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Rural Voices Final Report

Here's how Rural New Mexicans have been dealing with COVID-19

We're excited to share the results of the Rural Voices for COVID Recovery Project with you! At the start of the pandemic, we recognized that rural communities were facing unique challenges that wouldn't be addressed by the traditional relief process. With 1 in 3 New Mexicans living in rural areas, this is a significant lack of representation. To remedy this, we at Health Action convened monthly virtual meetings with members of several communities around the state, from Socorro and Truth or Consequences, Las Cruces, the Colonias, Alamagordo, Roswell, to Clovis and Española. In these meetings we heard from some incredible community leaders - mayors, farmers, sheriffs, students, food bank volunteers, and grandparents. The insights that these communities provided were astounding! While it's easy to see the policy process on paper, hearing how people are affected by those changes offers a different perspective on many issues with relief and rebuilding after the pandemic. Throughout this process, we wanted to make sure that their voices were uplifted, so that policymakers and people outside of rural New Mexico could understand the unique struggles and solutions that have faced 1/3 of our state.

Click Here to view the full report

Click Here to view notable legislation from the 2021 Legislative Session

Rural Voices for COVID Recovery

It's Simple: Medications Don't Work if People Can't Afford Them

At Health Action NM, we've partnered with the New Mexico Coalition for Affordable Prescriptions, NMCAP, to advocate for the creation of a Prescription Drug Affordability Board to help ensure that New Mexicans can count on affordable medications. Here, Albuquerque resident Jeanne Hamrick explains how out-of-pocket expenses for her medication have impacted her life. With so many New Mexicans experiencing serious hardships due to the cost of their essential prescriptions, there has never been a better time for drug pricing reform.

Jeanne has Multiple Sclerosis and is struggling to pay the prescription costs for her essential medication. Watch the full story below.


Health Action

Socorro & Truth or Consequences 3/25 Echo

Participants: Andrew, Barbara, Loren, Joe, Jay, Michael Voegerl, Sharon Sessions, Cari


  • JW: Looking to get feedback from the community on what can be done better for COVID recovery. 

  • Sharon Sessions: Professor of physics at NM Tech, also the director of the office of outreach at the college. Coordinating activities around the community to make sure that 100% of the community has access to thriving and survival sectors of the economy.

  • BW: Have been with Health Action for 11 years, working to make sure that all New Mexicans have access to affordable and quality healthcare. Have always worked in rural areas, looking to fix issues of representation. Trying to figure out how the relief has been reaching rural communities, and what people are doing in the community to supplement that. Assuming that people don’t want to get back to the old normal. Want to hear what visions people have for building back. Circulating survey results to people in the legislature

  • JM: With HANM, born and raised in Southeast NM!

  • LS: Born and raised in La Mesa NM, also with the HANM team, it’s been a great experience learning from the rural communities

  • Michael Voegerl: Director of Student Affairs at NM Tech. Involved with everything that has to do with the students outside of academics.


  • SS: What are we looking to get out of this session? You mentioned collaboratives? This is more of a small project, we’re trying to get an idea of what activities have been going on during COVID and seeing what lessons we’ve learned and can share.

  • MV: I’m on the COVID task force at NM Tech - meets every week for 2 hours, covering planning for next semester, among other things. I’ve learned that we have to be utterly open and clear with our community. If we don’t solicit input, we have to be clear why we didn’t do that. Here in the Socorro community, we’re pretty data driven. We went out of our way early on to get input from the community, because solving the problem alone will be impossible.

  • SS: The first word that came to mind was communication. It’s essential to have that strong communication network, especially in collaborative groups to make sure that everything’s clear. Being transparent about how decisions are made is essential. It really comes down to clear communication and an understanding of why things are happening. Also collaboration - we can’t have different efforts siloed from each other. The main thrust of reopening here is to plan for everything. The high school got a bit more time to plan for how to reopen since they’re a bit more fractured, but things have been considered for how to respond to plenty of eventualities.

  • Cari: That’s very broad, we’ve learned a lot of lessons. I think I’ve learned how poorly other people handle stress. The things that have been amplified during the pandemic are inequities that we were already aware of - internet, healthcare, other resources. It’s important to have a community that knows how to access resources and truthful information. I don’t like the internet as much as I used to.

  • JM: What are your observations around the vaccine? Has there been good coordination, have they focused on at-risk populations?

  • Cari: Clearly NM is doing a great job compared to other places. Could we do things better? Of course. A lot of New Mexico is rural and doesn’t have access to high speed internet. I’ve done a lot of nonprofit work where I helped people sign up for insurance, and people don’t know how to fill out forms, remember passwords, etc. It’s not necessarily even older adults, teenagers and other groups aren’t able to properly contribute. People don’t know how to access that information.

  • MV: We’ve been working with the community to help get vaccination and testing sites staffed. NM Tech wants to get our local department of health up to snuff. Helping them with logistics and FD, National Guard. Anyone that would have us, we were there to help out. Our president said “make it happen for everybody.” A vast majority of our residents have taken this virus seriously. It’s unusual to see somebody without a mask, at campus or around town. DOH says that 25% of Socorro county is already fully vaccinated. Within the next couple days, it should jump another 2-3%. We have a great network here in town so that vaccines aren’t being wasted. Our community is working to get that out and make sure that those who aren’t mobile are still finding out about what’s available. People may not have internet access, but they have phones.

  • SS: They’ve offered the teachers as much protection as they can. There have been procedures for how to return to in-person learning. The teachers that wanted vaccines have gotten theirs early, that was important to peace of mind and making sure that they come back ok. The fairgrounds vaccination site has been running great. You drive in and they’ve got people along the way. It’s been incredibly well done. Don’t know if that’s being coordinated by the local gov, or the department of health.

  • BW: There have been reports here in NM that minority communities have not been receiving vaccinations at the same rate as white residents. There have been some interesting data on that.

  • SS: I’m the NM Tech liaison with the tribes. Meeting with Navajo tech is that 140,000 Navajo are already vaccinated. All of the students at the college are doing well in getting covered.

  • MV: I’m the coordinator for diversity and inclusion at tech. We haven’t heard much about inequity from the people here at tech. There hasn’t been much pushback. The city of Socorro has been doing a good job of getting people vaccinated. It’s helping quite a bit.

  • What opportunities are there to prepare students for jobs of the future?

  • MV: There’ve been lots of collaborations between NM Tech and other colleges in the state to get New Mexican students into a college program or something else to push them towards from a 2-year to a 4-year program. Solar jobs are going to be the wave of the future, but it’s not a long-term solution. We’re working on looking at other solutions. 

  • SS: There’s a lot of hope here! Last week, the movie theater reopened, which was really exciting. The doctor’s office has been more accommodating since last week. People are excited to go out to restaurants, they’re feeling a lot more confident and comfortable.

  • LS: People in Anthony are seeing similar results. Lots of small but significant changes.

  • MV: Hope is what we’re all shooting for, but vigilance still has to be a major factor. There probably won’t be changing on messaging around campus, but we’re still conscious of the challenges. Still weirded out to dine indoors. Having to help students re-socialize will still be a big challenge. Students want to get out and be social, but anxiety creeps in. It’ll be interesting to see in the next couple months what problems people have with re-introduction to society.

Rural Voices for COVID Recovery

Socorro & Truth or Consequences 2/4 Echo

Participants: Jesse Griffith, Andrew Baker, Barbara Webber, Loren Schoonover, Jay Wilson, Kurt Lehr, Luis Vidal, Nicole


Jesse Griffith: Teaches digital arts at Socorro High School


Nicole: Teacher at Socorro High School


Kurt Lehr: Also a teacher at Socorro High School


Luis Contreras Vidal: Student at New Mexico Tech. Originally from Mexico City.


  • JG: Board meeting yesterday, some of the topics that came up were bringing back the middle school students on governor’s orders. High schools coming back on the 16th, concerns about the hybrid model, some classrooms still need DVD and other amenities. Right now, my classroom is available for 10 students. Vaccination event today, teachers were able to get the first round of the Moderna vaccine. It’s been a big week and a half! There’s a lot coming down the road - we should be seeing our students in a week and a half, so we’re playing by ear right now. Teachers and classrooms are getting ready. We’re still nervous, but trying to be optimistic.

  • KL: Similar story. Today’s vaccination went fantastic, smoothly, we were able to stay in our cars and get assistance from the fire department and public health professionals. Thought it would be jam packed, but they were able to keep distance. Rollout and administration of vaccine went well, which is a good sign

  • Nicole: They made the week sound a lot calmer than it actually was, but things have been going smoothly. Part of the reason that there was no line was because we were the first there. They did training on how to fill out the forms and get the proper information to everyone.

  • LCV: Not really any updates on the Tech side. Haven’t been vaccinated because grad students aren't a priority, not sure if that extends to Teachers’ Assistants. They’ve told us to register through the NM vaccine website, but there hasn’t been a conversation between Tech and DOH as far as I know.

  • JW: Getting out our survey! If you could rate 1-10, what would you rate the response?

  • JG: Compared to previous COVID, it’s still pretty low. The World doesn’t want to be in this situation. We’re still dealing with what we have. Still dealing with students who haven’t gotten vaccinated. Feeling grateful to have gotten the teacher vaccination, but there’s still a large proportion of the population that haven’t gotten covered. Hope that everyone else can have that peace of mind from vaccination. Would rate it about a 2

  • Nicole: Would also rate 2, but for different reasons. Seems like the administration is trying to push the limits, rather than play it safe. They’re trying to push for a greater percentage of students in the building than is allowed by the public health order. We’re supposed to do these things in order to open, but they’re doing it without consideration of safety. They’re doing it because it’s what we’ve been told, not because it’s to protect us.

  • JW: Have you heard anything from the parents?

    • Nicole: Still confused on the high school athletics side. Kids were originally told that they couldn’t play because they weren’t in the building. Now that that’s been taken apart, there’s less people on the list to come back. There are some who would rather stay home and carry on that way, but athletics have been a source of confusion. Parents spoke about uncertainty at the board meeting. PPE sounds great, but they’re aware that the high school staff is not communicating well enough with each other. There’s no real concern about the safety aspect of the building.

    • JG: There were some big holes revealed when we heard about plans from the other schools. Hearing the Middle and elementary schools’ plans, it made it apparent that we haven’t prepared as much. Hearing a lot coming from Middle school staff, but that’s part of the reason why the HS opening date got pushed back. Lots of concerns about why parents weren’t notified about this. Lots of logistical problems that could’ve been handled with better communication to staff. First question opening the doors today was “is school delayed?”

    • Nicole: On top of the confusion report, we were all in the board meeting. Had other teachers come in and ask about what happened. Nothing sent out to a majority of the staff. There’s no way that we’re going to be able to communicate that to students or families if we don’t have a solid plan ourselves.

  • JW: What have they been using to communicate?

    • Nicole: Mostly informal, conversations in the halls. Sometimes we receive updates from the admin. Most of what we’re learning is from teachers who are going out of their way to seek out that information.

    • KL: Most of my experience has been similar. If I had to rate, I’d give it a reluctant 4 in part due to the vaccination. There is a shortage of viable health staff. We have no school nurse (one was hired yesterday, hasn’t been officially announced). You can see where this is going regarding communication. Don’t know what communication is like at tech or in other parts of the county. There’s little united effort.

  • JG: It’s tough to know what’s going on all around town. Most of what I’ve heard about tech has come from these meetings.

  • KL: Still don’t know what’s going on around town. Frustrating to have these experiences.

  • LCV: What Tech was doing to keep track of COVID is rapid testing. We have to take rapid tests on campus to make sure that everyone has access to campus. There needs to be better communication with the city. Some of the students are from out of town, and don’t have access to campus. There needs to be more work done by Tech to keep track of cases.

  • JW: What do solutions look like?

  • JG: Better communication! Lots of the information that we’re receiving has come from facebook. Have been actively avoiding social media because of politics, but that’s the only place where a lot of information is available.

  • LCV: How many people come to these meetings between Tech and the schools? Talking at these meetings could be a good start, we need to disseminate that information.

  • Nicole: Knowing when all of these meetings are happening. The only place that this info is available is on Facebook, so if you’re not cued in on there, you’re not in the know. Sometimes I miss some stuff because of avoidance due to toxicity. Newspaper has a weird discrepancy. Magdalena has a much larger space than Socorro. Don’t know when the teacher’s meetings are and sometimes they aren’t posted prominently. Maybe if we made a community calendar of some sort? Sometimes the city sends out a list of events happening in a month, but not as a calendar. Having a literal calendar that people can consult to see what’s happening might be a good thing to make it clear what’s happening when and where. Internet has also been an issue. We don’t know who’s advocating.

  • KL: Hopefully when this all gets better, we can continue that conversation about the internet.

BW: What we’ve been hearing is that some of these district are mandating vaccinations. That’s been an issue of controversy on how to proceed. Some other areas of the state are also complaining about lack of information on how to get vaccinated. Right now, they only have about ¼ of the population registered. The legislature is about halfway through, commitment to broadband and better internet service is of particular interest.

Rural Voices for COVID Recovery

Socorro & Truth or Consequences 12/17 Echo

Attendees: Jay Wilson, Barbara Webber, Joe Martinez, Loren Schoonover, Melissa Ramsey, Kathy Gonzales, Jesse Griffith, Adrian Tapia


Melissa Ramsey: Director of Socorro Storehouse Food Pantry.


Kathy Gonzales: Director of local homeless shelter (Puerto Seguro)


Jesse Griffith: Teaches at Socorro High School - Visual Arts and Digital Media


Adrian Tapia: Department of Workforce Connections.


Luis Contreras: Student and grad student at NM Tech


JG: This week we’re wrapping up finals. From a teaching perspective, it’s been a challenge to follow up with students who don’t have the resources to succeed in online learning. People have lacked the skill sets to effectively navigate the new learning environment. Screening at the physical school has been good, take temperature regularly and use hand sanitizer. Have to readjust to different practices this year, which has been a big hurdle. Art and digital media are hands-on experiences, so teaching has become mostly tech support. This semester has been better than the spring, but there’s still a gap in online training.


KG: Has been difficult to keep providing services at the rate that people need them - a lot of the volunteers for the shelter were elderly people, so most of the volunteers were lost at the start of the pandemic. People have had to come in one-by-one to access services, which has cut down the number of people who can be served. 


MR: About ⅓ of the food that we had pre-pandemic. Since COVID hit, they’ve been giving extra food stamps to families and households. Some of the clients receive between $5 and $75, but that has been boosted tremendously at the federal level - now that that’s set to expire, there’s a danger of lapse.


AT: Right now we’re focused on getting people back to work safely. Current work is outreach to local businesses and adjustment as the situation changes.


LC: Biggest concern from a student perspective is making sure that people are still able to work and learn effectively remotely. There should be consideration of student needs. The institution says that they care, but there is a perception that they don’t.


What work is being done to make sure that people are able to return/enter the job force after the pandemic?

JG: Lots of dual credit and career-minded teaching at the school. Trying to give students the skills that they need to build a foundation for a career. Had been having success with that before COVID, but without face-to-face contact, it’s tougher to instill that mindset.

Rural Voices for COVID Recovery

Las Cruces 4/8 Echo

Participants: Andrew, Barbara, Loren, Melissa Ontiveros, Rose Garcia

RG: Part of a non-profit organization that works to build affordable housing and expanding/building out small businesses (Tierra Del Sol). Many small businesses and housing construction are struggling because of the pandemic. Tierra Del Sol specializes in some of those areas. We build housing in many of the smaller cities, as well as Las Cruces and larger cities. In Multi-family, we build several facilities that are subsidized for migrant workers. We have about 400 units with 4-5 people in each apartment. Lots of the farmers and agricultural workers live in those apartments. NM gets a lot of money in GRT from farm workers. Our interest is those farmers who work in the field. We had to get legal aid to get them water because they weren’t able to wash their hands while they were working. Since August, we haven’t been able to get public clinics to run COVID testing. Two of the clinics contacted me, and they’ve both offered to have open-door testing. Now they’re opening up the different clinics to provide the vaccines. Several of the farm workers’ families have come forward. They don’t have to jump through as many hoops. A private clinic opened up yesterday (physician’s vascular clinic in Las Cruces) - anyone who doesn’t have a vaccine can get one until they’re finished. We’re really pleased that more recent offerings have come through. The DOH has been a nightmare to get through registration. We’re lucky that a sister-in-law works for the DOH and has been running interference to get people appointments. It’s been tough to get people appointments. Most people in the county don’t have computers and it’s tough for them to get registered. That system needs to be improved. The Lt Governor’s office should have set up some 24 hour clinics. A lot of the workforce is busy at all hours. We’ve lost several dairy workers because they don’t have access, or are afraid to go through the process. Mayor Herrera had mentioned that it would be helpful to have the vaccines distributed through fire stations since there is one in every county. There are these organizations that get relief money, but they’re tripping over each other trying to get the money out, but this could all be done through the community centers. People are trying to get relief funds, but we can’t be doing it online. There have been too many regulations added. There are several clients who aren’t able to pay their water or sewer bills. The utility companies will work with the counties to underwrite the service, but it’s tough to do that outreach through the cell phone. People work after 5, so one-time calls aren’t enough.



  • RG: Las Cruces just opened up a new hospital. My son got the contract to do the computer systems for the hospital. It’s a community hospital that’s smaller than the other two, but it’s good added value and a great location. The same developer is interested in building another private hospital in Las Cruces. Private investors from TN.

    • BW: We’ve had some issues with the private TN hospitals because they’re quick on collecting medical debt, but we’ve gotten some good legislation to prevent that.

  • RG: Lots of changes happening in the health industry, doctors fees are changing. Behavioral health is one of the biggest issues in rural NM, especially southern.

    • BW: Behavioral Health is definitely an area where we’re expanding.

  • RG: I’d like to see behavioral health expand, in order to mitigate some of the prices of other health services and prevention. Initially we heard from some communities that older adults and those at home who were isolated before were at risk. People have been working to get them included, but now we’re looking at how to get them safely reintroduced in a way that supports them. There’s a big need for churches and other community groups.

  • BW: The public charge rule has been basically rescinded, but there needs to be an educational campaign from trusted messengers to reach them.

  • MO: I work with the community action agency. Also serve with several other coalitions. There are a lot of people who are struggling with mental health, so we need to improve access and availability of those wraparound services. My biggest concerns are housing, behavioral health, and broadband. Hopefully we can get those services up and running.

  • BW: In the legislature, there was a lot more focus on rural issues. We’re trying to get as much grassroots involvement as possible. It’s heartening to see this focus. In the South, there’s been a lot more election of people who are progressive on these issues. Don’t know if we have direct connections in SF, but we haven’t taken that on.

  • MO: Working to get in touch with Jeff up in SF to get this implemented.

  • BW: In the interim committees, we have to work to make sure that we get vaccinations out before another spread.

  • RG: Presbyterian has been doing a good job of making announcements/logistics and getting out flyers. You can do a lot of good work if you get messages out to apartments and other vulnerable groups.

  • BW: The session was chaotic and confusing, but at the same time, we had a good impact on the bills that we’re trying to get passed.

Rural Voices for COVID Recovery

Las Cruces 2/3 Echo

Participants: Andrew Baker, Barbara Webber, Loren Schoonover, Joe Martinez, Corrina Klein, Andrea N



  • AN: New mandate that all first responders get vaccinated, still open to the public on Wednesdays. Still not able to go into the nursing homes and visitors’ facilities. They’re also doing vaccinations for nursing home employees, but it’s not mandatory. Everything is moving slowly, but we’re getting there. Trying to get a program going to keep an eye on elderly folks, especially in rural communities.

    • BW: Vaccination seems to be a choice in some communities, interesting that it’s required there. Keep hearing from people that they don’t know where to register for the vaccine, especially for rural, and aging populations.

  • AN: Thinking about that this weekend. Getting people out to assist would probably be done through the aging and long-term services department. That will be important to the next level of roll-out and getting them enrolled. Right now it’s just DOH, but people aren’t getting calls back. Some people have been on there for a month but still haven’t heard anything back.

    • BW: There’s also a need for targeted and clear information about the vaccine, there’s a big concern about misinformation.

  • AN: Do you have any recommendations about how that information can be improved?

    • LS: Uncle in Mesquite. He’s registered, but thinking about not taking it. He’s at the age where you shouldn’t argue with him. Saying “I’m going to take it” made him think about it. They’re uneasy because they’ve heard about it, but having a trusted contact take the vaccine increases the likelihood that they’ll get vaccinated.

  • BW: National statistic is that 30% or less accepted to take the vaccine at this time. Important to get good information out to people.

  • MO: Hearing different things from my sources. Over 80% of people getting vaccinated are white. Because of inequities in internet/computer access, people are not able to make educated decisions and get in contact with people who are getting the vaccines. It’s highly inequitable right now. There are 3 to 4 different agencies that are trying to get out the message, but it’s not consistent. We’re not reaching rural areas or making use of all available pathways. In NC, they’ve created a fun message in the form of an earworm so people are constantly getting that message, but in NM we’re still divided.

  • JM: There was a webinar today from ECHO, it was good information, but their whole focus was still pretty ABQ-centric. They had one person from southern NM who did a good job of reminding people about rural communities and challenges. Her idea was to create better partnerships with trusted local groups to get out that message.

  • AN: News from the department, they’re still considering how to get the vaccine out to rural communities, but don’t want to overpromise and under deliver.

  • JM: They’re immediately increasing the number of doses being sent to states by something like 10%. They’re going to be shipped weekly. DOH will then be in charge of getting that out to different areas. Why isn’t the governor out there negotiating to get more doses of the vaccine. NY is having a similar problem. Local coordination needs to happen to make sure that we’re not going top-down.

  • BW: Some people still have bad info on the vaccine, people today talking about “the first thing I’m going to do after I get the vaccine is have dinner with my whole family.” We need clear and fast messaging from a singular source.

  • LS: Got a call yesterday about someone who submitted registration a month in advance and just got a message back now.

    • BW: I got a message back that registration had been received about 6 weeks after I went through registration.

  • JM: is still the one portal to get information and get registered.

Rural Voices for COVID Recovery

Las Cruces 1/6 Echo

Participants: Andrew Baker, Barbara Webber, Joe Martinez, Loren Romero, Andrea N, Gabby Rivera


Andrea Nevarez: Assistant to Sherrif Ken Stewart. Ombudsman advocating on behalf of seniors in the community. Certified Intervention Specialist for Victims of Crime in the Las Cruces area.


Recap of Southern NM; education has been a problem because students are having trouble learning. Children are left with babysitters and elderly family members. Internet connection and senior citizens are also of interest. Grief of people who have missed personal milestones in quarantine. Graduation and school events are one of the unspoken difficulties of the pandemic.


AN: There is a big movement to help people laugh with their kids - there’s too much serious stuff going on and it’s important that we’re able to keep levity.


BW: We’re going to go back to school and forget what we’ve learned in the pandemic - emotional intuition and other experiences gained may be lost to the wayside. Make sure that we’re not just trying to cram two years into one year. These kids have been through a historic moment and we need to provide opportunities for them to share and process.


JM: Experience from other families - rediscovery of the outdoors - that’s something of high value!


AN: Letters to seniors! Seniors have been very lonely and there are definitely deaths due to struggles to survive. That’s a way to increase social contact! Ended up getting 2620 cards! Day cares, 7th grader who made over 100 bracelets. People came in to drop off blankets and socks. The time that people took to put messages into the cards was incredibly emotional. That’s something that we’re going to try to do for every year going forward!


BW: It’s important to foster an intergenerational connection!


JM: What can we do to move forward and be better prepared for this type of situation? What have you noticed about this experience re: strength of the community


AN: It’s shown that we’re really willing to engage with our community. We’re living in an age where we have to have that connection with the people around us. People in some communities are tight-knit. We need to get those networks started so that the community can stay resilient.


JM: What have you noticed about internet access in your area?


AN: Hasn’t come up much. Some victim advocates have been talking about difficulties with accessing technology for their kids. On the senior side, there are people who have trouble with any type of technology. Our youth need so much attention.


JM: What kind of discussion have you heard around the process of vaccines?

AN: People are excited! They’re not questioning where it comes from, they’re just excited to be moving to the next phase. People are signing up to receive it through the DOH, lots of elders are checking where they’re at on the list. Handing out COVID fact sheets, but people are excited to get going.

Rural Voices for COVID Recovery

Española & Santa Fe 1/13 Echo

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

Española & Santa Fe 3/18 Echo

Participants: Barbara, Andrew, Joe, Loren, Joseluis Ortiz



  • JL: little bit siloed right now, but we are seeing a lot of vaccinations happening. Dad has been on the list, but finally got scheduled for the first round of vaccines next week. They’re finally opening up registration to normal populations and non-essential workers. Don and his son were able to get vaccinated. There’s been some silence around who has COVID. Not a lot of new cases recently! What about the kids, are they going back to school? There are schools preparing to go back to in-person. The college here at Northern has been closed for everything but clinicals, so everyone else is at home. What about your neighbors or the other farmers? Haven’t heard much from neighbors. Tio and Tia got it about a month ago, but she works in the healthcare field. Other than that there hasn’t been a whole lot. Kind of siloed right now, so don’t have access to a lot of community information. Nobody’s really engaging, so it’s just been me.

Bill updates!


  • JO: (on healthy food financing act) What we’re trying to do now is make sure that we’re not going back to normal because normal wasn’t working. La Semilla in its founding was based on ideas and the work of grassroots. They developed their language and capacity to get funding and resources, but that left out immigrant and farmworkers of color. I’m wary of bills that claim to be pro-farmer because that’s not always the case. A lot of these institutions are corrupt and focus on the Santa Fe and Albuquerque politics. What we’d like to see is business that goes to the source and serves farmers and the smaller LLCs. 229 is an important piece of legislation, but we’re scared that it’s getting caught up in the intermediaries. It’s disheartening that these areas of Northern NM haven’t gotten the development that the rest of NM has. The people that are doing the oppressing now are the people who are part of our family. I sit on the Northern NM food hub, but that only exists on paper. It’s tough to know what’s going on with that, I think that it might be an issue with gatekeepers and others involved in the process.

  • BW: Because this group was created with those intentions, it’s important that we have politically active farmers to come in and make sure that this does what it says it’s going to do.

  • JO: What happened with the Northern NM university was that there were people who came in with big ideas, but didn’t have the political will. Right now what we’re doing is going through a community based process. I would be the visiting professor from Sostenga, I got that status, I’m compensated through the green roots institute. It’s not funded through the college, but I’m a faculty member. I’m navigating the institution’s spaces to generate opportunities for fundability and create an outdoor learning space so that teachers can have an outdoor classroom that maintains ag production and community events/service hours. Last year we produced about 8000 pounds of food. Probably 3500 of that was given away to students that had real needs. Also sent it through midwives and mother programs. The rest of it was distributed through farmers markets, community members, etc. We don’t want the college to institutionalize the community program and keep access from people.

JO: Good to hear that cost sharing passed. Our region is affected by multi-generational addiction, violence, and other issues, so I can appreciate that. Part of that program includes deductibles.

Rural Voices for COVID Recovery