Kate Manchester, owner and publisher of Edible Santa Fe, and Vicki Pozzebon, former executive director of the Santa Fe Alliance, have been working in partnership with the Rio Grande Community Development Corp. on a new project. The goal is to create a membership organization that helps local food entrepreneurs launch and grow their businesses.

Ultimately, members will create a brand with the working name of Delicious New Mexico.
Kate conceived of the project after a visit to Colorado-based Naturally Boulder, whose goal is to support new businesses and encourage them to stay local. Impressed by the quantity of successful natural products emerging from the company, she felt inspired to establish the same kind of business model in New Mexico.

SFR: What services will Delicious New Mexico provide for its members?
Kate Manchester: We will provide an incubator experience if needed. We will provide resources and tools for food entrepreneurs to launch their businesses, and connect existing business members to larger markets.
We will also provide networking opportunities throughout the state for our community of food entrepreneurs, mentorship opportunities, better buying power for things like packaging or commodities not available locally—like sugar. We want to create a set of best practices that go with the brand.

What are the benefits of creating a brand for New Mexico food products?
Having a recognized brand that has a strong and recognizable set of values behind it has huge value. We want to foster an emotional relationship between our members and the consumers who care about delicious food—particularly food from New Mexico. This relationship will make them more inclined to buy our brand, and to seek out other products that bear our brand, or try new products even though they may be unfamiliar with them.

How do we grow the market for locally produced food?
Several ways. Education is one; this conversation around local food is mainstream today. When I launched Edible Santa Fe six years ago, it most definitely was not. We now have a better educated
consumer, who is demanding better food. We read about it in all of our local and national media. People know that local food is better food for 100 different reasons—not the least of which is that it tastes better if it’s fresher and in season and eaten within a day or two of being plucked from the earth.

Communication is another. Social media has played a part; thousands upon thousands  of people are participating in and observing these conversations. The consumer is driving demand.

Things often get stuck in meeting and planning: do you have a solid plan for movement? What’s your first task?
I agree. The beauty of working with a small, results-oriented team that has a solid work ethic and strong skill set is that we are all deadline driven. We started this project in February, created a timeline and got to work on the business plan. We will be ready to launch, complete with logo, website and membership structure, as early as August or September.

All of our team members (Vicki Pozzebon, Brandon Stamm, Tim Nisly and Tony Gallegos) have spent too many hours in meetings for potential projects that all felt like good ideas but never went anywhere. We are all excited about the project, and we are all excited to have the opportunity to work together on something that could benefit the local food community and New Mexico.