By Berlin Arellano (OC Canadian River Foodshed Intern)
The TableTop Cooperative started out as a group of farmers and ranchers working towards a goal of feeding their community first in eastern New Mexico. While establishing this regional foodshed and with hopes of building a healthier community, the Table-Top Co-op quickly realized that there was a need for more producers to fill the demand.
Thus became the start of a land-access program that offers a year-long curriculum teaching new Producers/Beginning Farmers the basics on business planning, soil improvement, drip irrigation, production/succession planning, and much more. The Beginning Farmers Program in conjunction with the TableTop Co-op offers direction to agricultural resources for landowners, mentors, and the beginning farmer.
Thanks to the assistance from the Quay County Extension Office and the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union Cooperative Development Center, the TableTop Co-op was able to launch a successful program designed to assist new farmers in Quay County (NM) and surrounding areas with access to land and water resources to start their own agricultural operations. The program will also connect new farmers with mentors who can provide guidance and support as they develop operations. While this is not a new concept, pioneers of this program are hopeful in utilizing this model to grow a self-sustaining foodshed in the food desert of Tucumcari, NM.
Since its conception, the program has had over 7 mentors, 11 landowners, and about 15 successful graduates of this mentorship program. This offers interested students access to more than 4,200 acres of land and years of knowledge wealth. In its fifth year of operation and a little over 18 new beginning farmers signed up for this year’s curriculum, program directors or excited to hit the ground running as the new growing season nears.