By ERNESTO CISNEROS
The Questa Business Entrepreneurial Network (QBEN) and the Questa Economic Development Fund (QEDF) invited Pivotal New Mexico, a non-profit organization providing funds for social and charitable projects, to have an open discussion on Wednesday, June 9, at Rael’s Market in Questa. Agricultural efforts in northern New Mexico were the focus of this discussion. Among the topics were access to grants, funding, and communication regarding existing resources. Attendees had the opportunity to voice their concerns, pitch potential projects, and share their support for agriculture in our rural communities.
Access to a community commercial kitchen was one of the emphasized projects. Those who attended the meeting felt that it would present strong economic benefits for the local economy by encouraging local artisans such as bakers and food preparers to utilize the kitchen for their services. A community kitchen would possibly increase local commerce at the Questa Farmer’s Market and small local businesses.
Community mapping was another emphasized topic. Some attendees felt this project was necessary to determine the available resources in terms of water, land, or equipment. Identifying these factors could help struggling farmers and businesses close the communication gap to allow collaborative efforts and reduce long-term operating expenses.
Preserving historical agricultural traditions in the community was also discussed. Giving students the tools to research, plan, and write grants for agriculture sustainability was a main concern, considering the declining abilities of older farmers and agriculturalists. Research and writing workshops were brought up as possible opportunities for students to get involved through an internship program in coordination with UNM-Taos and the Questa Independent School District.
Pivotal New Mexico representatives Terry Brunner and Linda Serranto suggested numerous solutions to these ideas, from USDA grants to establishing community-led cooperatives. Their focus for the QBEN meeting was to inform people about some of the USDA-AMS food programs currently available and to answer questions about the application process. Some of these financial programs are the Farmers Market Promotion Program, Local Foods Promotion Program, and Regional Food System Partnerships. These programs work to expand producer-to-consumer access, and to expand local and regional businesses enterprises.
While some of these programs have June deadlines, it’s advised that interested applicants keep an eye out for other programs through the USDA website or through direct one-on-one contact with a Pivotal representative.
For more information about this meeting or to meet with a Pivotal New Mexico representative, contact Questa Economic Development Fund Director Lynn Skall, at Lynn@QuestaEDF.com or (575) 586-2149.