Story by Layli Brown, Staff Reporter.
Photos by Wade Faast, Staff Photographer.
Sociology major Joseph Cante and biology and Chicano studies major Stefanie Olivas shared their experience growing food as part of Food Justice and as members of the South West Organizing Project (SWOP).
They are working on different gardens throughout the city of Albuquerque and each garden is located at a different elementary school, Cante said.
“We started with 4 pilot schools in Albuquerque and the idea is to build a bigger coalition with all the schools in the state thanks to resources and tools donated through SWOP and working closely with Agricultura Network, ” he said.
Stefanie Olivas made an open invitation to anyone interested in starting a food sustenance program and anyone that is interested can reach out to SWOP to petition for tools and seeds to start a huerta, she said.
Most people around here grew their own food so this project is about reintroducing farming into our lives and food justice is sovereignty over land and water, she said.
Food oppression, food apartheid, and poverty can all be addressed if people would become more proactive about farming, she said.
“More people need to be going back to their roots, going back to the life of the elders who worked in harmony with the land,” she said.
Joe Cantes makes a sincere call to bring back those aspects of New Mexican culture developed by the wise elders such as the concept of “resolano” which, he claims, is “a community exchange when people gather, and the problem solvers emerge, it’s when magic happens,” he said.
Like many other land owners in the South Valley, Mr. Lorenzo Candelaria has been farming the same plot of land his family has owned and operated near the mineral rich Rio Grande for the past 300 years, this piece of land was providing food for the area at least a thousand years before, he said.
Candelaria describes the Acequia system he uses to irrigate his land, as an intelligent way of watering the plants because it restores the underground water tables.
He pointed out that many experts agree that a variety of produce and rotating crops is healthier for the land than farming only one crop which he claims has proven destructive to top soil fertility.
“Sacred reverence for the earth is important for the land like a women is scared, the more we learn to tend to her needs and treat her with love and respect the better we will be and longer we will live,” he said.
Candelaria said, “I am very excited about the food justice movement because it teaches children the profession of tending to the needs of mother earth for our collective survival.”
The food benefits extend to local restaurants that prefer fresh and local such as Los Poblanos, Artichoke Cafe, Farina Pizza, and Il Plato in Santa Fe all purchase from small farmers, said Candelaria.