Working Lands 2020/2021
Here in northern New Mexico, our traditional agricultural lands face complex and interrelated threats resulting primarily from increased development, out-migration of youth from farming families, and the impacts of climate change. Older members of our community have fewer people to whom they can pass down regional farming traditions. Properties are increasingly broken into smaller and smaller tracts as families move out of the community or land is sold for development. Combined with increasing climate vulnerability, our valley is experiencing dramatic agricultural land loss. This threatens Taos’ agricultural heritage, disrupts a 400+ year-old acequia system, and challenges efforts towards ecological and community resilience.
The Working Lands Resiliency Initiative combines community organizing with research and advocacy to begin venturing solutions and support to protect Taos’ agricultural heritage and landscapes. The project is generously supported by LOR Foundation, Thornburg Foundation, and The Taos Ski Valley Foundation, an affiliate of The Moore Charitable Foundation .
In 2019, Taos Land Trust staff and partners engaged in a process of deep inquiry with community members to better understand the unmet needs, concerns, questions, and barriers to protecting our working lands through the completion of a Vulnerability and Capacity Assessment (VCA) (link when complete). The VCA identifies both the absolute and relative vulnerability of Taos’ working lands and agriculturalists to climate change impacts, development pressures, and resultant fragmentation of working lands and agricultural productivity loss through an acequia-based approach. The results of this process guide the Working Lands strategy into the future – to serve generations of Taosenos.
The Working Lands Resiliency Initiative is both a process and an inquiry. We draw on best practices from the VCA field, and strive to localize the work we do to best serve the needs of our agricultural communities.
Goals of the Working Lands Resiliency Initiative
Protect Taos’ agricultural and large-landscape legacies
TLT is developing and implementing political, engagement, and communications strategies developed through the Working Lands Resiliency pilot project in 2019. These include assembling a cohort of professional experts to partner in providing easier and/or more affordable access to conservation services. Such partners include those with legal, tax, and real estate expertise, as well as our elected leaders. TLT is also developing a fundraising campaign to support transaction fees for Conservation Easement projects, potentially including the seed capital for a revolving loan fund. (DONATE HERE). While we do not limit our work to traditional conservation easements alone, we do strive to make the process as accessible and justice-based as possible.
The Working Lands Resiliency Initiative is dedicated to supporting existing community capacity, by bolstering the work of those on the ground and providing support services where needed. Through this Initiative, TLT engages with restoration partners and allied entities doing ‘on the ground’ work. Partners include: Alianza Agricultura de Taos and the Taos Valley Acequia Association.
TLT is committed to developing livelihood opportunities through agricultural mentorship, including equipment training and certifications for youth. The Initiative will also respond to the recommendations of the VCA, including the on-going development of an equipment co-op.
In the Spring of 2020, TLT will begin to engage political leaders to enact policy recommendations identified in the Vulnerability and Capacity Assessment (report to be completed March 2020) and Political Strategy for Policy Change guide (to be completed March 2020).
Protect small acreages
Increasingly, we are approached by landowners whose parcels are “too small” to protect under current state conservation mechanisms. We are developing a political strategy and exploring local, State and Federal options regarding the protection of small acreage parcels in Taos County. The Working Lands Resiliency Initiative also acknowledges that conservation easements are but one solution to protecting working lands, and we therefore seek solutions that are best for the land, the landowners, and the community for generations to come.
Practice, promote, and advance sustainable agricultural practices
Rio Fernando Park is central to the Working Lands Resiliency Initiative, as a demonstration site and educational hub. At Rio Fernando Park, we are already applying healthy soil practices and traditional flood-irrigation to great success. TLT is committed to increasing our own knowledge of these practices, and sharing this knowledge with our community by offering educational workshops and trainings for community members, especially young people, in traditional and sustainable methods including acequia irrigation and climate resilient agricultural practices. We are humbled to learn from the agricultural communities of Taos.
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In northern New Mexico, traditional agricultural lands face complex and interrelated threats resulting from increased development, out-migration of farming generations, and the impacts of climate change. The Working Lands Resiliency Initiative aims to protect Taos’ agricultural legacy and landscapes through a suite of conservation and agricultural resources. The initiative engages legal, tax, and real-estate expertise, as well as our elected leaders, to leverage community, financial, and policy-focused resources to develop creative solutions to keep farmland viable for generations of Taoseños. For the past year, we have applied an approach that combines outreach, research and policy to better understand and advocate for the agricultural needs of our community. With the proving ground of Rio Fernando Park, Taos Land Trust can act as both a demonstration site and educational institution for the promotion of traditional and sustainable agricultural practices.