Here Forever Farm and Ranch Education

Final Report for EW02-006

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2002: $30,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2004
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $30,693.00
Region: Western
State: New Mexico
Principal Investigator:
Jaime Castillo
New Mexico State University
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Project Information

Abstract:

This project allowed Extension agents and other agency personnel working with producers to observe first-hand the sustainable agriculture practices used throughout NM. Opportunities for learning, collaboration, and discussion among individuals who normally work independently were made possible. A website supported the project. Thirty agricultural occupation-related professionals participated. Interest and planning of more educational programs related to sustainable agriculture were a direct outcome including:
“Survival Strategies for Limited Farmers and Ranchers Conference”
An Herb Seminar
Workshop in Sustainable Agriculture
Organic Workshop: Practices and Principles for Southwest Agriculture Professionals.

Project Objectives:
  1. To increase the opportunity to learn more about sustainable agriculture practices, 40 New Mexico Agriculture Extension Agents and related agency personnel will be trained through farm tours, online education, and printed materials that will include hands-on learning experiences.

    To build a network of sustainable agriculture information among Extension agents and related agency personnel.

    To create a dissemination vehicle for innovative and up-to-date sustainable agriculture information.

    To create avenues for Extension Agents and related agency personnel to teach farmers and ranchers the best sustainable agricultural management practices.

Introduction:

Background

New Mexico Extension lacks funding to deliver training in the area of sustainable agriculture. A majority of agricultural stakeholders in New Mexico do not consider sustainable agriculture production systems as a valuable methodology to produce sustainable agriculture products, or they believe they are fully informed on sustainable agriculture production systems. If long-term sustainable agricultural practices are to be adopted in New Mexico, training must be conducted for Extension agents, specialists, and other agency personnel working with local producers.

A survey conducted (September, 2001) of NM agriculture agents, 72% of agents responded, “If they were provided with more knowledge and understanding of sustainable agriculture production, they would increase their application of that knowledge with producers.”

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Objective:
Description:

Methods

A tour was developed to teach Extension agents, specialists, and other agency personnel about the various types of sustainable agriculture activities taking place in New Mexico. A graduate student employee was hired to assist in the planning, marketing, and evaluation of the tour. Graduate students were given the option to register for graduate credit and Certified Crop Advisor units were also awarded to participants wishing to receive them. As a result of the tour and emphasis placed on sustainable agriculture practices 4 additional learning events were supported to continue education for agents and specialists.

Locations of Training Sites

Mysterious Horizons Herb Farm, Las Cruces, NM: Mr. Jeff Graham; Certified grower of organic herbs and vegetables.

Oasis Project, Las Cruces, NM: Organic Agriculture Students Inspiring Sustainability, One acre community supported agriculture project at NMSU Fabian Garcia Research Station.

Del Valle Pecan Farm, Las Cruces, NM: Certified organic pecan orchard.

Lazy A Ranch, La Union, NM: Certified organic farm growing alfalfa, cotton, pecans, and chile.

Elephant Butte Dam, Elephant Butte, NM: Discussion by Craig Runyan, Extension Water Specialist, regarding the current drought situation.

Socorro County Fair Grounds, Socorro, NM: Discussion on Drip Irrigation methods in Socorro County.

Harris Alfalfa Farm, Socorro, NM: Drip irrigation demonstration plot on alfalfa.

Red Doc Farm, Belen, NM: Family owned registered Santa Gertrudis cattle ranch, semen sales, natural beef, hay and hunting operation.

Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, Los Lunas, NM: Various demonstration plots demonstrating research on sustainable agriculture practices.

U Bar Ranch, Cliff, NM: Yellow starthistle control program used to control the thistle in combination with a riparian vegetation management program and existence of endangered species habitat.

Gray Ranch Tour, Animas, NM: Fire management and fire planning program on Gray Ranch. Other discussion topics included reintroduction of prairie dogs as a range management tool, the Grassbank concept, conservation easements, and the management of relationships with conservation groups such as the Nature Conservancy.

Outreach and Publications

No publications were developed as a result of this tour.

Outcomes and impacts:

The greatest impact that has occurred as a result of this project is the multi-agency/individual collaboration and spirit among participants to continue to deliver educational opportunities for individuals involved in sustainable agriculture practices. Evaluation comments indicated that participants gained knowledge regarding sustainable agriculture practices and were glad they were given the opportunity to interact with each other to better understand their work roles.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

A tour of best sustainable agriculture practices in New Mexico was planned and conducted. A website depicting the tour activities was developed and is available for review. A “Phase II” planning meeting was held in Albuquerque after the tour was completed. Based upon the interest and discussion that took place after the tour, 5 NMSU Extension employees traveled to San Diego to participate in the Survival Strategies for Small and Limited Resource Farmer and Ranchers conference in October. A planning team consisting of Extension Agents, NMDA personnel, and sustainable agriculture researchers is currently exploring possibilities for hosting a capstone conference to include sustainable agriculture, organic production, and economics education for producers, Extension employees, and other related agencies from the western region.

More than 100 individuals including Extension employees, federal agency personnel, NMDA personnel, and local producers participated in four subsequent conferences partially as a result of this project. More cooperative working relationships among agency employees were a direct result of this project.

Recommendations:

Potential Contributions

Extension employees primarily and other agency personnel gained an understanding of the various sustainable agriculture practices currently being used in New Mexico. Participants gained knowledge regarding sustainable agriculture and are now able to share that knowledge with the clientele they served.

Future Recommendations

New Hypothesis

More efforts should be placed to elevate sustainable agriculture as a statewide focus for Extension employees. This effort should include specific plans of work, needs assessments, and training for Extension employees.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.