OSMRE / VISTA Team Projects
Hasbidito: Mobile Farmers Market Project
OSMRE / VISTA: Mario Atencio
Supervisor: Watson Castillo
Address: HCR Box 1580, Cuba, New Mexico 87103
County: Sandoval & Mckinley Counties in the Eastern Navajo Nation. 3 Chapters of Navajo Nation: Torreon, Ojo Encino, & Counselor
Voice Telephone: 505-220-8053
Web site: www.facebook.com/hasbidito
Bureau: Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE)
Hasbídító is a Native community non-profit organization located in the Eastern Navajo Nation. We currently serve three chapters, or communities, within this area of the Nation; Torreon, Ojo Encino, and Counselor Chapters. Most of the Navajo Nation is a designated food desert, and this is no different in this Tri-Chapter area. The USDA designates these three communities as areas of Low Income, Low Food Access, and Low Vehicle Access. Hasbídító works to increase access to healthy foods, reduce disease, and increase control over where the community’s food comes from. Improved control also creates economic benefits in the form of jobs and increased income from local food production and distribution. The second-year OSMRE/VISTA will assist with this mission by building the capacity and sustainability of Hasbídító, working with the Eastern Navajo Nation on economic and health goals related to agriculture, and supporting the Tri-Community Mobile Farmers’ Market so that it will be sustainable for future generations.
The Navajo Nation has a long history of natural resource extraction, including uranium mining. Significant problems stemming from the legacy of uranium mining still exist today throughout the Navajo Nation. Hundreds of abandoned mines have yet to be cleaned up and present environmental and health consequences to Navajo communities. The nearby town of Crownpoint, in the Eastern Navajo Nation, was the location of extensive uranium mining.
Our project works to provide environmentally sustainable economic opportunities for Navajo families in the Eastern Navajo Nation. Our backyard gardening and Mobile Farmers’ Market project provide opportunities for Navajo families to have access to healthy job opportunities and healthier lifestyles. Our project works to increase the health of the land by managing water and irrigation sustainably, and planting trees, shrubs, and other plants to increase the fertility of the land a
About the Surrounding Community
Hasbídító is a Native community non-profit organization located in the Eastern Navajo Nation. We currently serve three chapters, or communities, within this area of the Nation: Torreon, Ojo Encino, and Counselor Chapters. Most of the Navajo Nation is a designated food desert, and this is no different in this Tri-Chapter area. The USDA designates these three communities as areas of Low Income, Low Food Access, and Low Vehicle Access. The Low Income designation means that the poverty rate is at 20% or higher, and/or the median family income is less than 80% of the median family income for the state of New Mexico. Low Food access means that the residents are 20 miles or more from the closest supermarket. The Low vehicle access means that more than 100 households have no access to a vehicle. This is a very extreme and isolated example of a food desert. The reality of these designations is that there are very few income generating opportunities in this region, people drive more than 60 miles one-way to reach a grocery store, and many families have unreliable access to transportation. Community members must work hard and be innovative just to acquire daily needs for their families. Still, about 40% of Navajo Nation residents are unemployed.
Hasbidito has spent many years focusing on projects that create community development opportunities and also engage Navajo youth. In the last few years they have slightly shifted their focus to building a local food system in this region of the Navajo Nation. This is due to an increased awareness and concern for the health of community members. An extreme lack of access to healthy food choices has played a huge role in a decline of health within the community. The Navajo struggle with some of the worst health outcomes in our country. Roughly twenty percent of the Navajo population lives with Diabetes. Navajo community members see a direct correlation between what food is consumed and the declining health of their families. Therefore, Hasbidito has shifted its focus to supporting families in re-building their backyard gardens, and successfully growing an abundance of traditional crops as well as a large diversity of new crops.
This project is working to assist individuals, families, and the broader community in multiple ways. In the most obvious way, this project is creating job opportunities for Navajo community members. This project has brought in grant money to pay for two market managers, Navajo grower trainers, and internships for local youth. We hope it will provide more positions in the near future, such as community garden coordinators. Providing full or part-time seasonal employment is very helpful to local families since there are very few job opportunities in the Eastern Navajo Nation. Most people drive long distances, even hours every day, in order to obtain jobs in neighboring towns or cities.
With the backyard gardening and the Mobile Farmers Market, all of the up-front costs for the growers are paid for with grant money. This includes garden infrastructure, seeds, seedlings, and feedback and advice from the garden consultant and VISTA. Furthermore, all of the growers are paid upfront for their produce that they provide for the market. This protects them from the inevitable market variability in the first few years of this project. This provides consistent income for ten families throughout the growing season.
In a slightly less obvious way, this project is providing very easy access to fresh produce, not only for the growers’ families, but for families all throughout the region that we serve. This can increase the health of the community, and also decrease the gas money they must spend traveling to grocery stores for produce. This project provides training in job-readiness and important skills for families to have consistent means of livelihood. It also helps to prepare youth to apply for further schooling or to apply for other jobs. Building a local food system provides lots of economic opportunity as well as capacity building for the entire community. We are also able to pay for many community participants to attend educational conferences in New Mexico every year, which provides new education opportunities as well as networking and professional development.