Building Farm to School Advocacy Skills in New Mexico
A few weeks ago, the National Farm to School Network Programs and Policy Team visited Santa Fe, NM to connect with each other and to see the amazing work of our partners in the New Mexico Farm to School Alliance.* As a humble Midwesterner, having been no further than the Mississippi river, I entered what felt like a different world when I landed in Santa Fe. It was my first time in the “Land of Enchantment.” Both Farm to Table New Mexico and the National Education Association (who served as NFSN’s 2018 National Partner of the Year) welcomed us to their annual advocacy trainings where they trained local partners on how to advocate during the state’s intense and short legislative session. Advocacy hardly sounds like an enchanting activity, but something about the passion and dedication of the folks that I met was certainly magical and the results tangible. New Mexico partners have successfully passed bills that appropriate funding for the use of NM-grown produce in school meals and establish a Food and Farms Day; advocates are currently working on passing legislation that builds on these success.
Both advocacy trainings provided a wealth of information and facilitated some exciting connections. Before we stormed the halls of the state’s capitol building (the “roundhouse” as they call it), we learned everything from the basics of engaging elected officials to the nuances of New Mexico politics. We learned the history and context of the current policy priorities, including details of past successes and failures. Facilitators from different organizations shared personal experiences and even had us role play different scenarios to prepare. We listened to the inspiring words of Mr. Regis Peco, co-director of the Leadership Institute at the Santa Fe Indian School - “There is no greater privilege than guiding the hearts and minds of children.” We collaborated and communed with local activists who taught us the vision and values of New Mexicans (and helped us test run our Racial and Social Equity Assessment Tool!) We joined a celebration of the grassroots leaders and elected officials who work tirelessly to make farm to school the norm. We even feasted at San Ildefonso Pueblo with the family of our own Alena Paisano, NFSN Program Manager, who allowed us a glimpse into indigenous culture and how it endures despite centuries of efforts to silence Native people.
In each of these experiences, I got to see the very real impact farm to school advocacy has in people’s lives. Students lined up in the roundhouse ready to advocate for themselves, empowered by the educators who made farm to school their mission. That same day, in that same building, state legislators honored farm to school champions from around the state for their dedication to the work. Farm to school is not just an idea in New Mexico, it’s a whole movement built on the belief that our children, farmers, and communities deserve better.
To learn more about farm to school in New Mexico, click here.
* New Mexico Farm to School Alliance partners:
Farm to Table New Mexico
New Mexico Public Education Department
New Mexico Health Department
University of New Mexico Community Engagement Center
New Mexico Student Nutrition Association