The Future Is Now: How a Taos non-profit is providing for our youth

The industrial food system, by maximizing production and reducing cost, has resulted in depleted soils, hypoxic dead zones, polluted water, excess antibiotics in meat and dairy products, and inhumane animal practices. It is also responsible for 75% of deforestation worldwide, and as of 2021, is the cause of 1/3 of anthropogenic emissions. The U.N has stated that we have 60 harvests left. If we continue on this “business as usual model,” this means 60 years. In order to keep up with population growth by the year 2050, farmers will have to produce 50% more food to sustain life.

The industrial food system is harmful to the health and wellbeing of not only the environment but of humans as well. The International Panel of Experts of Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-FOOD) found that our current system costs the world U.S $3.5 trillion in malnutrition per year and in the United States only, by 2025, obesity will cost $760 billion a year. Along with a multitude of issues, the Industrial Food System inhibits equitable access to food in both the US and globally.

A.I.R.E Model. Source.

There is no better time to switch to organic, non-GMO, regenerative farming and consumption. However, this is not always feasible for everyone. A.I.R.E and Sol Feliz Farms of Taos, New Mexico have found a way to tackle, head on, issues of the industrial food system and have also addressed food access issues for the residents of Taos, with a main focus on the health and development of our youth. They are dedicated to providing education for younger generations in order to ensure a future for us all.

A.I.R.E. (Agriculture Implementation Research & Education) is a non-profit organization, working with Sol Feliz Farm that was formed to address many issues concerning the industrial food system. Reconnecting people with their land, food and surrounding ecology while tackling climate change issues and nature deficit disorder are their main objectives. The founders, Micah Roseberry and Miguel Santistevan, have focused much of their attention on the youth, as well as other age groups, through outreach programs such as presentations, research and demonstrations, media outlets, classes, farm to family food boxes, school gardens, and farmer support programs.

A.I.R.E has a Farm to School Program that provides a multitude of opportunities for the youth of the Taos region. These include internships with gardens, workshops at the schools, School Tasting Events, Cafeterias and Health and Wellness education.

School Tasting Events. Source.

Significant focus is given attention to PreK through high school with another program through A.I.R.E, Growing Community Now. They provide education on sustainable farming, agriculture, diet and habits through a variety of different outlets including: The Parr Field/Secret Garden, Cooking Classes, the La Cosecha Festival, Farm Trips/Gardening and food boxes to families in need. Kids of all ages get to experience first hand what it means to make wise choices and how to do so. They are involved with planting and harvesting their own seeds and are taught how to process and consume the fruits of their labor. Families benefit as well from the food being grown within schools and surrounding gardens through the farm to table food boxes, furthering the awareness of healthy food but also granting access to those that have difficulty acquiring clean, healthy food.

The Parr Field Secret Garden. Source.

Robert Martinez, a member of Rios Del Norte Coop, and founder of Martinez Family Ranch has been involved in improving food access in Taos and surrounding areas. They have been providing local beef to the school lunch program since 2014 and are an integral part of the success of the program. Rios del Norte Farm & Ranch Coop partnered with Growing Community Now and A.I.R.E. to provide food for schools and be involved in ranch to family programs They are now currently working on a zone implementation grant to provide food for 2,500 students.

Robert Martinez, owner of Martinez Family Ranch. Source.

There are many benefits that come along with choosing to participate in farm to school programs. Such benefits include – but are not limited to – economic development, public health and education, the environment, equity, and community engagement.

Farm to School: Benefit Fact Sheet. Source.

By following in the footsteps of A.I.R.E and Sol Feliz Farms our exquisite Land of Enchantment can move forward in ensuring a regenerative landscape and providing equitable access to food for our New Mexico family.

-Posted by Tiffany

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