How One Borderland Farm Is Planting the Seeds of Food Justice

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Wearing hats to block the midday New Mexico sun, the summer campers crouched in the rows of the 14-acre La Semilla Community Farm would soon break for lunch. In the full kitchen at the nearby La Semilla offices, they made tortillas and cooked recipes with chia, nopales, amaranth, and other fresh vegetables grown on the farm.

“There was a day there was no nopales left,” La Semilla’s Elena Acosta said, laughing. “They ate it all up.”

At the geographic center of the 2,000-mile-long U.S.-Mexico border sits the Paso del Norte region, a tri-state area where El Paso, Texas; Ciudad Juárez, Mexico; and Las Cruces, New Mexico, meet. It’s here that La Semilla—which means “the seed”—is sowing a healthy, more equitable food system. With a recent $825,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in the coffers, hope grows in Doña Ana County, New Mexico, which La Semilla calls home and where 39 percent of children live in poverty.

Cofounded by Aaron Sharratt, Cristina Dominguez-Eshelman, and Rebecca Wiggins-Reinhard in 2010, the farm grew out of community garden work and the realization that there was a need for an organization dedicated to addressing the challenges of the local food system.

“They took on a task that seems monumental to me because people in our region are so unfamiliar with food justice issues and food systems. It takes a lot of education,” Catherine Yanez, an educator at La Semilla, told Borderzine in 2013.

“Our organization came out of a variety of different backgrounds,” Krysten Aguilar, director of programs and policy, told TakePart, from people “who are really looking at the food system holistically.” Board of directors President Lois Stanford, for example, is an associate professor of anthropology at New Mexico State University; she recently won a national award for her work with La Semilla. “It was really important to look at it through that lens of the whole system,” Aguilar said.

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