Land trust dinner offers harvest fare
The Rio Grande Agricultural Land Trust’s annual harvest dinner, scheduled for Sept. 16 at Albuquerque’s Los Poblanos Inn, is one of New Mexico’s top gastronomic events this year. This benefits a home-grown campaign to preserve family farms and ranches, according to RGALT Executive Director and local organic farmer Ceilia Rosacker-McCord.
“The dinner supports a huge part of the land trust’s operating expenses,” McCord said. “We have a very low budget. I’m the only staff member, and I work part-time out of my house. I work on grant proposals to purchase conservation easements and I work with state and federal policy makers.”
Last year, the dinner, sponsorships and auction netted around $15,000, McCord said.
All of the products for the dinner are donated by New Mexico producers, and staff from some of Albuquerque’s top restaurants donate their time and expertise, she said.
“It’s an opportunity to showcase New Mexico-grown products and to connect with people interested in conserving agricultural land,” she said, adding she expects about 160 people at the event.
Socorro County chile, poultry, fruit and vegetables will be featured, as well as products from around the state, she said.
Tickets for the dinner can be purchased online at www.rgalt.org or by calling (505) 884-6557. Last year was a sell out, so it’s a good idea to buy tickets now, McCord said.
Patrons will also have an opportunity to bid on products and services during the auctions.
“This year we are auctioning off a sweet acoustic guitar, lots of memberships to spas, stays at casinos and (bed and breakfasts), artwork and top-end Native American jewelry,” said RGALT Treasurer Kathy Albrecht, a San Antonio, N.M. resident.
Because of its agricultural focus, there will be New Mexico produced edible products featured as well — lambs, possibly one of RGALT President Mark Cortner’s pigs, and coupon books for meals from Albuquerque restaurants, she said.
Recently, RGALT was awarded a one million dollar National Wetlands Conservation Act grant to protect more than 600 acres of wetlands just north of the Bosque del Apache Refuge, McCord said.
“That doesn’t give RGALT money,” she said. “All of the money goes to landowners.”
RGALT’s mission is to preserve agricultural land by helping land owners obtain conservation easements on their property, Albrecht said.
A conservation easement is a legal agreement between the landowner and a land trust to keep all or most of the land in agriculture forever, she said.
Conservation easements do not restrict landowners from selling their land nor passing it on to their heirs, nor do they prohibit owners from setting aside parts of the land for homes or farm-related buildings. But the easement prevents the land from being converted in the future to non-agricultural uses, such as parking lots, subdivisions, or stores.
In exchange for relinquishing development rights, land owners qualify for federal and New Mexico tax credits, which can be sold for cash.
“You don’t have to pay property taxes anymore. Plus you can get cash back, because people with lots of New Mexico tax obligations want to buy your tax credit,” Albrecht said. “Cissy McCord was instrumental in working with the New Mexico legislature to make the tax credit saleable.”
RGALT is one of five New Mexico land trusts, but the only one based in Socorro, according to the RGALT website.