Breaking The Cycle

The “Love the People, Feed the People of Las Cruces” campaign, sponsored by Chihuahuan Desert Charities, has begun!  The campaign will run until October 1st. Proceeds will support the DYGUP & SUSTAIN Program at Legacy Farm.

Doña Ana struggles with improving child well-being, particularly around poverty and health.  39% of children in Doña Ana live in poverty. (USDA Economic Research Service). The youth participating in our programs learn skills integral to adult lives, creating ambition and curiosity, helping boost academic performance.  Extracurricular participation in activities is linked with higher grades and graduation rates. College admissions offices tend to give preference to students who have prolific resumes demonstrating their engagement outside of school. Careers in agriculture are diverse and widespread, which means that the opportunities provided can allow graduates to quickly move into related higher education pathways or pursue agricultural jobs directly after high school.

In Doña Ana, unemployment, childhood hunger, access to healthy food, and diet-related diseases are at unacceptable levels.  Obesity, heart disease, and diabetes are a few of the problems associated with poor nutrition. These issues affect not only the individual but the community as a whole, impacting everything from health care costs to worker productivity to quality of life. Food environment has a direct impact on health.  Our programs ensure access to healthy food, improving the health outcomes of the community.

It's clear that agriculture, done right, is the best means the world has today to simultaneously tackle food security, poverty, and environmental degradation.” --
Irene Rosenfeld


NM Organizations Face Food Insecurity

Substantial evidence shows the growth of local food purchasing positively impacts the local economy in a variety of ways. Local food systems have the potential to positively impact the local economy.  Local food systems will inevitably retain more revenue within a region than conventional purchasing. A greater percentage of each dollar will remain in Doña Ana County. In this way, a healthy local food system will foster the regional economic development

Doña Ana County is presented with several difficult community challenges including high rates of poverty, hunger, malnutrition, and a poor food system.  Poor student achievement in the STEM fields, and environmental conservation issues that threaten water, soil health, and biodiversity. In Doña Ana County 39% of children live in extreme poverty compared to 27% in New Mexico and 21% of children nationwide (Kids Count Data Book 2017). The City of Las Cruces has a population made up of 57.2% Hispanic, making it a minority-majority city, with 53% of students considered economically disadvantaged. Doña Ana County, has 28% of the population in poverty, which is significantly lower than the state, making this an economically disadvantaged community within the state (Kids Count Data Book 2017). This extreme poverty goes hand in hand with food insecurity, and in New Mexico, 1 in 4 children struggle with hunger (Gundersen 2017). Las Cruces is located within a known "food desert," which is a region where residents don't have access to plentiful, nutritious, and affordable food. Las Cruces and Doña Ana County suffer the challenges and that has resulted in high rates of malnutrition, obesity, and increased health disparities in the region including increased rates of diabetes, heart disease, and cancers (Aguilar 2016).

New Mexico consistently ranks at the bottom of student achievement, sinking to 49th in the nation in quality of education according to Education Weeks (2017) study, giving NM a D- grade. In New Mexico, 78% and 79% of eighth graders are below proficient in math and science respectively (NAEP 2017). These are dismal prospects for the future success of New Mexico since the "future economic success and quality of our workforce are determined by the opportunities our children have today" (Kids Count Data Book 2017).

The average person is still under the aberrant delusion that food should be somebody else's responsibility until I'm ready to eat it.” ― Joel Salatin

The DYGUP & SUSTAIN program addresses all of these issues through the lenses of regenerative agriculture and using 21st Century STEM skills. You will contribute to improved education outcomes for economically disadvantaged children, providing STEM education to economically disadvantaged children, support economically disadvantaged students prepare for success in post-secondary educational institutions, and support responsible stewardship of the environment, protect clean air and water and provide an opportunity for improving physical activity and nutrition in youth. During the academic year (35 weeks) students will attend the program during normal school hours for 1.5-hour classes one to two days a week. During the summer semester (10 weeks) students will attend the program for 4 hours a day, 5 days per week during the morning when temperatures are cool enough to work outside (8am-12pm). Students receive course credit for participation in the program and teachers have a way to enrich classroom learning. The community farm will produce healthy food, as part of the program, which will be donated to the Food Pantry at the First Christian Church, El Caldito Soup Kitchen, and used in the local area school lunch program to help combat hunger, malnutrition, and improve access to fresh healthy foods for vulnerable members of our community.

The program provides 392 hours of hands-on training, reaching 88 economically disadvantaged high-school students, a day for student to showcase lessons learned to the public. The short-term outcomes include increased knowledge, skills, and tools for regenerative agriculture and STEM topics, increased ability to effectively communicate scientific concepts & ideas, engagement in physical activity and improved nutrition in youth, increased understanding of natural resource preservation, including water and soil. Medium-term outcomes include increased interest and enthusiasm towards STEM topics and regenerative agriculture, increased willingness to participate in agriculture and environmental conservation, and increased willingness to adopt healthy food practices; while long-term outcomes include meaningful knowledge retention of students, increased food security in the community, enhanced conservation of biodiversity, water, and soil health, sustainable ecosystems for agriculture and wildlife, and to create an informed capable citizenry.

The DYGUP/Sustain Program, managed by Shahid Mustafa and Rachael Ryan, is closely aligned with the population, setting, and approaches used in the studies cited.  Shahid (Program Director) is an experienced cooperative business coach and a regenerative organic farming educator. Shahid also operates Taylor Hood Farm, a thriving organic certified farm, and community space.  Rachael (Assistant Program Director) is an experienced STEM educator, research scientist, and owner of Backyard Farms LC.  In 2017 she joined the DYGUP & SUSTAIN Program team to pursue a vision of improving agriculture and food systems in the Paso del Norte Region.

The DYGUP/ Sustain Program has many partnerships in the community including Taylor Hood Farms, Backyard Farms, First Christian Church, and Las Cruces High-School.

The DYGUP & SUSTAIN Program needs your support to overcome barriers to their growth. A program so successful in its mission deserves funding to ensure long-term stability. Invest right away in DYGUP & SUSTAIN on the internet at

For more information read our Press Release