In 2022, Fraction Farms in Corrales donated more than 9,000 pounds, or 4.5 tons, of organically grown vegetables, fruits and various herbs to charities that feed the food insecure across New Mexico. And the farm’s more than 60 volunteers raised and harvested all that food on a mere three acres.
“Everything we grow, we literally seed from start to finish,” says Nate Zich, Volunteer President and a founding member of the Fraction Farm board. “We’re always proud of our weights, because we’re trying to farm on a fraction of the land that large producers do. But at the same time, producing really nutritional stuff in our footprint is what we’re really proud of.”
This year, the all-volunteer farm hopes their hard work and crops will result in more than 10,000 pounds of vegetables, herbs and fruit donated directly to charities serving the hungry and homeless. Currently, they focus on Central New Mexico, but plan to expand in the next few years. They also offer a free three-week nutrition and agriculture curriculum for teachers of PreK through grade 12, as well as host field trips, which have already helped hundreds of kids from different programs and classes understand how food is grown.
To support these efforts, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico’s (BCBSNM) Healthy Kids, Healthy Families® (HKHF) initiative awarded a $14,250 grant to the farm, which will use the money to cover the most critical pieces of their work: seeds, fertilizer, soil amendments and irrigation supplies. (A new major grant program — Blue ImpactSM — replaces HKHF in 2023.)
"The Healthy Kids, Healthy Families grant program advances our commitment to addressing the health issues facing our families. We are proud to support Fraction Farms and their efforts to fight food insecurity by growing and donating fresh, nutritious food to the New Mexicans who need it,” says Janice Torrez, BCBSNM president.
“We were literally over the moon,” Zich says about receiving the grant. “It’s tough doing this ... We have a lot of support from private businesses and grants and individuals. And we’re grateful. But when an organization steps up and covers a huge chunk of expenses for us, it is wonderful. The grant is a game changer.”
For several years Fraction Farms leased land in the Albuquerque metro area and would grow food using sustainable practices anywhere that had water, power, dirt and sun. And while they were able to raise and harvest healthy produce at a fraction of the cost of supermarket fruits and vegetables, managing the work across the sites was challenging.
Then in late 2021, they coordinated with the Village of Corrales to complete a conservation easement on three acres of farmland that had been owned by the same family for generations, essentially ensuring that the land will always be a farm. And now Fraction Farms can grow more great food for those in need.
“Typically, every Saturday when it’s a big harvest, what we pick will fill the entire back of a full-size truck bed. I mean baskets and baskets and baskets of food,” Zich says. “I tell everybody, my kids eat this food. They’ll walk around the farm and just eat stuff. And I don’t let anything get delivered that I wouldn’t let my kids eat.”
Fraction Farms doesn’t have the infrastructure to go directly to the folks that need the food. Instead, they work with organizations, including Joy Junction, Cuidando Los Niños and St. Felix Pantry, that already have a network of people who need help and can utilize the farm’s bounty.
“Early on, we said we can’t be everything. We’re just going to have to be a part of the donation lifecycle,” says Zich. “So we work to get the food to the organizations as quickly as possible after it’s picked, and then they distribute it from there.”
Visit Fraction Farms online for more information about the organization and how to donate or volunteer.