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NMSU ICAN program partners with on-farm cooking class program

ALBUQUERQUE – “This feels like a picnic,” said a participant in a cooking class at Chispas Farm in Albuquerque’s South Valley.


Man giving to woman
Ideas for Cooking and Nutrition program coordinator Gabriel Gaarden shares a pinch of spices with a Sprouting Kitchen cooking class participant at Chispas Farm in Albuquerque. The ICAN program is administered by New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. (NMSU photo by Jane Moorman)
Woman and man looking at paper
Sprouting Kitchen owner Fallon Bader helps Francisco Aguilar with a recipe during cooking classes at Chispas Farms in Albuquerque. Bader is partnering with New Mexico State University's Ideas for Cooking and Nutrition program to offer free farm tours and cooking classes at the South Valley farm. (NMSU photo by Jane Moorman)

Class members, ranging in age from children to senior citizens, are preparing two recipes from produce that was grown on the farm.

The class is offered through the Ideas for Cooking and Nutrition program administered by New Mexico State University’s Cooperative Extension Service. ICAN’s mission is to inspire New Mexico’s limited resource youth and adults to make healthy food and lifestyle choices.

“These are hands-on, nutrition and cooking classes taught outdoors at the farm,” said Gabriel Gaarden, ICAN program coordinator. “It is a collaboration with registered dietitian Fallon Bader, owner of Sprouting Kitchen, and Chispas Farm manager Casey Holland.”

The Saturday afternoon class gives the participants an opportunity to see where their food comes from, and take home more than just a recipe.

“This is way more than just a cooking class,” Bader said of the program she conducts at farms around Albuquerque.

When the participants arrive at the farm they are greeted by the farmer, who tells them the history of the farm and conducts a tour telling them what is grown on the property.

“When people see where the produce is coming from, it creates a connection and they are more likely to eat those fruits and vegetables,” Bader said.

Chispas Farm grows more than 120 different certified organic varieties of heirloom fruits and vegetables on four-acres of land that is just south of Bridge Street, a few city blocks west of the Rio Grande. The tour includes visiting the chickens that laid the eggs that are used in the recipe.

“I really think classes like this are powerful in ways we may not understand,” Holland said. “People are making connections with where their food comes from, and with their neighbors.”

After the tour, the group gets down to business preparing the recipes for the day.

“Our goal for the Sprouting Kitchen classes is to make cooking fruit and vegetables really fun, easy and engaging,” said Bader.

Mothers show their children how to use a knife safely as they chop the vegetables that will be in the recipes. People visit while chopping and sautéing the ingredients. Laughter is heard as old and new friends enjoy the experience.

“The best part of the class is when we serve the freshly made recipe and sit down together to eat,” said Gaarden. “It’s like a family picnic.”

As the class concludes, the participants have an opportunity to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables from the farm’s produce stand.

“Customers are able to utilize Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program EBT cards at Chispas Farm, which also participates in the New Mexico Farmer’s Marketing Association Double Up Food Bucks program,” Gaarden said.

The Double Up Food Bucks program allows the people with limited resources, which the ICAN program serves, to purchase twice as much produce for the set price.

“We hope the participants take home a new or renewed interest in cooking nutritious recipes after seeing how easy it is,” said Bader.

The Saturday afternoon class is being offered at Chispas Farm through Oct. 19. To register for a class, email thesproutingkitchen@gmail.com. To view a video about the class, visit https://www.facebook.com/IdeasForCookingAndNutrition/.