Jesus Flores, Farm Manager: Jesus is a lifelong farmer and farmworker. Jesus brings great love and knowledge of agriculture to the farm park. He is skilled in vegetable production, irrigation, soil health, and caring for bees.
Amber Middleton, Development Director: Amber has returned to the Local Foods Coalition after two years back in Wisconsin, where she coordinated 2-1-1 Wisconsin and planned a statewide AmeriCorps program for United Way of Wisconsin. Previously, Amber served as an AmeriCorps VISTA for the Rio Grande Farm Park, where she built capacity by fundraising, developing systems, and growing the volunteer program. So far in Amber’s career, she has gained experience in community engagement, volunteer management, national service programming, emergency and disaster preparedness, database management, and data analytics. When Amber isn’t building capacity for small nonprofits, you can find her volunteering with local animal shelters and libraries, hiking and enjoying the outdoors, or weaving a new tapestry.
Seth Armentrout, Project Coordinator: Seth will help oversee the sprouting of projects at the Rio Grande Farm Park, including construction of new facilities and supporting those who come to learn, work, and create. Seth joins the Local Foods Coalition after working with smallholder farmers in the mid hills region of Nepal as a Peace Corps volunteer. Though the pandemic abruptly ended his service abroad, he is thankful to continue supporting rural communities in their visions for thriving local food systems embedded in local culture and history. He returns to his home state eager to learn from the people and places of the San Luis Valley. Seth graduated with a degree in Political Economy from Tulane University. His experience includes climate communications, youth development, and projects with local, state, and federal agencies. His dreams include bats, fly fishing, songwriting, and carrots of all shapes and sizes.
Christina Riccardo, Alpine Achievers Education Coordinator: Christina grew up in the lush and vibrant Pacific Northwest — just outside the city of Seattle, WA. Her adventurous spirit and desire to learn eventually led her to serve as an AmeriCorps member with Alpine Achievers Initiative. She served at Alamosa Elementary K-2 as a teacher’s aid and offered academic support for small groups of students. The community here in the San Luis Valley absolutely stole her heart and she accepted an offer to serve a second term with AAI. This time around she will be serving at the Rio Grande Farm Park, helping with the planning and implementation of programming for the brand new education center! Christina is so excited to bring her passion for empowering youth and her love of the land to the RGFP. When she won’t be covered in dirt at her service site, you can find Christina at the local thrift store, hula hooping in the park, reading about edible and medicinal plants, or cheffing up mac n’ cheese in the backcountry!
Liz Breckbill, Land and Education Coordinator: Liz is from Kidron Ohio, and went to College at Goshen College in Goshen Indiana. During college she studied environmental science with a specific focus on earth and climate science, and a minor in accounting. During her time at Goshen she was involved in choir and participated on the women’s volleyball team. In her free time she enjoys listening to music, and learning about different cultures and languages. She enjoys spending time outside and making connections with those around her. Liz will be a member of the farm park crew for the next year.
Liza Marron, Director-San Luis Valley Local Foods Coalition: Liza is the founding director of the San Luis Valley Local Foods Coalition in rural southern Colorado. She has been a community organizer with a focus on social justice, wellness, and prevention for many years. Ms. Marron has a Master’s Degree in Community Counseling and a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish. Her skill set includes grant writing, government, visioning, and strategic planning, non-profit management, finance, coalition building, economic development, education, fundraising, public speaking, and managing a budget. She serves on the Community Advisory Council for LiveWell Colorado, the Community Advisory Board of the Rocky Mountain Prevention Research Center, the Mountain Valley School Board President, the Treasurer of The Saguache County Sustainable Environment and Economic Development and is the Treasurer of the Valley Food Coop Board.
Ally Jean Arnold, Outreach Coordinator: Ally Jean is from Washington State. She studied Conservation Biology and has always been passionate about protecting our environment. She loves mountain sports, the ocean, and singing. She believes that local action is critical for building the grassroots movement we need to make real change.
Francisco Lucas, Farm Liaison: Francisco has been involved as a farmer and community leader with the Rio Grande Farm Park since the start of the program. He is the Outreach Coordinator and Farm Liaison for the Rio Grande Farm Park and has been since 2015. He founded Espiritu Maya, which works to preserve the health, agriculture, and spiritual culture of the over 400 members of the Guatemalan community in Alamosa. Francisco also works full-time for Trinidad State Community College, presents issues and represents the Guatemalan community throughout the country, is a member of the Advisory Council of Conamigua working for the rights of immigrants and refugees in Guatemala and the United States, serves on the Board of Alamosa’s Immigrant Resource Center, and is a council member for the Pastoral Mayan Project.
Land Use Action Group (LUAG)
The Land Use Action Group is made up of RGFP staff and committed community stakeholders to make decisions about using our resources at the Farm Park responsibly. The team is currently made up of Jesus Flores, RGFP Farm Manager; Addelina Lucero, RGFP Program Director; Patrick O’Neill of Soil Health Services; and Dr. Bill Brinton, long-time supporter of RGFP, as well as the two RGFP long-term volunteers. The group meets monthly to discuss and plan land management strategies related to water and irrigation, cover crops, compost, RGFP workdays, capital projects, security, and more.
Dr. Bill Brinton: Dr. Brinton came to Alamosa to work with Valley-Wide Health Systems, earning his medical degree from the University of Colorado Denver, School of Medicine in 1979. He and his partner Kristina Steinberg are huge advocates for the Rio Grande Farm Park, believing that the organization offers a new kind of economic self-reliance for the community. Dr. Brinton is a quintessential volunteer, donating at least 10 hours of his time a week during the RGFP growing season.
Patrick O’Neill: A soil expert from Soil Health Services, Patrick is a valuable source of knowledge for the Rio Grande Farm Park staff.
Rio Grande Farmers Cooperative
Antonio Garcia, President: Antonio is a retired contractor/owner of A&J Solar, which specialized in sustainable adobe buildings. Currently, he is a Rio Grande Farm Park farmer, at-home gardener, and owner of Tierra Sana Organic Produce, who uses organic high-altitude practices with native non-GMO San Luis Valley seeds. Antonio is a passionate advocate for providing healthy organic food to the community. (Photo by Brennan Cira)
CaRi ConaRi: CaRi grows organic herbs for her tea business, InfiniTea. She also grows produce for the Farm to Pantry Program. (Photo by Gabrielle Fleming)
Anselmo & Jorge Gonzales: The brothers each have their own plot and actively participate in Farm Park programs for farmers. (Photo by Brennan Cira)
Francisco Sebastian: Besides growing produce at the Farm Park since 2016 for his business “Francisco’s Fresh Vegetables,” Francisco has been working for White Mountain Farms and White Rock Specialty since 1997. He has been selling at farmers markets for more than 18 years. (Photo by Carmille Garcia)
Eulalia: My name is Eulalia and I am from Guatemala. I am 67 years old and growing and cultivating for me is a way of life. I grew up gardening organic food as long as I can remember and I continue to grow that way. We always ate organic vegetables so I encourage our community to eat organic produce to stay healthy. The plants I like harvesting the most are all the different types of beans!
Mauricio Velasquez: My name is Mauricio and my family and I are orginally from Guatemala. We are a people who like to cultivate. I have been farming at the Rio Grande Farm Park since it’s inception, but this is my first year farming on the commercial plots. Overall my family and I are accustomed to farming and the way of life that it brings. For us, it is a familial endeavor, and we strive to keep our children eating well and more importantly organic as it prevents disease, a major problem in the current food system.