New Mexico Food & Agriculture Policy Council Governing Board Candidates
in alphabetical order

The NM Food & Agriculture Policy Council (NMFAPC) is a statewide body of individuals and organizations who come together to focus on advocacy and legislative work around food and farming. Our mission is to advocate for food systems that strengthen the food and farm economies in New Mexico, and encourage and advance keeping food grown, raised, and processed in New Mexico, through support, education, and policy. Through our work we strive to enhance the health and wellness of people and communities, and to sustain natural resources.

Our Structure

Leadership and wisdom for the Council comes from all of the people who participate in its processes. The Council’s Governing Board is a responsive leadership body which helps to set the overall direction for the Council and makes sure that it fulfills its mission, vision and values. The Governing Board meets virtually on a monthly basis as well as participating on an as needed basis, particularly during the NM legislative session. 

There are a total of eight (8) positions open on the Governing Board, with a ninth position being the Immediate Past Chair. There are also seven (7) non-voting ex-officio members from governmental agencies and organizations. The ex-offico members are chosen by the Governing Board. 

We asked candidates to answer four questions: 

1. Tell us about yourself. 
2. Why would you like to serve (continue to serve) on the Governing Board of the NM Food & Agriculture Policy Council?
3. What do you see as the key challenges and opportunities facing the NM Food & Agriculture Policy Council?
4. Discuss how your experiences and expertise would contribute to the work of the Governing Board.

Leiloni Begaye
Governing Board Member

Yá’át’ééh shik’éí dóó shidine’é, Shí éí Leiloni Begaye yinishyé. Shi doone’e ei Má’dééshgiizhnii nishli, To’aheedlííníí bashishchiin, Táchíí’níí dashicheii, doo Tl’ááshchí’í dashinali. Díwózhii Biiʼ Tó déé’ naashá. Ákót’éego diné asdzáán nishłį́. Leiloni Begaye is from the Coyote Pass Jemez clan. Born for the Water Flow Together clan. Her maternal grandfather is from the Red Running into the Water clan. Her paternal grandfather is from the Red Bottom clan.

Leiloni Begaye is a Diné womxn from Dinétah, the homelands of the Diné people. Leiloni is a part of the First Nations Development Institute staff, a Native-led nonprofit, where she is based in the Albuquerque Field Office. She supports the Nourishing Native Foods & Health and Stewarding Native Lands program by providing financial support, training and technical assistance and networking opportunities. 

Leiloni would like to continue to serve on the Governing Board to be an advocate and support communities for healthy ecosystems. She has extensive knowledge in rangeland management, with her background she supports Native ranchers with their development of Conservation Plans, and provides technical assistance out in the field for data inventory (i.e. identifying range plants, range health, etc.). Her work would benefit the Governing Board to empower the youth to learn policy in their field of expertise and pass down intergenerational knowledge

Clark de Schweinitz
Governing Board Member

Tell us about yourself. I have been here in New Mexico for 50 years working on community  development efforts that seem to characterize the current direction of  the Policy Council. For most of those years I was an attorney for Northern NM Legal Services program, a non-profit that represented low -income persons and their groups. Early on I assisted, along with many others, in the emerging farmers market movement providing, when called upon, legal questions and drafting materials for various markets and their support organizations.  I spent several years as an advocate for small farm and farmers in the State Legislature for Farm to Table. The farmers market movement has matured but the issues of providing nutritious, local NM produce to the institutions and the public continue as a significant purpose of the Policy Council.

Why would you like to serve on the Governing Board of NMFAPC? I would like to serve again on the Governance Board (I was on it for many years in the beginning) and would participate with my skills and experience, honed over the years, especially as the Policy Council faces the future with different challenges.

What do you see as the key challenges and opportunities facing NMFAPC? I think the recent strategic plan lays out many of the challenges and I would participate in the implementation of that plan with the current leadership of the Council.  One specific challenge is, in my opinion, the enlargement of the membership but doing so with the idea of maintaining the underlying consensus that has characterized the Policy Council thus far. It seems to me that what we have termed generally as ‘NM agriculture’ will be going through some major shifts and the Policy Council will need to assert itself in these shifts and yet maintain that underlying consensus.

Discuss how your experiences and expertise would contribute to the work of the Governing Board. My experience as an attorney (though I am now retired) and advocate should be helpful.  My expertise may need some updating, but working in conjunction of the other Governance Board members should be good way to do this. I also chair and member of the Farm to Table Board, which if the formal sponsor of the Policy Council and would be allow for fuller communications between the two organization

Lawrence D. Gallegos
Governing Board Vice Chair 

Tell us about yourself. Lawrence D. Gallegos is the AGUA Coordinator for the National Latino Farmers and Ranchers and the NM Field Organizer for the Western Landowners Alliance.  Lawrence grew up in Taos and has spent a significant portion of his career in the San Luis Valley of southern Colorado before re-locating with his family to Santa Fe. He is the sixth generation to run his family’s ranch.  

Lawrence has had the good fortune to gain knowledge and experience from 30 years of ranching, while simultaneously serving 12 years as the County Clerk and Recorder in Conejos County Co.  He also served on more than ten different boards of directors during his career, including one term on the NMFAPC.   

Why would you like to continue to serve on the Governing Board of NMFAPC? Lawrence would like to serve one more term on the NMFAPC to help move legislation that the Council has been supporting and to help implement the strategic plan that we have been working on for over a year.  He knows that there will be opportunities during the next few years because of the tremendous amounts of money that are going to be coming through legislation that passed to address climate change.  

What do you see as the key challenges and opportunities facing NMFAPC? These resources will also bring challenges in making sure that the projects and programs that are set up to mitigate the affects of climate change are implemented in the most efficient ways possible.  

Discuss how your experiences and expertise would contribute to the work of the Governing Board. Lawrence has been working for decades on issues that contribute to climate change which makes him uniquely ready to help meet the needs of rural communities now and in the future. Lawrence’s knowledge and experience in agriculture, water management, and how government works will only be an asset to NMFAPC for two more years!

Helga Garcia-Garza
Governing Board Chair

Helga Garza, Executive Director of Agri-Cultura Network (ACN), a South Valley of Albuquerque farmer owned cooperative is the largest cooperative & Network in New Mexico. The network is inclusive of 51 allied farms from urban and rural Rio Grande communities committed to sustainable and regenerative growing methods. Helga is inspired by justice, guided by her ancestral ceremonial agricultural calendar. She is engaging the community through a holistic generational approach in developing a sustainable food system for New Mexico. Helga Garza is committed to the development of a small scale farmer & ranching economy. By developing community driven markets that strengthen and build assets of local farmers while preserving New Mexico’s historic culture and traditional agriculture.  Helga is leading efforts that have increased equitable access to healthy local food, by removing structural barriers such as price, availability, policy climate, and increasing nutritional knowledge through curriculum development of a holistic family-based wellness program that is bilingual, culturally relevant, and community based.  Through these efforts Helga Garza is building the capacity of New Mexico’s urban and rural farmers ability to keep production local through an effective farm to market system. Helga is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Leader Alumni, Castanea Fellow 2020 – 2021, Chair Governing Board of the New Mexico Food and Agricultural Policy Council and Board President of South Valley Main St.  

Serving as Chair of the Governing Board these past two years I have learned what it takes to lead such a group of dynamic and committed leaders within our food system. It has been a difficult journey with many challenges to the process of food systems change work.  As Governing Board Chair I engage and collaborate with others along the value food chain on developing effective strategy.  I feel I have been responsible for the space I hold as  Chair of the NMFAPC leading efforts in securing funding from the Natural Resource Defense Council for the racial equity training.  And moving forward with strategic planning.  I would like to continue in developing and navigating these important infrastructure to the longevity of the NMFAPC as we continue to lead efforts in collaboration & coordination of food systems policy advocacy.

Challenges and opportunities lay with our ability to stay strong and committed to our governing values and guiding principles we have established for the NMFAPC.  Hold strong & committed by action to addressing inequities and historical bias within our food system in New Mexico  and move forward with diligence to equity, diversity & inclusion as we navigate the legislative arena at the state & federal levels as we enter into very important Farm Bill legislation in 2023.

As executive director of the largest cooperative & network of small scale organic farmers, I feel I have the leadership skills it takes to navigate complex and effective food policy advocacy. 


Samantha Hilborn
Governing Board Secretary

Tell us about yourself. Samantha works for Rodale Institute as their New Mexico Organic Farm Consultant. She helps farmers transition to certified organic across much of the Southwestern US. She is born and raised in New Mexico and is from the Pueblos of Laguna (enrolled member) and Acoma. Samantha has a M.S. in Horticulture and Agronomy with a specialization in plant breeding from University of California-Davis and a B.S. in Horticulture from New Mexico State University. 

Why would you like to serve on the Governing Board of NMFAPC? I would like to serve on the Governing Board because it’s important to push forward legislature and policy in an equitable and sustainable way. Engaging the people who are part of the food system in New Mexico (and beyond) is important to me and I bring that passion to the governing board.

What do you see as the key challenges and opportunities facing NMFAPC? A key challenge is providing access to fresh, culturally appropriate, and fairly priced ingredients to NM residents. Building and changing policy around this is challenging due many actors working together and differing opinions on how it should be implemented. 

A massive opportunity is the 2023 Farm Bill. We are in a position where a lot of things can move forward because it dictates what happens over the next five years. 

Discuss how your experiences and expertise would contribute to the work of the Governing Board.

Over the past few months, I have been part of the inaugural NM Policy Mentor Cohort. I helped to prepare the new cohort members for meetings with NM Senators and Representatives through understanding advocacy work, developing priorities and their stories. This experience has given me a better understanding of how the Policy Council operates and our priorities.

I bring expertise in the organic field to the governing board through my own work and Rodale’s work. I have colleagues based across the US and through them I can see what others are doing in other areas of the US. 

Eugene Pickett
Governing Board Member

Tell us about yourself. As an advocate for Small Farmers and Ranchers I work with several Organizations in bringing these concerns to the forefront Locally and Nationally. Currently to that end I serve as the Deputy Director of the National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association, a Member of the Organic Trade Associations Farm Advisory Council and a contributing Member of Forum for the Future.

Why would you like to continue to serve on the Governing Board of NMFAPC? I would like to continue serving as a Governing Board Member in order to complete much of the work indicated over the past two years. I would enjoy being given the opportunity to implement and finish what we started.

What do you see as the key challenges and opportunities facing NMFAPC? I am thinking that food systems development and access to clean water, healthy soil & feeding marginalized New Mexicans will be the basis of our major challenges.

Discuss how your experiences and expertise would contribute to the work of the Governing Board. 
My background as an advocate for Historically Discriminated Against communities has given the passion for continuing the path for this work. I will bring a passion for achieving inclusion on a policy level that creates that seat at the table for those communities.  

Anthony Wagner
Governing Board Member

Tell us about yourself. Born and raised in Corrales, New Mexico.  Graduate of the University of New Mexico with a BBA in Accounting.  Retired from Sandia National Laboratories in 2016 after 30 years.

I am a 4th generation farmer from Corrales. My family has been growing fruits & vegetables in the middle Rio Grande valley for over 100 years.  We farm in Corrales and Socorro. We have been involved with the NM Grown Program since 2010 providing fresh fruits and vegetables to over 10 school districts and senior centers.  We have a farm stand, cafe, and open our farm to annual events such as festivals, corn maizes, u-pick produce, as well as other farm activities.

I bring experience on the ground as a farmer to the group dealing with real-time farm issues.

Why would you like to continue to serve on the Governing Board of NMFAPC? I have enjoyed being part of a team (4 years on Governing Board & over 10  years as a member of the NM Food & Ag Policy Council) addressing issues pertaining to local food & agricultural systems here in New Mexico.

What do you see as the key challenges and opportunities facing NMFAPC? This year we have been dealing with the Strategic Plan, federal policy work, getting the Cohort Mentoring program off the ground. We are providing recommendations to the Farm Bill and Child Nutrition Reauthorization this coming year.  We have the 60-day session with our Legislative priorities coming up. I have issues I’m interested in such as the Drought – Water, Seed Sovereignty, addressing Hunger, etc, Healthy Soils, Access to USDA Programs.

Discuss how your experiences and expertise would contribute to the work of the Governing Board.  I have been working on issues pertaining to the NM Ag & Policy Council for the last 4 years.  I bring my experience as a farmer to the group. I have been advocating for food & agriculture systems and policy at the legislature the last several years

Chili Yazzie
Governing Board Member

Tell us about yourself. My name is Chili Yazzie, I live in Shiprock, NM. I work on our family farm, and in collaboration with other farmers we aggregate our produce to sell to farmers markets and schools and businesses. I volunteer as Director for our community farmers’ collective Toohnii Binaneestˀąˀ Ałtaasˀéí  Alliance (ToohBAA). Our name translation is “the many and varied produce grown by water edge people.” 

I have been married to Betsy for 47 years, we have 3 children, 10 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren. I am retired after 45 years in public administration in elective and administrative work with the Navajo Nation. 

Bio: Chili’s Diné clans are Ashiihi’ (salt), Toh aheleeni` (confluence of waters), Kinyaani (towering house), Tacheeni (red across the forehead) and his children are Taabahe’ (water edge people). He touts his credentials as grandpa, farmer and Earth Defender. It has been his lifelong work advocating for Indigenous human rights and fighting the greedy exploitation of our Earth Mother. Chili is concerned with the health of the Earth and the condition of world we leave our grandchildren.  

Why would you like to serve on the Governing Board of NMFAPC? To achieve our vision to impact food insecurity, we need resources and greater collaboration with people and entities of like intent. With my NMFAPC affiliation, we will be better informed to access available resources to help us in our work. 

What do you see as the key challenges and opportunities facing NMFAPC? The great challenge to the work of NMFAPC is the sheer extent of need and limitation of resources. The opportunity we have is the collective vision building based on our real-life experiences. Further to share information on our limited resources and to work to effect needed changes to marshal the resources we need to do our work.

What do you see as the key challenges and opportunities facing NMFAPC? As a farmer I understand what must happen to achieve food adequacy for all our peoples; I can contribute to the discussions for the changes that must be made in government and pertinent industrial circles to optimize our food production efforts. I also bring awareness of Indigenous Ecological Knowledge which is rooted in the intrinsic relationship we have with the earth and the powerful forces of nature that allows us to grow life so we can feed the people.