Participants: Joseluis Ortiz, Don Bustos, Andrew Baker, Barbara Webber, Joe Martinez, Loren Schoonover, Gabby Rivera, Yesi Daniel
Yesi Daniel: Planned Parenthood in Rocky Mountains and Santa Fe. Used to work with folks in Española, has been in northern NM for 3 years now. Interested in connections to resources, and education.
Don Bustos: Farmer in Española NM - uses only solar power and grows 12 months out of the year. Family has lived here for over 400 years.
Joseluis Ortiz: Farmer in Dixon NM - working with a university program to develop learning methods and stay connected to the land. Family has lived here for over 400 years.
DB: There’s always positives and negatives. Since schools have gone virtual, we’ve lost the contracts that we had with some of those school districts. It feels like well-connected people get most of the resources and the rural areas have been left out. These communities have been resilient - we’ll figure out how to survive, it’s just a matter of a disadvantage that’s been put in our way. We work with folks on the edge. Those people can’t get any relief either. There’s a very limited window for people to get these resources. I work with the acequias and there have been a lot of people who are reconnecting to the land.
JO: Following up, this year there have been different levels of the impacts. Childcare has been tough - can’t get her into places and spaces outside the home. Teenagers have been locked down without opportunities for work or play. About 1000 people come to the food bank every other week, and we’re seeing people who are financially well-off who don’t have access to people that can bring them food. People are reliant on those food banks. The items in food banks aren’t always the healthiest. The college and green roots program has been limited to 5 people on the field at a time. Limited outreach and capacity to reach the students at the college. Haven’t had a hard time distributing the food - there’s always been a need for it, but it’s been tough to sell. Distributions through schools and families have been successful. The rest of the produce has been going through Breath of My Heart Midwives. There is a huge need for locally grown healthy food, but there’s also a great need to support farmers in getting food to people who need it the most. We’ve donated about a third of our production, but that’s not a sustainable option. We need to get food to people at their front door, otherwise they’ll go with unhealthy options.
DB: It’s tough with the legislation to get it out to the people in rural areas. We’ve heard about this kind of thing in the past, but we can’t always get the resources out to the people who need them. (referring to bills to get local food to schools)
JO: one of the issues is that farmers have to have a tax ID or business designation. With the COVID money out there, a lot of people weren’t able to get those resources. People don’t have an LLC or a business to qualify for loans that would save their operations. We really need to wrap our minds around how to get those resources directly to the individuals who produce and provide services. We need to talk to schools to see where they get their produce. Looking at the schools now, lots of their stuff is not nutrient dense and has lots of poor outcomes. Local farmers have to compete with multinational corporations. Since joining the US, northern NM has lost more than most other parts of the US. What can we do at the local level to maintain that tradition of growing food and keeping it within NM? Over 60% of the food that we grow is sent out. Over 90% of our food comes from other states. We can’t be as reliant on other markets for our food.
YD: One of the issues that we’ve had is shifting to online and remote services. Can’t do education in person, have to make sure that we’re able to reach people in areas without internet access. Doing work with children, isolation has increased feelings of depression. Some communities have tried to do support groups. Weekly youth groups are meeting virtually. “Distant, but not Detached,” how do we build virtual communities. Sexual and reproductive health line has been busy; how do I connect to resources/talk to other people?
DB: Son has missed the interactivity with friends his age. Lots of the community centers have closed down, gyms and areas that allow for physical activity have been disrupted. Young adults with disabilities have had more difficulty controlling their reflexes.
YD: Some of the students that we’ve been working with have lost opportunities to go skiing and do Tae-kwon-do. That’s been a barrier, all we’re doing now is meeting online for classes.
JM: What have you heard about vaccines being made available to people in your community? Is there any news or a definitive plan to get those out to your community?
JO: Know some people who have gotten the vaccine, but with larger households, it’s tough to know if they are bringing it back to their unvaccinated family members?
DB: There’s not enough information out yet about how this vaccine affects disabled people; we need to know those impacts so that we can reassure parents. If it’s been tested the information hasn’t been distributed yet. The other part of the question is how do we get the Department of Health more navigable? The website is tough to get registered. Seeing your place in line is disheartening - when you see that you’re 100,000th in line, it doesn’t give a lot of hope. Lots of the physicians here now aren’t from the area - it’s tough to get that connection and cultural competence.
BW: One of the members of the disability council is on our board, we’ll get in touch with them to get more information about disability and the vaccine.
DB: One of the things that we need now is understanding - it’s tough to shift from bulk to individual growing and selling. If we could make a request, it would be good for policy advocates to make sure that the legislators know the difference between the realities of policy and the policy on paper. We need more pathways to access relief.
JO: Farmers now have had to take on a lot more responsibility. Can we work with food banks to get more information on what the community needs? Is there anything we can do to work with community members to provide skills to navigate those pathways? How do we get interns and newcomers to those support programs. People need help accessing medicaid, food stamps, dental care, etc. How do we engage co-ops to improve capacity and provide services? We need to get health navigators and coordinators directly serving grassroots communities. Farmers are navigating spaces outside of farming, but they can be equipped with better information and resources to help their communities.
JO: One of the things that we have to consider is the connection between health and food. When you’re able to know that the food produced in your area is fresh and safe and healthy, it does a lot to prevent some of those chronic conditions that we’ve been treating with medications.
YD: We can also use that as an intergenerational opportunity. When you build up that local leadership, you create sustainable growth in those communities.
Next meeting: Jan 28th at 4pm
Rural Voices for COVID Recovery