New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman has been applying much his energy to the world of food politics of late, and on a recent trip to the American Southwest he payed Food and Community Fellow Rebecca Wiggins-Reinhard, her colleagues and the young farmers of La Semilla Food Center a visit.

La Semilla (meaning “the seed”), where Wiggins-Reinhard acts as Farm Fresh Director, is an organization based in the Paso del Norte region of Texas and New Mexico. It’s an organization that does it all--from community building to recovery of cultural traditions, from youth education to food policy solutions.

Bittman, who writes about his visit in his latest post for the Times,  spoke with three of the young women who have been working with La Semilla. There, he “found an inspiring sense of self-determination, an insistence that for a community and a region to change it must become more self-sufficient.” As is true in many parts of the modern world, the challenge of regional self-sufficiency less one of invention than of rediscovery; Bittman notes that, for all the apparently harsh aridity of the Paso del Norte area, “with the right conditions, you can grow anything...as people once did.”

Beyond the recovery of the “Raíces de Tradición y Salud” (roots of tradition and health) those at La Semilla also recognize that a self-sustaining food system also requires the surmounting of new, 21st-century problems. What makes their work so unique is that they aren’t shy about trusting young people with the weighty responsibility of this challenge. For one thing, La Semilla is hosting a member of the first-ever class of FoodCorps volunteers,  a new branch of AmeriCorps dedicated to sustainable food and youth work. Rebecca Wiggins-Reinhard also co-facilitates a Youth Food Policy Council in the area, where young people are more than mere students of sustainable food--they are encouraged to become critical systems thinkers, problem solvers and leaders of the future of the food movement. 

Mark Bittman, for one, finds the land, youth, and collaborators at La Semilla inspiring. Of their fertile patch of desert, he writes: “That land is a symbol — and soon will be a tangible example — of the next generation beginning to shape its own food system.”