A new program has taken root in the Mining District this summer which aims to teach community members how to grow organic, healthy foods through workshops, demonstrations and network-building. The program, ¡Sembrando Salud!, is offered by the Center of Southwest Culture in Albuquerque, and was brought to Bayard by Greciendo Nuevo Mexico, a project of the center.
“This program centers around organic gardening, organic food and food accessibility,” said Nena Benavidez, who organized Greciendo Nuevo Mexico. “If families in our county want to access our farmers’ market, which is a wonderful thing, they have to go to Silver City.”
¡Sembrando Salud!, which translates to “Sowing Health!,” is described by the Center of Southwest Culture as a program that “addresses food insecurity in underserved New Mexico food desert communities.” The program aims to help Indigenous and Mexicano/Chicano participants to establish community food networks through the gardening methods taught in the program.
Benavidez said that there is a lack of access to organic, healthy foods in Bayard and in the Mining District as a whole, and hopes that this program begins to establish that resource in the community.
“I have this dream that someday there can be a farmers’ market in the Mining District,” she said, “so that there’s accessibility to locally grown food to those families.”
After registering for the program, 15 participating families were provided with growing kits that included 20 feet of irrigation tubing, 20 drip emitters, 3 cubic feet of gardening soil and nine varieties of organic seeds, among other tools.
“The program is comprehensive so all of the materials are provided and then you’re given resources, like coaching,” Benavidez said.
Throughout the summer and beyond, participants will attend Zoom workshops and webinars to educate them on topics like composting, soil health and drip irrigation, among others.
“The idea, really, is to teach people how to garden organically without pesticides, without fertilizer,” Benavidez said, “just in the real, true sense.”
She hopes to build a community of gardeners as well, which is one of the aims of the program and the “Zoom meetings, where we all come together and form a community talking about our gardens and learning together,” she said.
Benavidez said that most of the participating families are from Bayard, but some are from other communities as well.
“We also have a couple of families from Columbus, and someone from Rodeo, New Mexico, coming to join us,” she said.
In total, the class includes seven Grant County families, seven Luna County families and one from Hidalgo.
The distribution of materials was on Saturday, April 23, at the Bayard Library. Since then, participants have begun the growing process and have met twice to workshop and discuss. Once the growers have established gardens, at the end of the program, Benavidez said, they will share the fruits of their labor.
“We’ll definitely do something like a food exchange amongst the group,” Benavidez said. “We’ll exchange what we’ve grown, and hopefully have a meal together with what we’ve grown, too.”
She reiterated that, eventually, her hope is for this program to culminate in families grouping together at a market to distribute their food.
“We will bring it back next year — it’s an ongoing program,” she said. “That’s really something we’re looking at for next year. The long-term goal is a fully functioning farmers’ market in the Mining District.”