Writer: D'Lyn Ford
ALBUQUERQUE - Some 1,500 agricultural educators from around the country will tour New Mexico farms and ranches and learn about Southwestern urban and rural agriculture Aug. 5-9 when New Mexico State University hosts the National Association of County Agricultural Agents (NACAA) conference at the Albuquerque Convention Center.
"This is a unique opportunity to showcase New Mexico agriculture at the national level," said Billy Dictson, associate dean of NMSU's College of Agriculture and Home Economics and director of the Cooperative Extension Service.
"Conference participants will attend workshops and seminars in Albuquerque, and then they'll fan out around New Mexico to meet with folks at every level. That's major exposure for us because agricultural educators from every state in the nation will be learning firsthand about our culture, history and the reality of farming and ranching in a semiarid environment."
New Mexico is hosting the event for the first time in nearly 40 years and the second time in NACAA history, said Dictson, who attended the 1962 conference in Las Cruces as an 18-year-old Extension recruit.
The conference allows agricultural agents to attend seminars, share experiences and ideas about agriculture, and discuss national Extension affairs. It is held in the West once every eight years.
"This is an opportunity for agents from other parts of the nation to learn about the differences in agriculture between this region and their home states," said David McManus, NACAA president and area Extension agent with Colorado State University. "Folks from most central, eastern and northern areas don't have irrigated agriculture or range grazing on arid public lands like we do, so those are some unique things that they'll be able to learn."
During the conference, agents will attend workshops and seminars on crop and livestock production, farm and ranch financial management, urban and rural environmental protection, agronomy, pest management, agricultural economics, animal science, forestry, natural resources, horticulture and aquaculture.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program will also sponsor four luncheon seminars about farming's role in sustaining communities, direct marketing of ranch products, composting and waste management, and creative techniques for grazing in the West.
In addition, the USDA National Small Farm Program will sponsor a discussion session about small farm issues at the conference, said Edmund Gomez, chair of the NACAA conference education committee. NMSU will host a USDA National Small Farm Conference in Albuquerque in September 2002, Gomez said.
"We want to stimulate agent interest in the national small farm movement," he said.
"At the meeting, we'll discuss what constitutes a small farm and share ideas and experiences about how agents work with small farms in their own communities."
The conference highlight will be 27 field tours to farms, ranches, markets and tourist spots in central and northern New Mexico. Each tour will showcase different aspects of New Mexico agriculture, including the chile industry, range grazing and agriculture at Indian pueblos. Desert landscaping and trips to the Los Alamos and Sandia national defense and energy research laboratories will also be offered.
"Participants will visit agricultural and related industries around the state to see firsthand what's going on in New Mexico," said Gerald Chacon, Extension Northern District director and chair of the professional improvement tours committee. "They'll visit folks at work and talk with industry representatives, specialists and others."
Other conference attractions include a trade show with more than 75 commercial exhibits about services and products ranging from tractors and farm tools to feed, seed and chemicals.
"We're anticipating the largest commercial exhibit that NACAA has ever experienced," said trade show committee chair Floyd McAlister, who expects large national companies such as Caterpillar Inc., Rome Inc. and AT&T to participate.
The New Mexi-Chords, an award-winning "barbershop" music group from Albuquerque, will give an opening day performance Sunday, Aug. 5 at the Kiva Auditorium. 4-H members from New Mexico and Colorado will entertain during a 4-H Talent Revue on Monday, Aug. 6 at the Kiva Auditorium.
"There will also be activities and tours for the agents' spouses and children," said Patrick Torres, agriculture agent with the Santa Fe Extension office and chair of the conference organizing committee. "We expect more than 2,500 people to participate."
For more information, call Torres at (505) 471-4711.
© 2013 New Mexico State University Board of Regents
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