serves over 600 schoolchildren with fresh, organic meals. Roseberry has also created on-site school gardens, which offer students hands-on educational opportunities. “If children are given the opportunity to eat real food, grow real food and learn to take care of the earth and water, they begin to understand that they can make a difference,” she says.


McNicholas’ camera follows the nonstop “Farmer Michah” from sunup to sundown as she sows gardens, prepares and delivers organic school lunches, helps kids make garden-grown kale chips in a solar oven and gives a classroom talk about the importance of bees and butterflies. As the sun sets, shadowed by the majestic Taos Mountain, Roseberry ends her day with a contemplative stroll through the Farmhouse’s Café’s garden. “Sometimes I’m feeling that what I’m working on is going against all odds. I really want to see all these programs move forward, not only here in Taos but all over the country,” she said.


Rooted in Love has been an official selection in a number of film festivals. It premiered at the Farm Film Festival 2017 in Favara, Italy. In September it was screened at the Gallup Film Festival and San Francisco’s Food and Farm Film Festival. On Oct. 6, it will be shown at the Awareness Film Festival in Los Angeles. For more information, visit rootedinlovemovie.com



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