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Image courtesy Acequia Institute

The year ahead promises to be an exciting year for SOIL Sangre de Cristo, with two major events already coming up in February alone. SOIL Sangre de Cristo is a membership-based community loan fund that awards zero-percent interest loans to local farmers, ranchers, and other food producers.
For those unfamiliar with this non-profit, SOIL stands for “Slow Opportunities to Invest Locally.” Its mission is directly connected to a new way to fund local food sources, making fresh, healthy, locally-produced and locally-distributed food available to communities.

The SOIL Sangre de Cristo “Speaker Series” returns on Feb. 7, with Dr. Devon G. Peña

Dr. Devon G. Peña. Image courtesy Acequia Institute

Dr. Devon G. Peña, Founder and President of the Acequia Institute, in Costilla County, Colorado, will present at the next SOIL Sangre de Cristo Speaker Series. This FREE virtual event, begins at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024.

Community members are encouraged to RSVP to Soil Sangre de Cristo here. A Zoom link for the virtual presentation will follow and the event will be simultaneously translated into Spanish.

As Executive Project Manager of the San Luis Food Sovereignty Initiative, Peña will discuss the basics of bioregionalism and how societies from various regions depend on each other for nourishment and productivity.

For the uninitiated bioregionalism seeks to:

  • Ensure that political boundaries match ecological boundaries.
  • Highlight the unique ecology of the bioregion.
  • Encourage consumption of local foods where possible.
  • Encourage the use of local materials where possible.
  • Encourage the cultivation of native plants of the region.
  • Encourage sustainability in harmony with the bioregion

San Luis Food Sovereignty Initiative and the Acequia Institute

The Initiative has rescued the historic R&R Market (established 1857) in San Luis, Colorado which is recognized as the oldest continuously operated business (grocery) and town in Colorado. The R&R is now the San Luis Peoples Market which is being re-organized as a community food cooperative.

According to the Colorado Sun, “The Acequia Institute hopes to turn R&R Market into a worker-led co-op, and make it a cultural and community health hub that could help rejuvenate one of the state’s earliest and most unique Spanish-influenced communities, and provide a roadmap for other rural communities looking to build self-sufficiency.”

The Acequia Institute was established in 2006 to conduct research, education, and advocacy for environmental justice and food sovereignty with a special emphasis on the historic acequia agricultural communities of New Mexico and Colorado.

An acequia is a “community-operated watercourse used in Spain and former Spanish colonies in the Americas for irrigation. Acequias are found in parts of Spain, the Andes, northern Mexico, and the modern-day American Southwest (northern New Mexico and southern Colorado).”

The Institute is headquartered at a 181-acre acequia farm in the nearby unincorporated community of San Acacio, Colorado which serves as a grassroots extension service and experimental station for the acequieros (canal-ditch keepers) of the Rio Arriba Bioregion.

Since 1999, Peña has served as a tenured Full Professor at the University of Washington with a split appointment in the Departments of American Ethnic Studies and Anthropology with affiliation to the Program on the Environment. He also acts as a Research Professor at the Indigenous Wellness Research Institute.

According to Dr. Peña, “We live and work at the farm during the irrigation to harvest cycle every year and continue with applied projects in restoration ecology, permaculture, shifting mosaics of annual-perennial polycultures, and plant-breeding and seed-saving programs for the conservation of the genomic diversity and integrity of local landrace heirloom varieties of the “Three Sisters” – corn, beans, and squash in the Upper Rio Grande headwaters bioregion.”

Save Feb. 12 for “Love Your Farmer” in cooperation with Moonlight Pizza.

Love Your Farmer logo courtesy SOIL Sangre de Cristo

“Love Your Farmer” is again the theme at the next Moonlight Monday at Moonlight Pizza, located at 242 F St. in Salida. You’re invited to join your friends, co-workers, and neighbors from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. that day for take-home or eat-in at Moonlight Pizza.

Logo courtesy Moonlight Pizza & Brewpub

Moonlight Pizza will contribute 10 percent of all sales that day to the SOIL Sangre de Cristo loan fund.

Take-out orders are also included in the contributions.

Organizers report that last year’s event was a big success. Members of SOIL’s board of directors will be on hand to welcome patrons and SOIL supporters and answer questions about their ongoing, zero-percent interest revolving loan fund.  The fund encourages the growth of local food by farmers, ranchers, and other producers in the South Central Colorado region.

Thanks to their investor-members SOIL Sangre de Cristo has loaned more than $47,000 to nine farms and ranches in our region. Members of the community become investors by building the revolving loan fund to support this effort. SOIL Sangre de Cristo notes that “all loans awarded to date have already be repaid or are current.”

For more information about SOIL Sangre de Cristo, visit the organization’s website.