Bernalillo County program helps grow the next generation of farmers

Community Reports

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Grow the Growers, a program put on by the Bernalillo County Open Space is now accepting applications until Jan. 4, 2021. It provides training on how to own a farm and how to own a business.

The program is in its fifth year, and runs from March through November. Dustin Chavez-Davis of the Parks, Recreation and Open Space department said the program seeks to cultivate the next generation of farmers. “There’s training on planting and harvesting techniques. We really focus on sustainable and regenerative agriculture, the health of the soil and not using a lot of pesticides or fertilizers or chemicals like that,” Chavez-Davis said.

Participants are able to attend educational workshops, make connections with other local farms in the region, learn how to get their produce to market by working with local growers’ markets and selling to schools and community centers. Growers from the 2020 season produced over 1,500 lbs. of food, and a lot of that gets donated to food banks. “They get to provide nutritious food to people who need it,” Chavez-Davis said.

(Photos above, courtesy of the Bernalillo County Parks Recreation and Open Space Department.)

The program has three phases, the internship phase, the business incubation phase and the independent business phase. The internship phase allows for the one year of practical in-field/on-farm experience, educational workshops and paid stipends for full time interns. The business incubation phase allows for continued access to affordable land and water on county open space, ongoing mentoring for small business development and continuing education opportunities. The independent business phase provides assistance in attaining long term access to land and water.

The program partners with the Agri-Cultura Network, Ciudad Soil and Water Conservation District and the New Mexico State University Bernalillo County Extension to provide these opportunities for participants. “We trying to be good stewards of the land. Here at the county we want to keep our agricultural land in production, so this is one way we can train the next generation of farmers to take care of our history and our culture around agriculture,” Chavez-Davis said.

The educational workshops have moved online, but for the work that can’t be done online, Chavis-Davis said participants will adhere to the state mandates and remain six feet apart at all time with their masks on.

There are two options for those looking to apply for either an internship or a volunteer position. Full-time interns will participate 40 hours per week to qualify for stipends equivalent to the current hourly minimum wage in Bernalillo County. Part-time interns will make a commitment to participate 16 hours per week as volunteers. For more information, visit the Bernalillo County Open Space website.

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