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Resilient Local Seeds Offer Hope In Times Of Change

by Emily Arasim, NMAA Youth Education Coordinator & Program Assistant

As we come to the close of another exceptionally dry season, acequieros across the state continue to ask each other and the land itself for guidance on how to deal with the concerning conditions we are experiencing.

As an acequia community, we are coming to terms with the truth that what we are seeing is not just another drought cycle, and is not just more of New Mexico’s always unpredictable weather. In fact, we are watching the climate crisis unfold before our eyes, and we are experiencing stresses that are unprecedented in our lifetimes, and also in the larger historic record.

Global climate change is bringing more extreme and unpredictable conditions, including higher temperatures, fiercer winds, and rain and snowfall in patterns that are very different from what we, and previous generations, have relied on. These changes are happening more quickly than they would in a natural cycle, and are being caused by the wasteful and destructive practices of the mainstream global economy. Too many people have forgotten our responsibility to care for the land and live in a humble way, and we are starting to see the results of this disconnection.

Despite all of this pressure, we have many reasons for hope. Across the state, acequia leadership and parciantes are taking many practical and innovative steps to deal with these hard times, including preparing the community for repartimiento water sharing, repairing and improving acequia infrastructure, and thinking deeply about ways to restore the health of the soil so that it can better hold the precious water. Many of us are also expressing our gratitude and trust in our beautiful local, traditional seeds to get us through the years and decades to come.

Our local seeds are one of the most important tools we have to help us deal with climate change and water stress. Over years, decades and centuries, seeds learn and adapt to their climate, which means that our New Mexico seeds that have been saved over generations, have become accustomed to our high desert conditions, cycles of drought and unreliable moisture.

They are strong and determined, just like the people of the land. They know the soil, wind and sun here, something that seeds grown in other regions and bought at the store or online catalogues simply cannot claim.

In particular, the al temporal, or dryland farming seeds that older generations relied upon are becoming even more important, and even more in need of our diligent care and protection.

While our local seeds already have this deep strength within them, we also have to dedicate ourselves to the task of helping them keep on learning and adapting. We must be faithful caregivers who plant them every year and never give up.

The seeds need to experience the hard times we felt this season, so that the ones we save can get just a little stronger in preparation for future seasons, which may have conditions even harsher than what we are experiencing now. Ultimately, a small, wrinkly handful of drought tolerant, survivor seeds, are much more valuable than pounds of seeds that only sprout when they are heavily irrigated.

We also know that these important seeds help restore the strength of our hearts during hard times. When we close our eyes and hold a smooth bean or a heart-shaped kernel of corn in our hands, we feel the protection of those that have come before us, and we feel like we have some power to help make a good life for our children and grandchildren. So long as we keep caring for the seeds, they will care for us. We need eachother now more than ever.

Honoring the 2021 Los Sembradores Farm Apprentices!

By Donne Gonzales, NMAA Farm Trainer

Please join us in celebrating our 2021 cohort of Los Sembradores Farm Apprentices. The group began their work together in mid-February and will complete their nine months of learning in November.

Currently, the Sembradores are reflecting on their experience and continuing to work as the days begin to get colder, and fall flowers bloom. Weeding, aerating, and loving the plants has been a daily activity in the garden. The Sembradores have harvested turnips, carrots with character, lettuce, kale, chard, and so much more.  The first cucumbers came in two months ago, and the abundance of zucchinis is finally coming to an end. Apprentices harvested the garlic patch in July, and the little spice babies amazed everyone with their color, size, and shape. The team has talked alot about insects, and has also started to work more closely with honey bees this season. We look forward to our final months with the apprentices, and to all of the amazing work they will continue to do in the years ahead to nurture their land, use their acequias, and feed their communities.

Marcos Aragon, Las Vegas

“I am Marcos Aragon from a ranching family in Las Vegas. I moved around the state to attend NM State and NM Tech, where I majored in mechanical engineering and dabbled in welding. It has been an honor to get to work with NMAA this year. Being a part of the Sembradores has really helped motivate and educate me on everything from where to get material, to how to harvest. I always wanted to start a garden, and the program allowed me to this year. After learning how to amend soil from different zoom conferences, and information provided by Donne, I was able to create fertile soil from the dry, cracked, clay I had. I now have a pollinator garden for flowers and herbs, and a hoop house where I have grown lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, and hot peppers. These places are now my favorite places to relax. My family and neighbors also end up benefiting from my gardens in the form of my extra vegetables and flowers. Being able to eat homegrown vegetables and gift others with them is an amazing feeling. I am grateful I was able to participate this year, because this would not have been possible without the Sembradores program. I am very appreciative of all the help and guidance Donne and the other Sembradores have provided, and look forward to the rest of the season with them.”

Amanda López, Peñasco

“My name is Amanda López, I grew up in the beautiful Peñasco valley. Growing up in northern NM I was exposed to farming and the traditions that are practiced along with farming. I remember, as a child, helping my family clean the acequia and helping my grandparents plant, water, harvest, and sell at the Farmers Market. As a child, I enjoyed my time spent with my grandparents but never realized just how important the information and knowledge they were sharing with me was, and just how much it would mean to me one day.

During my time in the Sembradores program I have learned about cover crops, soil health and different watering methods. Some of the information that I have gathered are all the little details that I missed as a child when I would help my grandparents, and some of the information is brand new. Donne has been an amazing teacher and her kind heart makes her very approachable and an amazing friend to have. She is very knowledgeable about resources and if she doesn’t know the answer she knows where to find it and can point you in the right direction. My garden this year has been small and consisted of squash, tomatoes, bell peppers, chile, a berry patch, and an herb garden. Next year I plan to expand.

My time with Sembradores has made me realize a passion of mine that I plan to continue expanding on for years to come. It has been such an amazing experience that has made me feel connected to the past and my ancestors in such a life changing way. I look forward to all the knowledge and information that I will continue to pick up for the remainder of my time with the Sembradores program and in my future as a farmer.”

Angel Fresquez, Chamisal

My name is Angel Fresquez. I’m 35 years old and a resident of Chamisal. The NMAA Sembradores Program is revitalizing my intellectual/ academic skills, which is expanding my situational awareness of the plant’s around me.  The Sembradores Program is an excellent addition to my security science studies which is all about the protection and the preservation of life.

I’ve been learning about crafting remedios and I’m making gumweed, mullein leaf and garlic tinctures. I appreciate the opportunity to share what I know while also absorbing as much as possible. Having to learn through trial and error in the garden plot that I have started as a part of the program is the most powerful way for me to learn. The healing power of plants is what I enjoy learning about and want to be able to share.  I am also interested in farm and business planning, and how to plan for the unexpected, have contingencies and address unintended consequences. Farming is definitely a test of patience. After multiple failures due to circumstance and my own mistakes, I have grown peas, avas, flax, basil, catnip and several other plants that I wrote off, but the rains brought out. Some of the challenges I have encountered so far are prairie dogs, squirrels, birds and hail. Let’s see what happens and how it goes, hopefully good.”

Alex Rose Gutierrez Jaramillo, Española

“My name is Alex Rose Gutierrez Jaramillo. I am very honored to share time with Land in Chamisal, with Donne, and with the other Sembradores. We have learned that the pumpkins like to grow on mounds to vine out. We have learned about different bugs and how they provide support to plants. Re-defining paths of water from the acequia teaches us how to observe water’s flow on Land. I have deep gratitude for learning remedios and using resources respectfully, and for nurturing a space of freedom to be ourselves which allows for connection and conversations. We share different knowledge, and through this, blossoms grow in each other and expand awareness of life. The process of preparing, planting, and working together has gotten us in a rhythm, a pattern that provides support in one’s life as a farmer.”

 

 

For more information about the Sembradores farming training, visit: lasacequias.org/los-sembradores-farmer-training

We will review applications for our 2022 cohort beginning in December/January.

NMSU Publishes New Research on NM Acequias

by Emily Arasim, NMAA Youth Education Coordinator & Program Assistant

The New Mexico State University (NMSU) College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences recently published a new study which was over a decade in the making – “Acequias of the Southwestern United States: Elements of Resilience in a Coupled Natural and Human System”.

This report includes data and research that affirms acequia traditional knowledge. Specifically, the research suggests that acequias play a critical role in the health of the land and watersheds, and that social and community relationships are what make acequias resilient.  Information was drawn from case studies in El Rito in the Rio Chama watershed; Alcalde, along the Rio Grande; and the Rio Hondo north of Taos. It includes sections by Sylvia Rodríguez and José Rivera, amongst many other esteemed acequia scholars. Some of the key points in the research included the following:

Acequias connect communities to each other and to the local hydrology:

  • The practice of mutualismo or ayuda mutual (mutual aid, working together for the common good and survival) between neighbors is what has kept acequias flowing for hundreds of years. It is also what has given communities the strength to protect each other from harms including displacement and loss of land. Confianza (trust) and respeto (respect) are central to this system working.
  • The ditch weaves the fields together physically, while the acequia association weaves the neighborhood together socially. Increased dependence on the global economy and wage-jobs outside of our communities has, in some cases, led to decreased connection amongst parciantes within acequia and stream systems.
  • The ability of acequias to make their own, autonomous local decisions is key to us being able to adapt and overcome all types of stresses and changes.
  • Passing on knowledge about acequia governance, customs and the environment in the Spanish language is very important to the future of our acequias. Much of this knowledge can not be easily translated to English.

Acequias can contribute to aquifer recharge and may support river flows:

  • Unlined earthen ditches are, in most cases, best at supporting healthy environments. Natural seepage helps nurture vegetation and a diversity of plant, animal, bird and insect life.
  • Acequias make a significant impact on replenishing groundwater tables during the irrigation season – not just for the irrigated area, but also for surrounding drylands.
  • Common water conservation strategies such as ditch lining and drip irrigation, were found to be “fixes that backfire”, because the restriction of water seepage resulted in less replenishment of the groundwater aquifer. This made communities less resilient as communities depend on this groundwater, especially when ditches go dry.
  • During the three-year period of the study, over half of the water diverted into the Acequia de Alcalde returned to the river as surface water, and another third made its way into the shallow aquifer after first seeping into the soil of the acequia and fields. The study concluded, “Aquifer recharge and late season groundwater return flow are important hydrologic functions that result from acequia agriculture”. They did note that in other, dryer areas, less water is likely to make it into the river or groundwater.
  • Due to human changes to rivers – such as channeling, controlling and construction of flood-control levees – streams no longer meander and flood their valleys in the way they once did. The movement of acequias helps to restore something similar to that natural meandering flow of rivers. A loss of acequias and acequia irrigation would likely damage river water quality and quantity.

Acequia agriculture faces social and economic challenges:

  • In a survey of 95 acequia ranchers, it was found that the majority depended on off-farm employment or retirement as the main source of family income. Less than 10% of survey respondents said they grow crops other than hay, and only 5% said they would want to switch to growing other crops. The ability to grow or purchase enough hay to feed livestock through the winter months was the most common challenge ranchers reported.
  • When parciantes were surveyed about acequias vulnerability to climate change and severe drought, and asked to rate the success of different strategies to deal with it – working to improve soil to reduce evaporation was the most popular idea. Other popular responses were trying alternative irrigation technology; using cold frames to start plants earlier; and planting more native or heirloom crops.
  • Increasing the value and price of local food in local markets was found to be one of the key ways to help acequia farmers make better incomes, and therefore be able to stay in their communities.

In January 2021, NMAA partnered with NMSU to host an online event celebrating this research, and hearing from our community about future research topics that would benefit their acequias.

The full report can be downloaded on the NMSU website. Questions and future research ideas may be sent to: afernald@nmsu.edu

Acequias Brace Themselves for a Future of Water Scarcity

by Paula Garcia, NMAA Executive Director

The year 2021 started with a dismal outlook for Spring runoff. A light year of snowpack promised little in the way of snowmelt and acequias braced for a very dry irrigation year. In May, the US Drought Monitor showed that 99.37% of New Mexico was in severe drought to exceptional drought. With tempered expectations, acequia leaders prepared for a difficult irrigation season. In some communities, the low runoff prompted acequias to initiate water sharing agreements between acequias. Many individual farmers and ranchers adjusted their operations to account for a season with limited irrigation.

Almost as an answer to many prayers, monsoon rains started in the early summer. These monsoon rains are credited with protecting us from a potentially catastrophic wildfire season and the worst impacts of drought. In the short term, the monsoon rains enabled many acequia parciantes to have a hay crop, grow their gardens, sustain their orchards, and breathe a sigh of relief to make it through another growing season.

During this time, NMAA was able to convene some important discussions about the future of acequias that will be impacted by ongoing drought, uncertain precipitation, and extreme weather events, all of which are related to climate change. One gathering focused on ‘Acequias and Megadrought’, and included dialogue between different  acequia leaders regarding both historic and current practices of water sharing in their communities.

Drought affects the supply of wet water that is available in any given year or over a period of time. Because acequias depend on surface water, they are uniquely vulnerable to changes in snowmelt and runoff. Centuries of variable water supplies from year to year have resulted in a certain degree of resilience to drought because acequias have engaged in customs and traditions of water sharing, also known as the repartimiento. A recent study by NMSU notes that the “acequia footprint” illustrates acequia resiliency to highly variable water supplies because individual parciantes and the acequia collective will irrigate more land during times of high water flow and less land when there is less water. In other words, the extent of land that is irrigated expands or contracts based on the supply of wet water in any given year.

In several communities, acequias are tenacious about sharing scarce water, creating rotations and shorter cycles with ever smaller allocations of water until the water dries completely. The question we face about climate change is the extent to which acequias maintain viability through water sharing, and at what point should communities expect and plan for dry rivers with no water. In a survey in 2020 of about 20 leaders who are instrumental in water sharing agreements, some described their traditions in detail and noted that they managed to get through the year with shared sacrifices. A few had more dire reports, including testimonials that “there was no water to share.”

At the gathering on Megadrought and Acequias, there were two panels that were featured. One was the Mayordomo panel which featured local mayordomos and commissioners and their testimonials about the specific methods of water sharing in their communities. The following three narratives summarize their local acequia customs.

Don Bustos, Commissioner, Acequia del Llano in Santa Cruz

Don shared the importance of the Mayordomo having an intimate knowledge of the acequia, which he established by growing up along the Llano. He described their method of sharing the water by dividing the ditch into three sections, and irrigating only one section per day (depending on how water is released from the Santa Cruz dam). He emphasized the value of regular communication and Commission meetings, walking the acequia, and checking headgates and resolving maintenance issues. On this ditch, everyone has to call the Mayordomo to get water. His acequia first prioritizes water for gardens, pastures, orchards, and then lawns and landscaping in times of shortage. “We are telling people ‘just use what you need’, and urging the importance of everyone getting some water.”

Don reflected that our limited water supply is “the new normal” and considered how his ancestors had found a way to ensure every irrigator had water to survive. He listed a number of challenges they face in the management of the water, including newcomers who have a legalistic view of the system and do not understand that their paper water right does not translate to a full wet water irrigation; encroachment from the City of Española; and developments in the foothills above the acequia that do not have a drainage system and contaminate the ditch with run off. Finally, Don emphasized the importance of regional water sharing among acequias that was facilitated by the Santa Cruz Irrigation District during the Spring, and their ability to work together in a peaceful way during times of hardship.

Phil and Sylvia Villarreal, Mayordomo and Commissioner, Acequia de los Chupaderos in Chupadero

“My responsibility is to make sure that the water is circulated in the valley – we handle it upon demand,” remarked Phil Villareal, Mayordomo on Acequia de los Chupaderos. Phil described that the determination of how much water parciantes get is based on what is available in the river and the demands from the other parciantes. He noted that not all of the parciantes are actively engaged in the acequia, though they encourage everyone to irrigate. Their Acequia is impacted by the Aamodt adjudication and they have to submit reports every Spring, “showing who is using it and [we] have to account for every drop that goes through our metering system…it is getting very legalistic.”

Sylvia Villareal, Phil’s wife and an acequia commissioner, noted that an additional challenge they face are newcomers who do not understand the practice of water sharing and being fair to all in the community, and are creating gardens that are larger than can be supported by the meager water supply. Remarking on the demands, Phil said, “it is hard to keep everyone happy.” A victory for this team has been working to revitalize the acequias in their area, including breaking ground to create infrastructure repairs for which they have received state funding. They noted that the impetus to do the work was the Aamodt adjudication process and the need for better irrigation efficiency. They concluded by acknowledging that this has been a hard year, including being separated from one another [by covid], but that many lessons have been learned.

Harold Trujillo, Commissioner, Acequia de la Isla in Ledoux

Harold explained that there are two acequias sharing water from Morphy lake on a 40/60 basis. The two Presidents of the Acequias maintain control of the outlet gate and they have to be very careful how much they open the headgate, as “we have a very tight schedule”. If the headgate is opened too wide they will rapidly drain the lake, and thus not be able to make it through the irrigation season. He summarized that the challenge for Mayordomos is when everyone wants to irrigate and there is a shortage of water. The two Acequias have always been a joint operation and have managed the water successfully. Issues have arisen when parciantes pressure their Mayorodomo for more water, which is why the headgate is controlled by the commission Presidents while the Mayordomo focuses on allocating the available water.

Harold also shared the story of how Morphy lake was built by local families starting in the 1880s, building up the embankments until 1940. “It took the cooperation of the community for all those years – it was a long term commitment.” The Acequias also lease Morphy Lake water to Fish and Wildlife, which gives them an annual revenue. He reminded us of the value of foresight, collaboration, and the hard work of the ancestors who came before us.

The Mayordomo panel illustrated that water sharing involves not only the mayordomo but also the commissioners in terms of defining the method of sharing and priorities for irrigation. In all cases, water sharing was deeply steeped in history and long-standing customs that have endured in their respective acequias.

While history is a guide for local acequias, new challenges include ongoing drought conditions, newcomers who are not accustomed to living with water scarcity, and new institutional requirements related to water administration by the state, as in the case of Aamodt. It is clear that acequia mayordomos and commissioners have important roles that are rooted in ancient customs, but they also need to be prepared to deal with modern and unprecedented challenges. Acequias face many uncertainties, including not knowing from year to year whether there will be adequate water to irrigate their pastures or gardens. This is a story that continues to unfold and we will continue to learn as our communities work to adapt and survive.

2021 Acequia Art & Photo Contest

2021 ACEQUIA ART AND PHOTO CONTEST – SUBMISSIONS DUE NOVEMBER 30th, 2021!

Submit your photos and art to the 2021 NMAA Acequia Art & Photo Contest and show us what acequia culture means to YOU! Prizes for ADULTS (19 years and up) and YOUTH (18 years and under)!

ART CONTEST DETAILS

  • Submit poems, videos, paintings, sketches, mixed media, models, and MORE! Show us – “What does acequia culture mean to you?” or “Why are acequias important to your family, culture, or community?”
  • Art participants are limited to one entry.

PHOTO CONTEST DETAILS 

  • Send photos in any of these categories: Acequieros Working the Land ~ Digitally Altered Imagery ~ Regando ~ Food and Seed Traditions
  • Photo participants are limited to one entry per category!

** HOW TO APPLY! **

~ Art and photos must be submitted by November 30, 2021

~ Submissions must be sent in HIGH RESOLUTION/high quality format

~ Please email to emily@lasacequias.org OR mail to 805 Early Street Bldg. B, Suite 203 Santa Fe, NM 87505

~ Include: (1) Name of Artist (2) Town (3) Acequia Name (4) County (5) Art/photo description or title.

** MORE INFO **

~ You could win the following PRIZES: 1st Place: $60.00 & NMAA T-Shirt – 2nd Place: $40.00 & NMAA T-Shirt – 3rd Place: $20.00 & NMAA T-shirt (separate prizes for adult and youth submissions!)

~ Terms and conditions: Upon photo submission, you agree to the use of your work(s) in NMAA materials including but not limited to publications, calendar, website pages, and outreach materials. Photo credit will be given where appropriate.

Flyer images – 2020 winners Lylie Vigil (youth art) and Alyson Archuleta (youth photo)

NMAA Job Opening – Finance Director

The New Mexico Acequia Association (NMAA) is seeking a full-time Finance Director. The Finance Director will be responsible for overall financial planning, budget development and monitoring, financial reports and analysis, overall bookkeeping, payroll, oversight of receivables and payables, and compliance with state and federal tax and legal requirements. The Finance Director will work under the direct supervision of the Executive Director.

Click here to view the full job description and qualifications.

Application Process

  • Please send a cover letter and resume detailing qualifications for this position along with three professional references to: juliet@lasacequias.org.
  • Interviews will be conducted with qualified candidates until the position is filled.
  • Candidates selected for interview may be required to submit a sample of their work.
  • Ideal candidate will be able to start as soon as possible.

ACTION ALERT – Public Comments Needed on Triennial Water Quality Standards

Starting on July 13th, 2021 the New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC) will begin the state Triennial Review public hearing on proposed changes to our state surface water quality standards and regulations.
We know as traditional rural communities that rapid land use development and inadequate protection for the health of the water can negatively impact our communities, families and livelihoods. Impacts include potential risks of groundwater contamination and increased degradation of surface water quality from municipal wastewater treatment facilities and industrial water users, such as oil & gas, mining, and national laboratories. The state Triennial Review is an important way to ensure that our precious water is protected for current and future generations of acequiero/as.
NMAA, as a member of the Communities for Clean Water (CCW) coalition, supports CCW’s contributions and demands to provide more protections for New Mexico’s waters.
It is critical for the acequia communities voices to be heard in this process – please take some time this week to send in a public comment by email or make a verbal comment during the hearing.

How To Take Action:

A. Submit a written public comment:

 

  • We believe comments will be accepted through the end of the hearing, which could be Friday the 16th or sometime next week. Because the ending date is not clear, we suggest submitting comments ASAP before 9:00am on Friday July 16th.
B. Join the public hearing and make a verbal comment:
  • The hearing starts Tuesday July 13th and may continue for up to 10 days. On day one, July 13th, the hearing will run from 9:00-12:00 and again from 1:00-6:00pm. Starting on day two, July 14th, the hearing will start at 8:00 am.
  • On day one, July 13th, public comments will be accepted from 5:00-6:00 pm. Beginning on day two, July 14th (and continuing until Friday the 16th or later), public comment will be accepted from 8:00-9:00 am AND again from 5:00-6:00 pm.
  •  Each public comment is limited to five minutes. We encourage you to express your displeasure that comments are limited to five minutes.
  • The hearing will be virtual on WebEx online meeting platforms or you can participate by phone. Details for how to connect are below:
To connect via video conference, go to:
Click meeting link: https://nmed-oit.webex.com/nmed-oit/j.php?MTID=m173d2e7c86c3828b4dbdcb4d1fe06be6
Enter meeting number: 177 706 1008
Enter password: phQAE7KmR47
OR join by phone:
+1-415-655-0001 (US Toll)
Access code: 177 706 1008
Questions? Please contact NMAA at – (505) 995-9644 OR – jaimie@lasacequias.org or emily@lasacequias.org

Job Opening – Office and Program Assistant

Join a dynamic and committed team working to protect water, farmland, and food traditions in New Mexico! The New Mexico Acequia Association is hiring an Office and Program Assistant.

This person will contribute to the mission of the NMAA by handling incoming calls and requests for information, performing general office duties, managing files and office systems, managing our membership program, assisting with writing and editing, updating our database, and supporting the various programs and projects of the NMAA. Experience in a non-profit setting is highly desirable. The salary for this position is competitive. The work location is in the Santa Fe Office. Some travel and fieldwork will be required when it is safe depending on COVID-19 restrictions.

Click here to review full job description!

TO APPLY: Please send a cover-letter and resume to juliet@lasacequias.org. Interviews will start May 18th and the position will remain open until filled.

Covid Safe Limpia and Meeting Guidance – March 2021 Update

Dear Acequia Commissioners and Mayordomos, 

NMAA would like to provide some updated recommendations as many of you complete your limpias and schedule annual meetings. These are based off of the recent Public Health Order (PHO), issued February 24, 2021.
You may have heard of the new county by county color coded rating system, regarding the level of risk in spreading Covid. The “dashboard” showing the color rating is updated every other week, this means that the color rating could change from the time you announce an activity to the time you actually hold a gathering, please monitor the dashboard at:  https://cvprovider.nmhealth.org/public-dashboard.html
We encourage every acequia to assess how they can best keep their community safe, while continuing our vital practices of holding meetings and cleaning the acequias.
Key points in the Public Health Order: 
  • Red Counties – Max public gathering is 5 individuals 
  • Yellow Counties – Max public gathering is 10 individuals
  •  Green Counties: Max public gathering is 20 individuals 
  • Turquoise Counties – Max public gatherings 150 individuals
A “mass gathering” is any public or private gathering, or grouping that brings together individuals in an indoor OR outdoor space.  All activities, whether indoor or outdoor, still require social distancing (minimum 6 feet distance) and Covid safe measures, such as wearing masks (given the highly communicable variants now in circulation, the CDC advises “double masking”). While some counties (Green and Turquoise) may begin to allow limited reopening of certain indoor facilities, including community centers, other counties continue to prohibit indoor mass gatherings.  For example, recreational facilities, like community centers, are not allowed to open for indoor gatherings in Yellow and Red counties. Meetings can be inside or outside, but each color code states the reduced level of occupancy for both indoor and outdoor spaces. See details: https://cv.nmhealth.org/public-health-orders-and-executive-orders/red-to-green/

Further Guidance for ACEQUIA CLEANINGS

Acequias may be considered “essential businesses” in the context of acequia cleanings  because they manage and control critical water infrastructure.  On the one hand, acequias are therefore given discretion even in Yellow and Red counties to operate but must limit operations to only those absolutely necessary to carry out essential functions.  On the other hand, , due to the physical exertion involved in acequia cleanings, certain precautions should be taken to minimize potential exposure to Covid.
Some ideas on how to safely and effectively conduct cleanings include:
  • Keep Crews under the max mass gathering allowance for your county.
  • If a larger number of individuals is needed to complete work, assign crews to a section of the ditch and do not gather as one large group. We have seen acequias give assignments to each car separately, organize individuals in advance, etc.
  • You could also schedule groups of parciantes and peonies to come on separate days.
  • Consider what will work best for your ditch.
  • Individuals in work crews should always stay a minimum of 6 feet apart and wear masks.
  • Hire one crew to clean the entire ditch in order to limit potential exposure to large numbers of people. We have spoken to a number of acequias who decided the safest and easiest option was to hire one consistent group of workers to clean the entire ditch with the supervision of the Commission and or Mayordomo. While this means not all parciantes will be able to participate, it ensures the task is completed.
  • Some acequias have opted to “excuse” members who are at higher risk due to age or other health considerations.
Whatever method you choose we encourage you to stay safe, take pictures and share with us any lessons learned, or methodologies we have not considered! Send pics and or questions to serafina@lasacequias.org

Further Guidance for ACEQUIA MEETINGS

Acequias should adhere to the county  restrictions imposed by the recent health order when scheduling any acequia meeting.  Acequias should also remember that the guidance from the Attorney General that we have shared over the course of the last year is still in effect. If you do not have urgent business you may opt to not hold your meeting. If you do not hold your annual meeting, it is encouraged that you still communicate with your parciantes via other means such as email, phone or snail mail.
If you choose to have a meeting, the AG recommends that the meeting be held remotely.  NMAA continues to offer technical hosting of zoom meetings which accommodate people calling in from a phone and video conferencing at the same time. We can also assist with the proper noticing of the remote meeting. Contact emily@lasacequias.org for more assistance.
 
Things to consider:
  • Both in-person and remote meetings have their pros and cons. Some people may feel unsafe meeting in person, others prefer it, not all individuals are equally open or comfortable with remote meetings, and others find it more accessible. You need to weigh what will be most safe, productive and inclusive for your acequia.
  • Quorum –  If your acequia needs a quorum that is greater than the max mass meeting attendance in your county your only option is to have a remote meeting.
  •  Keeping the Meeting to the Appropriate Size – If you want to have an in-person meeting but are concerned you may get more than the number of participants the PHO allows, then urge members to RSVP the day prior. Include in your notice that if you have more RSVPs than the amount allowed you will have to hold the meeting remotely or cancel. The goal is to encourage participation, so we don’t want to discourage any one from RSVPing.
  • Noticing Outdoor Meetings – In accordance with the Open Meetings Act, the location of your gathering needs to be publicly accessible and the location well described in your meeting notice. This might include a physical address along with a description of where in the parking lot of “X” building you will be meeting.
  • Noticing All Activities – It should be clear in communications for cleanings or meetings that social distancing and face masks are required by all participants. No one with covid symptoms should be participating.
  • Informational Meetings – If you do not feel you can get a quorum by either means, you can still have an informational meeting where NO ACTIONS are taken (aka no items are decided on, even approving the agenda). Informational meetings should still be  properly noticed and can  be in-person or remote.
  • “Mass gatherings” and  public officials – The PHO’s definition of “mass gathering” excludes the gathering of public officials working in the course and scope of completing their officials duties.  Acequia commissioners and mayordomos may continue to meet, provided that they are socially distanced and masked.  However, because meetings of commissioners are public meetings they must be properly noticed.  Given that any parciante and member of the public may attend a commission meeting, please plan accordingly and consider whether the meeting is better held remotely or in person to ensure that the meeting does not run afoul of the PHO.  Once members attend the meeting, a commission meeting may be considered a “mass gathering” and the public official exclusion may no longer apply to that meeting.

Please call the NMAA team if you would like assistance thinking through your spring meeting or limpia at 505-995-9644. We wish you the best in all your acequia business this spring – and stay safe!

APPLY: Farmer/Rancher Infrastructure Grant Program

Covid-19 Local Food Supply Chain Response Fund –

Infrastructure Grant Program

* APPLICATION FOR FARMERS AND RANCHERS *

APPLICATIONS DUE: March 17th 2021

The New Mexico Farmers’ Marketing Association (NMFMA), in collaboration with the New Mexico Acequia Association (NMAA), is pleased to introduce the 2021 Infrastructure Grant Program. This grant was developed using a participatory grant process with an Advisory Council of eight farmers from across the state.

Our intention is to provide NM farmers and ranchers with financial support for infrastructure needs to support goals including…

  • Growing or improving the economic viability of agricultural operations!
  • Increasing soil and ecosystem health!
  • Increasing access to healthy and culturally important food in our families and communities!
  • Supporting the next generation of young farmers and ranchers!

Farmers, ranchers, and producer collectives who are residents or whose farms are located in NM are invited to apply. Your farm does not need to be a registered business.

Applications are due March 17, 2021 at 5:00 PM.

QUESTIONS? Contact NMFMA – Sarah Grant at 505.983.4010 ext. 2 OR the New Mexico Acequia Association – Emily Arasim emily@lasacequias.org, (505) 995-9644

APPLICATIONS HERE:

More Details….

*Collectives do not need to be official/legal groups or coops – they can be informal groups of farmers/ranchers working together. If you apply as a collective, please fill out the top part of the form with the name/contact info/details for a primary contact. There is space at the end of the form to list all collective members.

We aim to fund a maximum of 10 projects with a budget of up to $10,000 – 20 projects with budgets of up to $2,500 – and 50 projects with budgets of up to $1,000. An itemized list of project expenses is required with your application, but don’t be afraid! If you need assistance with your budget/itemized list, please call us, we will be happy to help.

Please know that we understand infrastructure to be things that will contribute to the long term health, success and sustainability of your farm/ranch – this can include marketing, processing, etc. While we are not funding daily labor, your budget can include the labor needed to implement/install an infrastructure project.

We are unable to fund:
– Operations (routine labor for harvesting/weed, taxes)
– Consumables/expendables (seeds, soil amendments, etc)

Click here to download and share a flyer with your community – English  –  Español