Santa Fe Farmers’ Market Institute hosts Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernández in Roundtable

January 17, 2023

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Photo caption starting from the top left. Mabel Meets the Congresswoman; 2022 Farmer All Star Annie Krahl of Annie’s Herbs offers the Farmers’ perspective on processing WIC and DUFB transactions with Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernández; 2021 Farmer All Star Marie Carter and Congresswoman Smelling Lavender Decorative Pieces; 2022 Farmer All Star Rosa Maria Alcantar of Rocio Produce discusses her beans for sale at the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market Booth; Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernández in Institute Conference room; Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernández engages with Sherry Hooper of Food Depot.  Photos: Zina Jundi

On December 20, 2022, Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernández visited the final Tuesday Railyard Market of the season and convened a meeting of nonprofits in the small-scale agriculture and food insecurity arenas in the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market Institute’s conference room.

Over Whoo’s Donuts –a Santa Fe local favorite – and coffee, Representative Leger Fernández met farmers, ranchers, and vendors. Participants included Santa Fe Farmers’ Market Institute Board Secretary Mary Dixon of Green Tractor Farm, Santa Fe Farmers’ Market President Jennifer Fresquez of Monte Vista Farm, Market Manager Nery Martinez, and Manny Encinias of Trilogy Beef Community. Representative Leger Fernandez also visited several booths staffed by Farmer All Stars: Annie Krahl of Annie’s Herb Farm, Marie Carter of El Jardin De Flores, and Rosa Maria Alcantar of Rocio Produce.

Pam Roy is Executive Director and Co-Founder of Farm to Table, a New Mexico nonprofit organization working on regional food and farming issues including community capacity building focused on affordable and nutritious food access. As Coordinator of the Santa Fe Food Policy Council and the New Mexico Food and Agriculture Policy Council, Pam was contacted by the Congresswoman’s staff to suggest participants for the meeting. Roy said “Having been involved in agriculture all my life, I welcome the interest and dedication of Congresswoman Leger Fernández and her staff to advance important programs for farmers and ranchers while strengthening programs and reducing food insecurity in our communities. The NM Food & Agriculture Policy Council appreciates the opportunity to work with the Congresswoman and her staff to advance federal programs that are important to New Mexico.” In addition to Roy, key presenters at the meeting hosted by the Institute in the conference room were Sherry Hooper, Executive Director of the Food Depot; David Sundberg, Program Development Director of the Institute; Betsy Cull, Director of Student Nutrition, Santa Fe Public Schools; Kirsten Hansen, FreshRx Program Coordinator of the New Mexico Farmers’ Marketing Association; Alicia Chavez, Impact Partnerships Lead, NM for FoodCorps; and Daniel Valverde, Director of Strategy, Appleseed.

David Sundberg described his experience in the meeting: “I was privileged and honored to be at the table with Congresswoman Leger Fernández, amazing community leaders, and exceptional farmers and ranchers. I expressed how critical the SNAP/DUFB programs are to creating an equitable way for low-income communities to access nutritious, local food. The programs also impact the regional food system with money going directly into producers’ pockets. I expressed that it would be incredible to expand those programs as well as allow for other programs, such as Women, Infants and Children to be able to have those funds spent at farmers’ markets. I also advocated for a shift in benefits allotment to low and moderate income families and individuals so they don’t fall off the “benefits cliff” that currently exists and discourages people from seeking incremental income increases due to the rigid limits for benefits.” 

The farmers and ranchers present raised some practical concerns. Annie Krahl spoke about “the need for assistance in navigating the tricky stuff around the senior benefits roll-out at the Markets,” an issue shared by producers and shoppers alike. Jennifer Fresquez and Mary Dixon both raised the issue of staffing their farms, especially nurturing young farmers interested in small-scale agriculture as a career. They spoke to expanding “food security through workforce development.” Manny Encinias, who holds a PhD in nutrition and teaches at Mesalands College in Tucumcari, in addition to his ranching at Trilogy Beef Community, spoke eloquently about the need to grow the next generation of farmers and ranchers. “Reforming the traditional agricultural programs in schools is essential,” he said “I am an advocate for greater collaboration among community colleges. Students respond to innovations, and we need to develop methods to move from maximizing to optimizing. This will also address the conservation piece where we preserve our resource of land and water.”

Following the meeting, Institute Executive Director Andrea Fisher Maril said, “We were delighted when Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernández’s staff reached out to hold a meeting in advance of drafting the Federal Farm Bill here at the Market Pavilion. Her understanding of Northern New Mexico’s small-scale agriculture and the acequia system is deep, and she was most generous with her time. She listened intently and posed insightful questions. She understands that rural communities are fueled by local agriculture and her legislative advocacy is impactful. We look forward to welcoming her and staff again in the future.”