The results of a workshop at La Semilla on how to produce herb infused cooking oil. (April Lopez/

La Semilla Food Center — planting the seeds of sustainable agriculture in the borderland

EL PASO — Almost four years ago, founders of La Semilla Food Center went on a mission to build a more sustainable and self-reliant food system in the El Paso-Las Cruces, NM, border region. In 2010, Aaron Sharratt, Cristina Dominguez-Eshelman, and Rebecca Wiggins-Reinhard created a small community garden in Anthony, New Mexico. Today they farm land, create policy to help local farmers, and organize numerous community outreach programs.

“They took on a task that seems monumental to me, but because people in our region are so unfamiliar with food justice issues and food systems. It takes a lot of education,” said Catherine Yanez, La Semilla Program and Outreach Coordinator. “We’ve already seen a difference in the people that we’re engaging; we’re seeing that light bulb turn on.”

Within their community outreach programs, La Semilla hosts many youth projects. And through them La Semilla has engaged more than 800 local children.

A committee of UTEP faculty and students and the Future Leaders in Public Relations organization produced La Estrella Film Festival. (April Lopez/

La Estrella Film Festival promotes borderland student films

EL PASO – Aspiring filmmakers from across the border region participated in December in the inaugural launch of La Estrella Film Festival, an event created to celebrate and showcase local student talent. “It’s great because maybe as students we just don’t feel we’re prepared to compete in a larger market,” said Arturo Rubio, who won first place in the commercial category. “So this being right at our back door, it gives more motivation to put yourself out there in the future.”

A committee of faculty and students and the Future Leaders in Public Relations organization produced the event, held December 7 at the University of Texas at El Paso Union Cinema. The festival received over 100 film submissions and 22 were screened. Bobby Gutierrez, senior lecturer in the UTEP Department of Communication, conceived the idea for the student film festival and aimed to create a larger platform for local filmmakers to show off their talent.

Creative Kids: ten years motivating youth through art and more

EL PASO — When Andrea Ingle invited her husband Stephen to teach her special education class at Canutillo Middle School with the little left over art supplies she had, the couple had no idea it would lead to their life’s work providing an artistic outlet to children and teenagers throughout the border region. That classroom experience combined with their own backgrounds in the arts was the spark for creating a non-profit organization, Creative Kids Inc., that uses the power of the arts to help youth, including teenagers at risk of dropping out, to achieve academic and personal success. Ten years later, Creative Kids has a main studio and gallery in a 16,000-square-foot warehouse called the OLO Gallery (Other Learning Opportunities) at the recently renovated Union Plaza Arts District in downtown El Paso. The organization serves over 600 youth a year ranging in age from 4 to 18, and provides special programs for children battling cancer, children with disabilities, and disadvantaged and at-risk youth. It also has a long list of impressive local, regional and national sponsors, from the National Endowment for the Arts, Texas Commission on the Arts to the City of El Paso and the Hunt Family Foundation.

La Union, 10 Years Amazing Visitors

ANTHONY, N.M. — Every fall when the sweltering nights begin to chill and the Halloween season draws near, La Union Maze prepares to give visitors a fun time and sometimes the frightening experience of losing themselves in a vast labyrinth. “It started out very small,” said Lucy Sondgeroth, manager of the maze. “Our first season we probably had a traffic of about 5,000 people [total]. Now we do that in a weekend.”

The area stretches across 33 acres of land and includes the maze, which stands up to 14 feet tall. There is also a pumpkin patch, an eating area where people can enjoy roasted corn, a kid’s slide, and a petting zoo with rabbits, goats, and miniature cows.