Writer: Jane Moorman, 505-249-0527, firstname.lastname@example.org
ALCALDE - New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service's Rural Agricultural Improvement and Public Affairs Project (RAIPAP) has received national recognition for the work it has done for the past 10 years with farmers and ranchers in Northern New Mexico.
The RAIPAP staff housed at NMSU's Sustainable Agriculture Science Center in Alcalde has received the 2008 National Award for Diversity. The honor is presented annually by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Cooperative State Research, Extension and Education Service (CSREES) at the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges' annual meeting.
The National Award for Diversity has been awarded annually since 1991. It acknowledges accomplishments in achieving organizational changes that provide innovative programs to its diverse cultural and ethnic clientele. The award also recognizes how a workplace incorporates mutual respect, acceptance, teamwork and productivity among people who are diverse in the dimensions of human differences.
"We congratulate and commend the Rural Agricultural Improvement and Public Affairs Project staff and extend to them our sincere thanks for the outstanding work they have supported in furthering the issue of diversity and pluralism within the system," said Willene Buffett, chair of the Diversity Award Selection Committee.
"This is the highest honor a project like ours can receive nationally for the Extension education and services we provide in serving the diverse needs of our clientele in Northern New Mexico," said Edmund Gomez, director of RAIPAP. "We are extremely honored and humbled because we feel we are just doing what everyone else is doing serving our communities."
The RAIPAP staff members have demonstrated their ability to work as a team to serve the needs of the most endangered group of farmers/ranchers in our country, Gomez said.
"This agricultural community has the distinction of the longest and most continuous history of farming and ranching within the continental United States. The ancestors of our clients started agriculture in our area more than 800 years ago," he said.
RAIPAP's mission is to accelerate Extension and research efforts for limited-resource, small-acreage Hispanic and Native American farmers/ranchers in Northern New Mexico. This is accomplished through research-based educational efforts in sustainable agriculture, small-business development, value-added agriculture, and leadership and organizational development.
Gomez knows first-hand what it means to no longer be able to farm the land that has been handed down from generation to generation because of the inability of the farm to support the family.
"Families are selling out the ranches and farms. As a displaced farmer, I'm able to realize from that experience what farmers and ranchers are going through. We're trying to help them survive and continue with their customs, culture and traditions," Gomez said. "For them to survive and continue farming and ranching, we are introducing ways that they can be more profitable and helping them keep up with new federal and state policies that affect how they do business on a day-to-day bases. We are also providing the agricultural community access to USDA programs and technologies that can make their lives a lot easier."
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