First border food summit Friday, Saturday

Food-making demos, music, fellowship, discussion on menu

Frontera NorteSur

In the Rio Grande Valley of southern New Mexico and far west Texas, early fall is a very busy time of the year. Weekdays are devoted to harvesting one crop while preparing for the next. Weekends are filled with fiestas, harvest festivals and community gatherings of all kinds. Colors splash the land, as white cotton balls glisten from the earth and plump, orange pumpkins smile from ripe patches. Even in the water- and crop- challenged year of 2011, the aroma of roasting green chile stubbornly drifts over the landscape.

In the middle of all this feverish activity, the staff members of Las Cruces’ La Semilla Food Center have managed to squeeze in time for the first food summit convened for the tri-state border region.

Scheduled for Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, the summit will take place at the Court Youth Center in Las Cruces. Speakers, hands-on workshops, food-making demos, music, fellowship and discussion will be part of the bill. According to La Semilla Food Center, a dialogue on food systems, food sovereignty and food justice is envisioned as a central ingredient of the summit.

In keeping with the summit’s spirit,  two keynote speakers are on the itinerary for Saturday, October 1. Las Cruces City Councilor Olga Pedroza and Ricardo Salvador, program officer for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, will give talks on labor, food access and racial equality in the food system.

“We believe healthy food access is a human right and we are trying to foster a local food movement in the Paso del Norte region,” said Cristina Dominguez-Eshelman, La Semilla Food Center co-founder and director of the non-profit organization’s youth and family programs. “We’re hoping to develop a regional foods systems plan.”

In an interview with Frontera NorteSur, Dominguez-Eshelman said a future regional food plan should unite producers, consumers, food banks, public health institutions and others in a common goal of developing a vibrant, locally oriented food system.

A notable aspect of both the summit and La Semilla Food Center’s ongoing work is a re-discovery of regional food traditions and how crops can be selected that are appropriate for the Chihuahuan Desert ecosystem, especially in a time of deep drought and growing pressure on water supplies.

Getting the next generation back to farming is another issue that will be highlighted at next weekend’s food summit.

“I think it is vitally important youth are involved in agriculture,” Dominguez-Eshelman said, adding that people 55 years of age or older make up the biggest segment of farmers in the US. “Farmers are essential for our very existence,” the border food activist stressed.

La Semilla Food Summit will be free of charge to anyone under the age of 18. The event is supported by the Paso del Norte Health Foundation, New Mexico Community Foundation, McCune Charitable Foundation, and W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Readers interested in more details can call 480-277-5312 or send an e-mail to lasemillafoodcenter@gmail.com

The website for the event is: lasemillafoodsummit.com.

-Kent Paterson

Frontera NorteSur: on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news
Center for Latin American and Border Studies
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico

For a free electronic subscription email: fnsnews@nmsu.edu

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