New Mexico is preparing the next generation of farmers – as well as current producers – for the future of agriculture through statewide educational programs aimed at informing, inspiring and connecting the industry.
The New Mexico Department of Agriculture, plus more than a dozen other agencies and organizations, coordinated the AgriFuture Educational Institute to connect those who will produce food and fiber going forward.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Census of Agriculture, New Mexico saw a slight uptick in the average age of farmers from 59.6 years old in 2007 to 60.5 years old in 2012. At the same time, however, the census showed a dramatic increase in the number of people age 34 and younger who are agricultural producers, from 818 in 2007 to 1,200 in 2012.
“The AgriFuture Educational Institute really tries to harness both of those trends, because what lies between them is the opportunity to transfer agricultural knowledge,” New Mexico Secretary of Agriculture Jeff Witte says. “We want to bring together experienced farmers and ranchers, and those who are just now entering the world of agriculture or who want to enter it soon.”
At this biannual event that began in 2014, agriculture producers discuss the farm-to- retail sector, value-added production and international trade among other topics. They also tour a wide variety of agricultural businesses. This year’s conference is planned to be in the Albuquerque area in May 2018.
Introducing the Industry
Continuing the state’s effort to get youth involved in the agriculture industry, New Mexico State University works to educate high school students in ranch management through its New Mexico Youth Ranch Management Camp each year.
Since the program’s inception, more than 150 students have received college-level instruction in managing a ranch during this five-day camp at CS Cattle Company’s 130,000-acre ranch at the foot to the Sangre de Cristo mountain range near Cimarron.
“We are proud to offer this one- of-a-kind program for the future cattle producers of our state,” says Jon Boren, New Mexico State University College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences associate dean and director of the Cooperative Extension Service. “The collaboration between our Extension specialists, county Extension agents and members of the ranching industry has provided an opportunity for the youth to learn about the many aspects of ranching.”
College-level hands-on curriculum provides campers with information about how to develop a ranch management plan for a scenario similar to the host ranch. This helps young people gain a greater appreciation of the science and opportunities in agriculture, and encourages their interest in pursuing this type of work.