News & Updates

 Sembrando Salud Project a Growing Success!







Forty-four working families in Albuquerque’s South Valley planted backyard gardens as part of CSC’s Sembrando Salud Project this summer. The families planted organic vegetables and used drip irrigation systems provided by Sembrando Salud Project Director Omar Torres Valverde. In addition to providing guidance to help design and plant each garden, Sembrando Salud has organized food preparation and nutrition field demonstrations by trained chefs and nutritionists. Each family is now eating healthier and has the capacity to feed themselves healthy vegetables throughout the summer. Sembrando Salud’s goal is to help 2500 families living in the Rio Grande Basin to plant their own backyard vegetable gardens.


Story Riders Project Off to a Fast Start 

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CSC’s Story Riders Project, headed by Program Manager Marco Sandoval, had a rousing start at Dolores Gonzales Elementary School this past spring semester. Located in the Barelas neighborhood, the school has a student body comprised of predominantly Mexicano and Chicano low-income students. With bicycles provided by the Project, a dozen 4th and 5th graders (9- to 11-year- olds) learned bike safety and bike maintenance before heading out for rides along Albuquerque’s Bosque twice a week. Almost every other week, students met to interview and photograph a local elder, or a biologist, or an artist, to learn more about the culture, history, and environmental resources of the city’s public lands along the Rio Grande. “The thing I like about Story Riders is that I like riding bikes and [I] get to know new people. I like [learning] about rivers and … [local Barelas elder] Martin Torres because he told us all kinds of stories!,” said Jose Encarnacion, a Dolores Gonzales 5 th grader, about his participation in Story Riders.


Gallinas Cultural Tourism Cooperative Formally Launched 

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The Gallinas Cultural Tourism Cooperative has received its formal incorporation documents and is already busy organizing its tours and services for official launch of operations in summer, 2018. The cooperative has identified local cultural resources and cultural leaders to become part of its Nuevo Mexicano traditional cultural offerings to clients from the Four Corners States.


Zuni Healthy Foods Cooperative Officially Formed 


CSC’s Cooperative Development Center (CODECE) has helped organize and launch a healthy foods cooperative in Zuni Pueblo, NM. The cooperative members are Zuni health professionals who will hire local Zuni residents to farm organic produce as a way to create sustainable income at the Pueblo. The coop has farmland with permanent water sources to begin planting in the 2018 season. CSC is continuing to provide technical assistance to build out the farming infrastructure and implement fully articulated business systems.


Shea-Whiff Coop at Isleta Pueblo Obtains Hoop House 


The Shea–Whiff Farming Coop at Isleta Pueblo recently purchased a hoop house through the USDA EQUIP Program. The funding provided 100% of the costs of the hoop house and will enable the coop to extend its growing season. Isleta Pueblo has five farming coops organized with CODECE support and technical assistance.


Molino de la Isla Coop Joins Santa Fe Farmers Market to Expand its Markets 


Molino de la Isla Farming coop in Pecos, NM, has had a banner year. Coop President Ralph Vigil II said the coop expanded its growing capacity by planting one new acre of Concho corn to produce chicos. Chicos are a centuries-old corn developed in northern New Mexico that is dried and baked in hornos for use during winter months, usually added to frijoles de la olla. The coop also joined the Santa Fe Farmers Market and continued its successful participation at the Tri- Counties Farmers Market in Las Vegas, NM.


La Chinampa Farm Coop Still Going Strong


Now in its fifth year, La Chinampa Farm Coop in Albuquerque’s South Valley is growing organic produce for sale at local farmers’ markets, including the Downtown Farmers Market and the Railyards Market, according to Coop President Rafael de la Rosa.


Black Mesa Farm Cooperative Now in Third Year


The Black Mesa Farm Cooperative at San Felipe Pueblo continues to grow and expand operations. This year, Coop President Bryce Townsend said the coop is selling its produce at the Albuquerque Downtown Farmers Market and at the San Felipe Pueblo Growers Market.


CSC Staff Updates 

Former program manager, Javier Rojo, is already attending classes at the Princeton University Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy in New Jersey. He worked at the Center for two and half years.


Joining CSC as a half-time Associate Director is Lehua López. Lehua has a long career in NGO management, fundraising, programs, nonprofit training, and policy issues. A native Hawaiian, Lehua brings 40 years of nonprofit experience to the Center. She has a master’s degree in cultural anthropology from the University of New Mexico and has been an instrumental founding director of numerous NGO organizations, including The Native Lands Institute: Research and Policy Analysis (an indigenous technical assistance organization), 1000 Friends of New Mexico (a nonprofit that was devoted to sound land and water-use planning), and most recently, Ho`omalu Ka`u (a native Hawaiian archival and cultural preservation group). “It’s quite an honor working with such a progressive staff who are all passionate about assisting indigenous and Chicano/Mexicano communities,” she said.


New Medanales Farm Cooperative Formed


The Center has helped local farmers in Medanales, NM, form an organic farming cooperative. The new cooperative will sell its product to the Ghost Ranch Conference and Retreat Center. Both the Medanales Coop and Ghost Ranch are located along the Rio Chama in Rio Arriba County. Ghost Ranch is located only about 24 miles upstream from Medanales, making it a local, sustainable market for the Medanales Coop. The president of the cooperative is world-renowned weaver Cordelia Coronado, daughter of internationally–known weaver Agueda Martínez.

Isleta Pueblo Coops Up and Running


There are now five organic farming coops in full operation at Isleta Pueblo. All of the coops are family-based for-profit coops. They are coordinating their efforts to achieve savings and economy of scale; for example, the five coops are bundling their product to obtain larger markets and they joined to purchase organic seeds and infrastructure to create cost savings by buying in bulk.

Story Riders Project Successful in Inaugural Year

Students at Dolores Gonzales Elementary School participated in the inaugural season of Story Riders. This innovative NEW CSC project (co-sponsored by the NHCC) organized Dolores Gonzales Elementary School kids to enjoy after school bicycle rides to the homes of Mexicano/Chicano elders in the historic neighborhood of Barelas to learn about cultural values and traditions. The outdoor exercise program included reading and writing about the lessons learned from the elders. Story Riders combined culturally-based education and writing tied to specific bicycle rides that provided the educational and cultural experiences that will gave these elementary students a deep dive into their culture while building their physical skills via bicycle rides throughout the mid-Rio Grande region. At the end of the program, the students each received their own bicycle as part of the program. Story Riders targets 5th grade students from elementary schools in predominantly Mexicano and Chicano neighborhoods. 

Sembrando Salud! Fully Operational


More than 30 South Valley families are planting organic vegetable gardens to feed themselves healthy food this summer through the Center’s Sembrando Salud! Project.  Sembrando Salud is a NEW CSC project that helps working people grow their own organic vegetables to help create a healthy diet for themselves and their children. The project provides hands-on technical assistance on planning the garden, implementing drip irrigation systems, providing organic seeds and providing nutritional information on how to combine fresh vegetables into a healthy diet. 

Staff Updates

Long-time (and now former) CSC finance manager Carla Nieto received her accounting degree in May from the University of New Mexico. Her persistence, her work ethic, her intelligence and her focus helped her succeed in her quest to become an accountant. Next up for Carla is earning CPA certification and ultimately, completing a MA degree in accounting. She is currently employed at Kubiak Melton and Associates.

CSC Program Manager Javier Rojo has been accepted into the Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy at Princeton University and will leave the Center at the end of July to begin his studies towards a master’s degree in public policy. Javier has a dual degree in economics and philosophy, summa cum laude, from the University of New Mexico. 

Joining the Center as a Program Manager is Rafael Martínez. Rafa previously worked at the Center, but left to pursue a Ph.D. in American Studies at the University of New Mexico. He is now writing his doctoral dissertation and will complete his thesis while he works at the Center. 

Funding Partners Make It All Possible



All of our work is made possible by donors, foundations and government grants. Without them the Center could not offer the technical assistance and support it provides to members of underserved communities. Among our supporters are the Candelaria Fund, a small family-run foundation that has been a strong supporter of the Center’s work. A shout out to Richard and Caroline Tower! Thank you so much!

The Center also has received funding from the local Catholic Campaign for Human Development. The CCHD vets its grantees thoroughly and offers excellent recommendations to potential grantees on potential improvements and processes. Thanks to the Archdiocese of Santa Fe for their support!

The Kellogg Foundation has been a long-term partner with the Center and has provided ongoing support for the Center’s work. Kellogg program manager Robby Rodríguez has been working closely with the Center to ensure our work is productive and successful. Thank you, Kellogg!

The McCune Charitable Foundation has been a long-time partner of the Center and has been unwavering in their support of the Center’s work over many years. We are proud of the partnership we have developed with McCune and its excellent staff. Mil gracias, McCune!

The USDA has been a partner with the Center on many grants, most aimed at improving the economy of rural New Mexico. Currently, the Center is working on a SDGG Grant and a Rural Business Development Grant (RDBG), both from USDA.  In addition, the Center received a Farm Service Agency (FSA) grant, also from USDA.

There are many other partners who fund the Center’s work and who make it possible for the Center to provide hands-on support to New Mexico’s Indigenous and Mexicano/Chicano communities.



The BNSF Railway Foundation has just awarded a grant to the Center of Southwest Culture for its Story Riders Project. This grant will enable Story Riders to provide an after school program for low income students at Dolores Gonzales Elementary School beginning in early February.  Story Riders will target 5th grade students from elementary schools in predominantly Mexicano and Chicano neighborhoods.

The BNSF Railway Foundation has supported and helped improve quality of life for thousands of communities across the 28 states through which BNSF operates, and where BNSF employees live, work and volunteer. Indeed, as the corporation's assets have grown, the Foundation's giving has expanded to help more and more communities.


Isleta Pueblo. The fourth quarter of 2016 was highly productive for the Center. Based upon the success of our organic farming cooperative at Isleta Pueblo, four other Isleta Pueblo extended families approached us to help them each form their own farming cooperatives. This phenomenon—neighbors wanting to emulate the success of pilot coops in their community—is the basis of the Center’s work to create and extend successful small business cooperatives among members of New Mexico’s underserved communities. These new coops will launch in time for the 2017 growing season.

Gallinas, NM. The Center is busy completing feasibility studies to launch a new cultural tourism cooperative in the San Miguel County village of Gallinas. The tourism cooperative will initially have eight founding members and plans to launch operations in June, 2017. Among the partners in this new coop development are USDA, San Miguel County, Candelaria Fund and McCune Charitable Foundation.

Ramah, NM. The Center met with Navajo community members in Ramah to begin the process of forming a cultural tourism cooperative in that area. The Center is working with members of the Ramah Weavers Association, staff at the Pine Hills School and others.

Chama, NM. The Center is working with local residents in the Chama area to launch at least one organic farming cooperative in the Chama Valley area for the 2017 growing season. 


New and Ongoing Incubation Projects

The Center has been actively incubating new NGOs (non-profit organizations) for more than 15 years and in the fourth quarter, the Center was actively supporting at least 14 new and emerging projects and NGOs. This has been a long-time commitment at the Center to help the NGO sector in New Mexico—currently at about $6.5 billion annually—to continue to grow in service to New Mexico residents.

Story Riders Project Ready to Launch

The Center’s new multi-impact project—Story Riders—will launch in early 2017. Project coordinator Marco Sandoval has been finalizing the details of the project, which now includes Dolores Gonzales Elementary School, the National Hispanic Cultural Center, and the City of Albuquerque’s Esperanza Bike Shop as active partners. This innovative NEW CSC program organizes elementary school kids to enjoy after school bicycle rides to the homes of Mexicano/Chicano elders to learn about cultural values and traditions. The outdoor exercise program includes reading and writing about the lessons learned from the elders.



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