Where: Mora, Mora County, New Mexico

Issue: Small, rural communities lack capacity for economic development

Outcome: Collaborative Visions, a BRE local sponsor, helps start local businesses and expand existing farms’ business

Mora County residents are very concerned about their land and its pristine location at the head of five watersheds. Climate change, extreme drought, imminent catastrophic forest fires, and the incursion of oil and gas corporations all threaten the health of the watersheds and the local people. Mora County’s population of 5,000 is very low-income, primarily Hispanic and Native American descent, and geographically isolated.

In 2013, RCAC established its Building Rural Economies (BRE) program with three aims: increase local entrepreneurship and jobs; develop catalytic projects that seed additional investments; and develop a supportive, entrepreneurial environment for economic development to thrive. The BRE strategy concentrates on local resources, markets and opportunities, and then builds a network of leaders, entrepreneurs and support around these assets.

RCAC worked with the town of Mora’s citizens through the BRE initiative to develop an action plan, objectives and timeframes. With local leaders, RCAC helped to formulate a three-part strategic plan focused on economic development and land use priorities. Additionally, RCAC helped to develop the Mora Watershed Alliance, which showcases the community’s land-based values and water-centric quality of life to invigorate entrepreneurship and job development.

In Mora, the local BRE sponsor, Collaborative Visions, has used BRE strategies to support the development of eight new businesses raising chickens and selling eggs, four new businesses selling grass-fed beef, launched three new bed and breakfast inns, expanded seven farms to include beekeeping and expanded five outfitting businesses. In addition, the nonprofit organization received a $152,000 grant from U.S. Department of Agriculture to support cooperative development efforts.

The Mora cooperative is featured in a video on RCAC’s website, here: