Roels “Roy” Cunnyngham and his forefathers helped put Taos on the map in the town’s early days, and through land donations and other community assistance, has made a difference in the lives of countless Taoseños.

Cunnyngham was born in 1962, and grew up in Taos, attending Taos Middle School and Taos High School. “That’s ironic, because our family donated property to Junior High – and I got to go there.”

His ancestors moved to Taos from Germany more than a hundred years ago, and his great grandfather built the first bank and ran a general store and a dairy farm. 

Cunnyngham’s family owned a lot of property in Taos – Albright and Gusdorf streets are named after his great grandfathers.

Years ago, Cunnyngham tried to sell land for a Walmart Supercenter and Lowe’s, but the town of Taos wouldn’t allow him to rezone it for commercial use. “Both would have been on my property, producing one-and-a-half to $2 million a year at this point. Instead, it’s a goat farm,” he said. 

He and his wife Joni raise pigs, goats and chickens, and grow kale, carrots, onions and more. They donate food to Taos schools, and promote healthy eating and local farming in Taos.

The two worked with Albertsons grocery store to reclaim discarded produce and redistribute it to the community. Cunnyngham said a lot of food goes to the town of Carson, because “there’s a lot of people with food insecurity there.”

He has also donated land to Holy Cross Medical Center and Taos Eco Park soccer field, and 18 acres on Salazar Road to the workforce training nonprofit Rocky Mountain Youth Corps for a ropes course. 

Cunnyngham said he loves the outdoors – he studied forestry in college and worked as a raft guide on the Río Grande for 14 years. “I still love The Box. That was a huge part of my life,” he said. “There’s nothing like The Box.”

He also worked as a crew supervisor with Rocky Mountain Youth Corps. “I got to be the first one to take recruits to the Pueblo. That was kind of an honor.” 

Cunnyngham has strong opinions about a lot of what is happening in Taos, including Taos Ski Valley, the Taos Regional Airport and the town leadership. He said the county planning department’s recent enforcement against travel trailers was outrageous.

“Not everybody can afford a million dollar home,” he said. “There’s a lot of people that would be homeless without their campers or their Airstreams. We’re gonna have to make spaces for them.”

He said he wants to see new leaders in Taos who “would like to see it prosper, grow properly and be a wonderful place to live still.”

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