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Tracie McMillan's Posts

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New Agtivist: Growing food sovereignty in the desert

Rebecca Wiggins_ReinhardRebecca Wiggins-Reinhard.

Those who live in the desert borderlands of southern New Mexico face plenty of serious struggles. Water is limited, living wages are scarce, and many live in unincorporated communities called colonias, which often lack basic infrastructure like roads and gas lines. Things are so tough there, in fact, that one might understandably presume that the only food issue on residents’ minds is whether or not they’ll have enough. Not so, argues Rebecca Wiggins-Reinhard, director of the Farm Fresh program for La Semilla Food Center in Las Cruces, the largest city south of Albuquerque. In 2010, Wiggins and two colleagues founded Semilla (“Seed” in Spanish), with plans to start a youth food policy council, a youth farm, and multiple produce stands. After their inaugural year, which included the council's launch and the gift of 15 acres to start the farm, Wiggins’ work won her an Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) fellowship -- and a visit from cookbook author, New York Times columnist, and food maven Mark Bittman. I spoke with Wiggins by phone to hear about her surprising path to food work, her plan to grow 500 foods in a desert, and what it’s like to promote local food in the country’s fifth-poorest state.

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New Agtivist: Kandace Vallejo is working for food access in the heart of Texas

Kandace Vallejo.Construction workers may not be the most obvious constituency for a preacher of the locavore gospel. Yet in the airy stretches of Austin's Pecan Springs neighborhood, Kandace Vallejo is making inroads from her perch in a bright blue building set on two acres. As membership programs coordinator at the Workers Defense Project (WDP), a workers center founded in 2002 to help construction workers -- many of them undocumented immigrants -- battle against rampant under- and non-payment of wages, Vallejo launched a food-themed education project for the children of WDP's members in early 2010. Drawing on experience with the Student …

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Dirty South: Youth farms keep New Orleans teens in school gardens

Johanna Gilligan packs fava beans with a student from the Grow Dat program in New Orleans.Photo: David SchalliolSmack in the middle of a half-dozen shipping containers and striding up a mound of gravel, Johanna Gilligan, 31, can't contain her excitement. "This looks so awesome!" She nods her head at an alcove between two containers, painted the pale color of new celery, with dry sinks attached. "That's going to be for processing." Gilligan, co-director of New Orleans' Grow Dat Youth Farm, traipses up the mound, which terminates at a deck of sorts and more containers, crowded with architectural students from Tulane …

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