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New Mexico Harvest

Rooted in 25 years of our community’s support for agriculture, bringing a modern touch to a very traditional way of life.

Photo of Thomas Swendson
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Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

New Mexico Harvest, Inc

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small company (under 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

Through our CSA model, we work with over 40 farmers, ranchers and producers throughout New Mexico to support a year-round local food offering. Our Farmer's Marketing Assoc has allowed us to subside our EBT/Food Stamp customer's purchases by 50%. This project is helping our families in most need stretch their food money further when they buy fresh, locally grown produce. We have a long history of collaboration with other local food-hub businesses invested in our future food system. Our partnerships have established efficient cold-chain distribution for farmers and access to grant programs. We are united in seeing our local food system flourish to support the community. To ensure the future of our organization, we have grown a separate division able to generate larger capital for the company. Through a distribution contract in Colorado, we have been securing not only the funds needed but a foot-hold for expansion.

Website of Legally Registered Entity is our previous CSA name, we are transitioning in the coming weeks

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 3-10 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Albuquerque, NM

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

United States of America

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Agricultural support for New Mexico, USA 280 km^2 By a customer bases in Albuquerque, NM 75 km^2

What country is your selected Place located in?

United States of America.

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

Coming to New Mexico in my early 20's, I began my journey in our food system on Mesa Top Farm. A summer of zucchini, fall curing of storage crops and the winter's harvest of milk for cheese seeded a spark in my connection to food. 

I heeding the call of the road, my walkabout took me to every corner of America, seeing the land from inside of a truck. Spending a life on the road took a toll on my health, Super Size Me the movie is a great analogy for my need to start healthier life. 

Returning in ‘12 to New Mexico, I was given the opportunity to steward a non-profit food access organization, MoGro. Operating a grocery store on wheels, we brought healthy fresh food to our food deserts and Native American Pueblos. 

The depth of knowledge over the next years crafted the way I see food and the impact it has on our community. 

MoGro continues to be a prominent stakeholder in the local food system and a close partner of ours.

Five years ago my path had come full-circle, back to help save a weekly CSA distribution our farm had run since 1994. I saw a value and beauty in this undertaking, though it took a few years to understand our place in the future of our food system. 

This submission marks the debut of a spark that started twenty-five seasons ago, with one farmer's summer crop that grew to over 40 producers. I found that same spark and carry it forward as the steward of this food system, New Mexico Harvest. 

Together our community has created security for our farmers in their harvest and the support for them to heed the call of the land. 

The voice of our membership will shape the terrain of our food system and invest in our future. 

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

New Mexico is truly an enchanted place. Explore everything our state has to offer – from breathtaking sunsets to fabulous local cuisine, New Mexico has it all. - *

Situated in the American Southwest, NM is know around the world for our desert beauty, hot air balloons and green chile. We have a rich agricultural tradition despite the harsh growing conditions and a strong sense of community. 

Deserts are defined by their uninhabitablilty, an abandonment of the life giving resources to survive.

New Mexico is a desert; water is scarce, money is scarce, food sources are scarce and good quality food is scarcer still. 

Through all the elements stacked against a desert, life is hard-won and precious but it will flourish if nourished and protected. 

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)


What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?


Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

There is a gap in our local food system for farmers once they grow past a certain size. 

Our state has great accelerator/mentor/support teams available for our food system. It has produced some of the finest individuals and foods in our region but all food systems have their own challenges. 

As farmers become established and hone their craft, they participate in farmers markets and establish relationships to sell their crops. The support system for our farmers in this stage is excellent, so good that markets are expanding to try to support new farmer. 

There is a certain level where the farm/farmer/crop needs a customer buying in volume, wholesale buyers. Whether a farmer wants to spend more time on the land, the orchard has a bumper crop without a market or the crop very specialized, this is a key component of harvest security.

Treating farming as a profession and a farm as a business changes the partnerships needed. Local business takes over as farmers graduate from the incubation stage, and there can be limited options depending on the region. 

Water is scarce, and through the decades water rights have been sold off or lost. New Mexico is a “use it or lose it” state and the best defense of our water rights is to use it for agriculture. 

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

As our organization grows to fulfill a larger role, the growth of our community support will drive our support for agriculture. Achieving a sustainable membership will create a regenerative and sustainable base one which we build. 

We have created a vast network of partners in our state to connect us to our farms throughout the state. I living connection of business, people and equipment work together to aggregate produce from the farms and distribute it to the individuals it was harvested for. 

Our system is designed to reduce food waste on the farm, harvesting exactly what customers want for the week. Farmers have enough time each week to get harvest the crops and bring them to local aggregation coolers for pick up. 

Dealing in fresh produce is a highly sensitive line of work, time, temperature and nature all working against the quality. Our model addresses crops in 3 different stages

Primary: Direct to member sales, B+ to A+ quality

Secondary: Preserve the Harvest - Value Added processing for winter distribution C to B-

Tertiary: Wholesale to restaurant partners, local processors ect

Our mission is to find a use for the whole harvest, bringing the most value to all the land provides.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

Our CSA began a journey 25 years ago, when a farmer needed enough friends to buy all the food his farm could grow. Carrying that tradition forward to support over 40 farms by the launch of New Mexico Harvest.

This will be my life's work, the ways I steward our company, like our land are driven by sustainability. My path in life and in the food system of New Mexico over the last decade have created this business, after a decade of study I know what my contribution will be to this life.

Our submission was not planned or timed with this contest, it was lucky timing though.

This contest has helped me think beyond the next 5 years, as it not only would secure our growth phase, but accelerate us to start giving back.

Our model and company is designed around the idea that the community can sustainably fund and support its own food system. This also includes a model for loans for farmers, food projects and investments into the future.

In creating our harvest preservation infrastructure and skill, we will be expanding to offer this outside of our membership. We will develop value-added products specific to a farmer and their crop, sold in larger grocery stores.

Our next few years will have growing pains, our commitment to farmers will increase 4x.

As New Mexico Harvest grows, there will be board or collective of the stakeholders in the food system created. As we become fully profitable, certain infrastructural investments need to be made to the producer community. I believe we can help create a USDA facility for our ranchers that are leaving the state to slaughter, we need to increase our shared cold storage locations ect.

We are also positioning ourselves to have not only a scalable model, but one we can launch in our neighbor state.

The growth of our company will reflect our community, our farms and my stewardship. The beauty in farming, generation after generation working with the land to feed their community drives us and inspires us.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

The challenges we are yet to face will test us and through this our food system will be changed but it will survive. Life wants to survive, despite man kind's best efforts, especially life in a desert.  We will prove that adversity, no matter how great, will not stop us. 

Over the next 3 decades, expanding our company to serve thousands of families, hundreds of farmers and beyond are obtainable goals. As we learn how to reach more of our community we will grow, not just our organization but our state. 

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Website

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Itika Gupta

Hi Thomas Swendson   Great to see you joining the Prize!

We noticed your submission is currently unpublished. Was this your intention? We'd love to have your submission included in the Prize. Even if you've not started populating your Vision just yet, by publishing your submission you can make it public for other teams in your region to see, get in touch and possibly even collaborate with you.

You can publish it by hitting the "Publish" button at the top of your post. You can also update your Vision at any time before 31 January 2020 by clicking on the "Edit Contribution" on top. If you need inspiration or guidance, take a look at the Food Vision Prize Toolkit.
Here is the link to the Prize Toolkit:

Look forward to seeing your Vision evolve through the coming weeks.