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Beneficial label a win win

A USDA Rural Development New Mexico grant facilitated by Rocky Mountain Farmers Union Cooperative and Economic Development Center is providing a high quality, local food resource to consumers, while helping local producers by giving them additional opportunities.

The grant is being used to establish the Beneficial Farm and Ranch Collaborative, an innovative agricultural support and service organization based in northern New Mexico. The Beneficial Farm and Ranch Collaborative emerged from the melding of experiences and ideas of small scale farmers and ranchers in New Mexico and Colorado.

Eggs, meat, vegetables and other products marketed under the Beneficial Farm and Ranch Collaborative label are grown without added chemicals and within close proximity to where they are sold. Producers participating in the Collaborate also commit themselves to enriching the soils in order to enhance the nutrition of the food grown or grazed on these soils.

“The organization formed in 2005 as a response to the industrialization of organic agriculture and the growing demand for local food,” said project director, Steve Warshawer. “The organic foods market is shifting toward lower value crops transported from longer distances. This creates a need for an alternative system through which regional producers can better identify, differentiate and supply their products and stories to consumers who not only want to eat well, but to eat locally.”

The Beneficial Farm and Ranch Collaborative formed with eight farmer and rancher members in 2005 who began marketing produce and livestock products under their label to stores in New Mexico including the La Montanita Co-op in Santa Fe and Albuquerque; Whole Foods in Santa Fe and Albuquerque; and, Cid’s in Taos. Rocky Mountain Farmers Union Cooperative Specialist Dan Hobbs claims that the organization’s label has given the group a competitive edge in the marketplace.

“The label, which conveys ‘fresh, chemical-free and local,’ says it all. Identity preservation and fresh, healthful food are two important ingredients for securing the future of family farmers and ranchers in the region,” said Hobbs.

During 2006 the Beneficial Farm and Ranch Collaborative is conducting business and strategic planning and seeking new members. It has targeted the New Mexico counties of Guadalupe, San Miguel, Taos and Doña Ana for recruitment of new producers. Doña Ana farmers and greenhouse producers, in particular, are encouraged to contact Warshawer for opportunities to grow off-season, hardy vegetables for the premium winter market. Find more information on the Beneficial Farm and Ranch Collaborative website: www.beneficialfoods.org.

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