Writer: D'Lyn Ford
LAS CRUCES--Like his famous Spanish ancestors of the same name, Nazario "Nick" C' de Baca has been a globe trotter.
As an agricultural adviser, the 1940 New Mexico State University graduate has worked his way around the world. The Bernalillo resident was honored Oct. 8 in Las Cruces as a distinguished alumnus of NMSU's College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.
C' de Baca can trace his lineage back to 1212 and ancestors like Alvar Nuftez Cabeza de Vaca, the first European to explore the Southwest. His aunt, Fabiola C' de Baca Gilbert, was a pioneering 20th century educator for NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service who wrote books about New Mexican foods and traditions.
C'de Baca's own journey has taken him from northern New Mexico to Europe, South and Central America, Africa, the West Indies and Washington, D.C.
His first job after earning an agronomy and soils degree from NMSU was as a teacher in Ocate, N.M. When the Army called, C' de Baca spent 42 months in Europe with the 11th Armored Division under General George Patton's command.
After his discharge, C' de Baca briefly returned to New Mexico as an assistant Extension agent in Mora County. He married, but wasn't ready to settle in the state.
"Since I had traveled and seen half of the world, I did not feel like I wanted to spend the rest of my life in this very pleasant but quiet community," he said.
He applied to the Foreign Aid section of the U.S. Department of Agriculture(USDA), and within three months, was on the way to Bolivia, South America. There, C'de Baca set up an agricultural extension service patterned after the United States', training agents to help farmers and starting a 4-H club movement.
After pursuing a master's degree in rural sociology at Michigan State, USDA sent C' de Baca to El Salvador, where he spent five years setting up agricultural extension and youth programs.
He transferred to Guatemala after the overthrow of the pro-Communist regime in 1955, heading agrarian reform efforts to help small-scale farmers. Over five years, he started an extension service similar to El Salvador's.
Next, he went to Sudan, Africa, for two years as an agricultural adviser, then to Jamaica for a three-year assignment as rural development adviser with the U.S. Agency for International Development. His final foreign assignment was in Quito, Ecuador for three years.
Back in Washington, C' de Baca drew on his international experiences to design training and arrange exchange programs for nine years, specializing in Latin America.
In 1972, he retired after a 28-year career and moved to northern New Mexico, near his three sons, Daniel, Robert and Nicholas, who were born in three different countries.
It was a return to his roots. C' de Baca grew up on a small irrigated farm in La Cienega, 15 miles south of Sant Fe, as the youngest of seven children. "As I remember, about the only thing we bought, as far as food is concerned, was coffee and sugar, since everything else was raised on the farm," he said.
The summer after high school graduation in 1936, C' de Baca worked and saved $95 to attend NMSU, where his brother Albert had worked his way through school. To save money, he shared a $6-a-month room with a friend and bought 25-cent noon meals of milk and a hamburger or hot dog at the campus canteen.
"Frankly, going to college for me was no picnic, not necessarily because of the course work, but my financial situation, just trying to make ends meet," he said.
C' de Baca worked his way through college, starting in the dairy. After that, legendary agricultural researcher Fabian Garcia, Agricultural Experiment Station director, allowed him to live rent-free at the horticulture farm in exchange for looking after it. Ultimately, his finances improved with a position is the seed laboratory and a second part-time job with National Youth Alliance. C' de Baca graduated with a sense of accomplishment and relief.
"Luckily, my long struggle had come to an end, making me feel more than ever that if someone wants to get an education, it's possible, if you set that as a goal," he said.
C' de Baca has established an endowment with the College of Agriculture and Home Economics to help other students begin their life journeys with a good education.
© 2013 New Mexico State University Board of Regents
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