Local groups formed their own versions of “resident teams,” small groups of people representing different parts of the county who identify and share issues of health inequities in their communities. And other forms of engagement welcomed and elevated new perspectives. For instance, the Revitalize the Rio Community Initiative, organized by San Luis Valley Great Outdoors (SLV GO!), worked with community members in various neighborhoods to connect different parts of the county with the Rio Grande and public open space close to it.
Andy Rice, the City of Alamosa’s director of parks, recreation, and library, said, “Relationships matured to the point where we see one another as trusted partners.”
In 2012, the closing of a nearby mushroom farm meant unemployment, financial strain, and food insecurity for much of the county’s Guatemalan population. Guatemalan community elders Francisco Lucas and Lucia Nicolas reached out to local groups, including the San Luis Valley Local Food Coalition, the San Luis Valley Immigrant Resource Center, and the area’s Catholic parish. Together, they pulled resources, raised funds, and in 2015 formed what became the Rio Grande Farm Park, a working farm on the land of a closed school. Nestled along the river, the Farm Park has emerged as a source of food and income for more than a dozen Guatemalan families who cultivate their own plots of land, as well as a place of recreation and community for all. As residents faced food insecurity in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Farm Park launched a grant-funded farm-to-pantry program, which pays its farmers to grow fresh produce for pantries throughout the San Luis Valley region.
The Farm Park also aligns with the Healthy Eating, Active Living (HEAL) policy initiative, which was enacted in 2019 by the City of Alamosa and was the culmination of a years-long journey. In 2006, community members organized to promote improved nutrition and develop local food systems, which resulted in the HEAL plan. Recognized by the state, the initiative led Alamosa to become one of the first communities to form an outpost of Nourish Colorado, which addresses inequities in access to healthy food and physical activity, at a local health center.