We are working with local residents of the Eastern Navajo Nation to create a mobile farmers market that will not only bring locally and naturally grown produce to the Eastern Navajo Nation, but that will also support local Navajo farmers in expanding and improving their fields.
(Image: Members of the Eastern Navajo communities and growers for the Mobile Farmers Market. From left to right: Cora, Yazzie and Soraya, Lorraine and Weston).
Why a Mobile Farmers Market?
Much of the Navajo Nation is a USDA designated food desert meaning residents don’t have access to grocery stores or healthy affordable food. This is very much the case within the Eastern Navajo Chapters of Ojo Encino, Torreon and Counselor, located in Northwestern New Mexico. Community members must travel 50-60 miles (one-way) to the nearest supermarket in the cities of Farmington, Rio Rancho, or Albuquerque.
Due to restricted access to affordable healthy foods, many within this area suffer from disproportionately high rates of obesity and type-2 diabetes and, as climate conditions continue to change, the people of the Tri-Chapter area are beginning to face new challenges. The per capita income in the Tri-Chapter area is approximately $8,000. This area is one of the poorest in New Mexico and it has no food-related infrastructure, other than schools and senior centers, which currently serve only canned fruits and vegetables. In addition, at least 25% of the residents have no electricity (and therefore cannot store fresh produce), and many more have no running water.
(Image: A fence line in the Rio Puerco watershed that shows overgrazing and the general dry character of the landscape).
The landscape of the Eastern Navajo Nation is classified as a semi-arid high desert environment that has transformed in the past 100 years from a region once fertile and covered in grasslands to a territory characterized by overgrazing and high rates of erosion. This makes farming more difficult; yet with the help of our farming consultant, Walter McQuie, we are researching as well as developing dry-land farming techniques that will support high-yield crop production in this area.
The Navajo traditionally farmed the land within the Tri-Chapter area, but these practices have largely been abandoned. Historically and culturally significant Navajo farming sites have also eroded through time, but elders today are beginning to restore this land in support of local farming. Within the past few years there has been an increase in the domestic production of food and growers are hoping to expand this and augment their income by growing traditional crops to sell at the up and coming Tri-Community Mobile Farmers Market.
(Image: Fields of the Eastern Navajo community).
This practice has been used in other food deserts and rural areas and has many attributes that could fit well into Navajo culture—it has been said that in the past a horse-drawn wagon used to fill a similar economic niche in this area.
Our Vision for the Tri-Community Mobile Farmers Market
Within the past three years we have surveyed the Eastern Navajo Tri-Chapter area regarding food purchasing practices and held meetings with interested partners to help us develop a plan for the Tri-Community Mobile Farmers Market. This is one prong in a multi-pronged approach to increase access to healthy foods, reduce disease, and increase control over where the community’s food comes from. That increased control will also create economic benefits in the form of jobs and increased income from local food production and distribution. The Mobile Farmers Market will provide local small-scale farmers from the Eastern Navajo Tri-Chapter area with a platform to sell their produce, while providing fresh fruits and vegetables to around 900 households that otherwise would not have such access.
We are retrofitting a trailer that we purchased with a grant from the Walmart Foundation, to serve as the mobile farmers market, which will be pulled by a truck and visit each chapter community once a week at their local community centers (Chapter Houses). During market hours, cooking demonstrations will be held, showing market goers how to cook available healthy produce and in the hopes of bringing people back each week.
The market will create three stable job positions and will bring money into the pockets of the growers. The growers will receive a fair profit for selling their produce in the mobile market. The market will also enable families to have access to healthier food options, enhancing their diet and overall health.
(Image: Shamaine holding a zucchini that Grandma Rose grew in her field).
This project will increase the accessibility of fresh fruits and vegetables by having them as near as the Chapter House. In addition, it will provide incentives for growers to produce more products that we can sell at the market. Profits will be invested back into the mobile market and also back into the community, providing an economic benefit as well. This mobile market will help educate our community members about the benefits of buying locally produced and sold goods, thus changing market behaviors that will in turn benefit the communities and their health.
The Breakdown of Funds - 100% of the money you donate will go to:
- assisting farmers to expand and improve their fields ultimately increasing the production of crops on their land;
- paying the salaries of the two Navajo market employees (driver and sales associate);
- paying the salary of our Navajo project coordinator; and
- purchasing a refrigerated storage shed for our inventory.
With your kind donations you are supporting these Navajo farmers and community members of the Eastern Navajo Tri-Chapter area to further develop the Mobile Farmers Market.This will re-establish the local food economy and provide a domestically controlled, sustainable food distribution system that can be an exemplar for other tribal food deserts in the region and elsewhere.
Partners Behind the Tri-Community Mobile Farmers Market
Hasbídító is a community derived and managed development organization, based in the Eastern Navajo Nation in Northwestern New Mexico. This non-profit connects interested organizations and consists entirely of Navajos from the three Navajo Chapters of Ojo Encino, Torreon and Counselor. The mission of Hasbídító is to provide economic opportunity and healthier lives by promoting traditional dry-land farming techniques, technological education, and entrepreneurship. Through land restoration and community food projects, Hasbídító has been working to restore the local foodshed.
This group of engaged community members is spearheading the Tri-Community Mobile Farmers Market project.
The Río Puerco Alliance is a 501c3 non-profit whose mission is to restore the Río Puerco Watershed in Northwestern New Mexico for present and future generationsthrough outreach, education, and collaborative action. The RPA focuses ondeveloping ecological as well as community resilience within the region as a meansof sustainably addressing ever-changing environmental and economic conditions.RPA was organized in 2005 by members of the Rio Puerco Management Committee (RPMC) and interested citizens and incorporated in 2006. We work closely with the RPMC, the Bureau of Land Management, the Ojo Encino Ranchers Committee, the Sierra Club, the Quivira Coalition, Hasbídító, and other local landowners.
Quivira Coalition is a non-profit organization based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, dedicated to building economic and ecological resilience on western working landscapes. Since 2005, the Quivira Coalition has been collaborating with Ojo Encino Chapter of the Eastern Navajo Nation to re-build resilience on both the biological and cultural environments of the Navajo Nation.
The Rio Puerco Alliance’s role in this project is to help Hasbídító raise money and provide technical assistance. Although we have written many grants to acquire this funding, we have only received two grants, which will not be enough to complete the first year of the project. Within the past few years, many programs for urban food deserts have been funded but not so many for rural areas, especially places that cover such large distances as the Tri-Chapter area. The Mobile Market is the next step to addressing food insecurity in this rural food desert and we believe that by utilizing crowd-funding, we can successfully raise needed funds.
Other Ways You Can Help
- Please spread the word about our campaign! Send out our campaign link to family members, friends and through your social media networks.
- Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, check out our website, subscribe to our YouTube channel and browse our videos.
- Join our Facebook Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/419868484808209/ for updates on the campaign.
- Any donation helps - even the smallest amount brings us closer to our goal.
- Donate early on so we can increase our visibility on Indiegogo and among possible donors - helping us reach our goal.
- Volunteer with our organization as we do annual summer River Clean-Ups, youth education programs and much more.
(Image: Walter and Watson teaching ways of enhancing soil with fertilizer to community members. He is going to accompany farmers through the season to help them increase production of their fields while being sustainable).
(Image: Photography by Walter McQuie. Five of his amazing photographs (below) will go to the first five donations made in the $250 category. Walter is not only the farming consultant for growers of the Mobile Farmers Market, but he is also a great photographer and has been capturing breathtaking moments within the Rio Puerco watershed. Here a view of Cabezon Peak).
(Image: "I Heart Rio Puerco" bumper sticker is one of the offered gifts for donations.)