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New Mexico

Spanish, Native, and Anglo Lessons in Food Security


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Typical Program

Relationship matters in New Mexico. Volunteers learn about sustainable living from families that have lived in the same place for hundreds and thousands of communities where relationships matter and people still live close to the earth. At Tesuque farm, volunteers assist with organic farming, planting, weeding, and harvesting while also learning about heirloom seeds at the Seed Bank, built with the help of previous volunteers. In a city who’s name means “Holy Faith,” walking the adobe-lined streets offers visitors a taste of more than 400 years of community-building, survival, and resilience that has held together thanks to spiritual and cultural values, as well as a commitment to family and community. In addition to a thriving age-old wisdom gained from understanding and respecting our relationship as humans with All of Creation.

Volunteer service projects are shaped by community-driven needs and build on the progress of previous groups. Outdoor work projects are scheduled for the beginning of the day when the weather is cooler, while educational presentations, guest speakers, recreation, and cultural activities are scheduled in the afternoons. Late afternoons and evenings provide space for group reflections and personal free time.

Check out a Sample Itinerary    [view]    [download]


Duration and Directions


Trips to New Mexico are usually 5 to 7 days in length. Although there is a small airport in Santa Fe, groups usually find it more economical to fly into Albuquerque where they can easily rent vans or vehicles and then enjoy the scenic drive one hour north to Santa Fe.


Upon arrival in Santa Fe, New Mexico, visitors will enjoy an informative introduction to the region including facts about the city of Santa Fe, plus safety, guidelines, and expectations, as well as insights on local customs, culture, and history. Volunteers will also learn about Via International and our legacy of community development work. The local team will also provide an overview of activities for the week and background on the projects, people, and places we will be engaged with.

Food and Accommodations

Volunteers will enjoy the cultural appeal and southwest ambiance of staying in historic Santa Fe in one of three housing options. The Adelante House is just three blocks from Santa Fe’s historic plaza. Centrally located, this charming adobe “casita,” which means “small house” in Spanish, provides a convenient location and modern accommodations with 5 bedrooms and 4 baths, a full kitchen, living room, and large porch, plus irresistible southwest charm including ceilings with wooden vigas, beams, and a working adobe kiva fireplace. Three local churches provide ample room for larger groups in a hostel-like setting, while spring and summer groups have the opportunity to immerse in nature at the Treehouse Lodge in the heart of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. These rustic log cabins are just a short drive outside of town near the the old village of Cañada de los Alamos. The facility includes a covered, open-air kitchen and dining area, showers, a fire circle, and a cabin for meeting.

In trying the local fare, you will learn about the history and the issues of food security and health in the region. As has been the custom for centuries, preparing and eating food together is an integral and treasured part of family and community life. Visitors will enjoy trying...and trying their hand at preparing...some of our regional favorites that reflect both the Native and Spanish influences in the region. Simple, home-made traditional meals included rice and beans, tortillas, quesadillas, enchiladas, tamales, caldo, and green chile stew, as well as fresh greens, indigenous grains, wild game, red and green chile, and corn, beans, and squash, also known as the Three Sisters. In a region where many families still manage small farms and food gardens, as their ancestors have for centuries, all efforts are made to include fresh, locally grown food in our meal planning. We celebrate and support our regional food security, and engage visitors in all aspects of the Food Cycle, through cooking as well as farming, while also educating visiting volunteers about water conservation, composting, seed-saving, and recycling.

Community and Region

New Mexico is known as The Land of Enchantment, and is famous for its rich culture and history, as well as its majestic natural beauty. A cultural crossroads, New Mexico has the highest percentage of hispanic ancestry of all the states. After Alaska, New Mexico is also home to the second largest Native American population in the U.S. and includes more than 18 sovereign Native American nations. Whether hiking the Anasazi archaeological ruins at Bandelier National Monument, visiting the historic Santuario of Chimayo, or meeting with local farmers or indigenous wisdom keepers, Northern New Mexico offers unique, hands-on learning opportunities for visitors and offers an immersion experience rich in history, culture, identity, and earth-honoring world-views.

New Mexico ranks among the LOWEST in the nation when it comes to health, wealth, food security, educational attainment, and graduation rates. Water scarcity and pollution of natural resources are also serious issues in the region. Second to the lowest in per capita income nationally, more than one fifth of the population of New Mexico live below the poverty line and one tenth live in extreme poverty. It is estimated that one out of every three children are going hungry and approximately one out of every three high school students fails to graduate. Committed to building “paths to self-reliance for an interdependent world,” Via International is working with local community members and regional non-profit organizations to support food security, water conservation, nutrition and ecology training, and small enterprise development, as well as cultural preservation and language restoration.

Volunteer Requirements

Volunteers should be adaptable and flexible, willing to work as part of a team, and respectful of local traditions, culture, and customs. Those taking part in community
development service projects need to be capable of doing physical work, although previous experience is not essential. Due to high altitude, unpredictable weather, and a ten-year drought, as well as cultural differences and more rural conditions, common urban conveniences and comforts may not be available and daily activities are subject to change at the last minute.