Co­mida Buena

Catron Courier - - Front Page -

South­west New Mex­ico farm­ers plan to branch out to new mar­kets with the sup­port of a re­cently re­ceived grant from the United States Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture (USDA). The Na­tional Cen­ter for Fron­tier Com­mu­ni­ties’ (NFCF) project. “Co­mida Buena” was one of 52 projects awarded na­tion­wide by the USDA’s Lo­cal Food Pro­mo­tion Pro­gram (LFPP) for 2016. The project will ben­e­fit grow­ers in Ca­tron, Grant, Luna and Hi­dalgo Coun­ties and tar­get mar­kets within a 300-mile ra­dius.

Head­quar­tered in Sil­ver City, NCFC is a na­tional ad­vo­cacy voice for fron­tier com­mu­ni­ties across the coun­try. NCFC Board mem­ber and pub­lic health ac­tivist, Carol Miller says, “This is the first fron­tier spe­cific USDA grant that has been funded that I know of, and what comes out of it will be very ap­pli­ca­ble to all fron­tier com­mu­ni­ties.”

NCFC Pro­gram Spe­cial­ist, Ben Ras­mussen says Co­mida Buena will “con­nect lo­cal farm­ers to restau­rants, re­tail and in­sti­tu­tional food buy­ers in hopes of cre­at­ing new mar­kets,

over 4,300 acres ded­i­cated to fruit, veg­etable, and nut pro­duc­tion, but 95% is ex­ported, while the area im­ports 95% of its food.

Miller says, “If you look at the amount of food bought by in­sti­tu­tional buy­ers, like hos­pi­tals, schools, and se­nior cen­ters, right there is enough for a self-suf­fi­cient lo­cal food econ­omy.”

A pre­vi­ous USDA study found that ev­ery dol­lar spent on lo­cal foods can re­cir­cu­late up to 2.5 times. Cap­tur­ing an ad­di­tional 10% of the re­gional mar­ket share could mean a $1 mil­lion in­crease in mar­ket po­ten­tial which trans­lates into more prof­its for lo­cal busi­nesses.

Sil­ver Con­sol­i­dated Schools District’s Di­rec­tor of Stu­dent Nu­tri­tion, Cindy Ken­drick is com­mit­ted to buy­ing lo­cally grown food. Her ef­forts in­clude the District re­ceiv­ing sev­eral Far­m2S­chool grants, which pro­vide stu­dents lo­cally grown car­rots and let­tuce. help­ing farm­ers de­liver to those mar­kets, and be­gin­ning to build a ro­bust lo­cal food econ­omy through train­ing ed­u­ca­tion and in­no­va­tive prob­lem solv­ing.”

The USDA’s LFPP grants fo­cus on in­creas­ing do­mes­tic con­sump­tion of, and ac­cess to, lo­cally and re­gion­ally pro­duce and to de­velop new mar­kets for farm and ranch op­er­a­tions serv­ing lo­cal mar­kets. The Co­mida Buena project was award $313,360 for the three-year project with the com­mu­nity in­vest­ing $108,621 in match­ing funds.

Ac­cord­ing to the USDA, less than $500,000 of the es­ti­mated $9.9 mil­lion in an­nual re­gional re­tail sales of fruit, veg­eta­bles and nuts is sup­plied by lo­cal grow­ers in Car­ton, Grant, Hi­dalgo and Luna coun­ties, this fig­ure is sig­nif­i­cantly higher when in­clud­ing in­sti­tu­tional sales. The four-county re­gion has

Co­mida Buena has a dozen lo­cal grow­ers com­mit­ted to the project and has been in con­tact with over three dozen in­sti­tu­tional buy­ers who would like to in­crease lo­cal pur­chases.

Dusty Bear Farms’ Ralph Gaur is one of the lo­cal grow­ers in­ter­ested in reach­ing new mar­kets. Gaur says his op­er­a­tion could ben­e­fit from “con­sul­ta­tion on food safety pro­cesses and ed­u­ca­tion on dif­fer­ent meth­ods of pro­duc­tion.”

Co­mida Buena is cur­rently reg­is­ter­ing lo­cal grow­ers and pur­chasers.

Ralph Gaur (L) of Dusty Bear Farms ex­am­ines his fen­nel crop with Ben Ras­mussen of the NCFC.

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