The tighter the link between a community’s food and agricultural entrepreneurs and their support systems, the more economically vibrant that community will be. When entrepreneurs are more successful, everyone benefits — we open doors to increased local food supply that can be channeled, aggregated, and distributed through a range of markets including institutional and wholesale buyers interested in sourcing more food locally for the health benefits of the people they serve.
In an effort to connect New Mexico’s food and agriculture entrepreneurs with the information and resources they need to succeed, ESHIP Communities Rio Grande hosted “Reimagining the New Mexico Food Economy” in partnership with the New Mexico Economic Development Department, the City of Santa Fe, and Santa Fe County in December 2020. This event provided an opportunity for food and agricultural entrepreneurs and the numerous organizations that support them to:
- share perspectives and learn about programs and key policy initiatives that are helping grow our food economy,
- gain access to vital community resources, and
- build the resiliency of our regional food system as we head further into 2021 and beyond!
“Reimagining the New Mexico Food Economy” was designed to strengthen the food and agriculture entrepreneurial ecosystem in New Mexico, emphasizing the regional food system and value chain as a critical economic driver for the state. Participants were able to connect with resource providers for food and agriculture sector entrepreneurs, learn about current legislative initiatives poised for positive impact for food access and local economic development, and hear stories of people using local resources to build resilience in our food system.
The advent of COVID-19, and the ripple effects felt globally, have underscored the need for regionally grounded food systems to be activated now. It is now a top priority to sustainably circulate locally grown food through a variety of local market channels in order to increase equitable food security for New Mexicans. The legacy of work in the New Mexico food value chain has led to an increasing demand for locally grown food to be available on a consistent basis for larger scale wholesale and institutional buyers such as grocers, schools, senior centers, early childhood centers, and hospitals.
A key leverage point presenting itself now is a need for more “on-ramps” and options for local growers to access food safety certification, which is required to become eligible as institutional vendors. To support food and agricultural entrepreneurs in successfully accessing these emerging institutional markets, ESHIP Communities Rio Grande is working with organizations and community leaders to implement a program that will help facilitate food hubs – which, according to the USDA, are an important subset of food value chains that offer a combination of aggregation, distribution, and marketing services at an affordable price making it possible for producers to gain entry into larger markets – in gaining group food safety certification for the benefit of their growers to increase their access to food safety certification trainings and tech support.
This project will address the notable need for increased capacity and coordination
in New Mexico food production, aggregation, and distribution services which meet federal food safety guidelines and balance local supply with emerging institutional demand. Supporting agricultural entrepreneurs to integrate established food safety protocols into their operations will increase their market options and food business viability, increase fresh local food availability to vulnerable populations served by schools, senior and early childhood centers, and ensure that quality and safety are built into the core of the New Mexico food system.
Want to experience our 2020 virtual event? Click here to watch the replay of Reimagining the New Mexico Food Economy panel discussions.
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