Students have the opportunity to contribute to the growth of New Mexico’s local food system.
The Sustainability Studies Program at UNM will be offering an interdisciplinary summer field school the next two summers. USDA Hispanic-Serving Institutions National Program issued Sustainability Studies a $290,000 grant, which made the field school possible, said Bruce Milne, Sustainability Program director.
“Students will see … everything from small mom-and-pop operations to full-blown agriculture,” he said. “I really want the students to get the chance to see all of it, so basically they can decide for themselves what area they like.”
The field school will take students to four major agricultural state areas to see types and levels of New Mexico food production.
The program will also orient students to Hispanic and Native American agricultural traditions.
Enrique Lamadrid, a director of the summer field program, said learning about these traditions is important because they serve as models for modern sustainable agriculture.
“All of the Indian pueblos in the state come from Spanish land grants,” he said. “To get land from the government, they had to prove that they could feed and maintain families there. There’s an age-old tradition of sustainability here, and it’s about human survival in a very arid place.”
Milne said about 2 million people reside in the state, but only about 2 percent of the food comes from local sources.
“Oddly enough, we ship 98 percent of the food we grow out of the state, and we have to buy it back again,” he said. “Meanwhile, the middle people make all the money, and we’re hemorrhaging profit out of the state.”
Lamadrid said current food production methods aren’t sustainable.
“We’re all addicted to imported food,” he said. “As we get further into the 21st century and use up more of our oil supply, we aren’t going to be able to sustain the kind of food ways we have now.”