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Former state senator introduces us to enterprising New Mexicans who are making a difference at street level

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — “Another Way Forward – Grassroots Solutions from New Mexico” is Dede Feldman’s new book about a new world in which fearless New Mexicans – ordinary people – are making extraordinary things happen.

Dede Feldman discusses, signs “Another Way Forward” at 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 1, at Bookworks, 4022 Rio Grande NW.
She will also talk about the book at 2 p.m. Feb. 24 at Mama’s Minerals, 800 20th NW, Suite B. With her will be representatives of two of the projects in the book — Wild Friends and Bosque Ecosystem Monitoring Program.

These self-motivated folks are using “collaboration, networks, teams and communities” to find innovative ways to achieve grassroots solutions to broad public issues.

It’s part of what Feldman’s book calls “a new vision of development.”

“All these people have to be what I call social entrepreneurs, do team building, be people with big ideas. They also have to be advocates, to lobby for funds. Funds are hard to come by,” she said.

Their objectives include taking health care to underserved rural communities, organizing organic farms, building affordable housing, according to Feldman’s book.

Their ideas have been germinating out of the New Mexico soil, literally and figuratively, and taking them forward to find sustaining solutions, she said.

These are some of the entrepreneurs Feldman identifies in her book:

• Max Ramirez, a “hell-raiser” who fought the sawdust-produced pollution in Albuquerque’s Sawmill neighborhood. His fight galvanized neighbors. Community activism broadened, leading to creation of the Sawmill Community Land Trust that repurposed the neighborhood with housing and businesses.

• Alan Marks, a lawyer-turned teacher who took his Rio Grande High School students to visit the top colleges in the country, showing them that attending some of the best schools in the country can be more than a dream.

• Don Bustos, an organic farmer in the Española Valley who is a nationally recognized leader in farmers-training-farmers. He was involved in the early days of the Santa Fe Farmers Market and started the Agri-Cultura Network in Bernalillo County’s South Valley.

• Charlie Alfero, a Silver City musician who’s revolutionized rural health care in southwestern New Mexico through the pioneering concept of promotoras (community health workers) and developed Hidalgo Medical Services into a “medical home,” where “patient need come first and prevention is part of the package.”

Feldman learned of many of these projects while representing a North Valley district in the New Mexico Senate for 16 years.

“I know there were promising projects going on all over New Mexico,” Feldman said. “Some of these projects we turned down (in the legislature),” she said.

But Feldman had been keeping notes on many of these unfunded but worthwhile projects before she had left the Legislature in 2016.

Another impetus for “Another Way Forward” was Fred Harris’ book “New Mexico – 2050,” which she said “was a status report on where we’re at now and where we’re going to be in 2050 if nothing happens, and recommendations for policy changes to forestall this crisis.”

The success stories Feldman has written about are inspirational blueprints for others. The end of each chapters has summaries of the issues addressed in that chapter; and there’s contact information for readers to volunteer, partner with or obtain resources the organizations provide.