Rolando Flores, left, Dean of New Mexico State University's College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences and Gerald Chacon. (NMSU photo by Jane Moorman)
Dean Rolando A. Flores began his second year at the university with a week and a half long tour of Northern New Mexico, including establishing a satellite office at the Sustainable Agriculture Science Center at Alcalde.
“The culture of northern New Mexico is very interesting,” Flores said. “The legacy of farming extends four hundred years for the descendants of the Spanish settlers and many more centuries for the Native Americans.”
Flores met with farmers, ranchers and Native American tribal leaders to learn about the agricultural challenges, and to hear what they think the NMSU College of ACES can do to help them.
“It was extremely valuable to see that we need to have a strong presence in the region,” he said. “We need to make sure the New Mexicans in that part of the state know that we are listening, and we want to work with them to assist them to solve their problems.”
A reoccurring concern was the lack of young people wanting to continue the tradition of farming.
“This alone is not a unique situation in agriculture,” Flores said of the industry where the average age of operators is 62. “But when you add that a majority of the land in that region is federally owned, and that which is privately owned are small parcels resulting from distribution from generation to generation, it is hard for farmers and ranchers to be sustainable and to attract younger people to that way of life.”
While visiting an organic vegetable farm in Santa Cruz, Flores saw how one farmer is successful while cultivating a piece of land that has been in his family for 400 years.
He visited with leaders of the New Mexico Acequia Association to learn about their issues associated with delivering water to the farmers in the Rio Grande Valley.
“Learning about the acequia systems was very interesting,” he said. “These outstanding systems are a model for the world. There is tremendous value in the knowledge gained over the centuries. We are looking at the possibility of College of ACES having an undergraduate program in water and how that could be implemented with the work of the acequia.”
Flores meet with the leaders of the Jicarilla Apache Nation and the pueblos of Cochiti, Santo Domingo, Santa Ana, Acoma and Santa Clara, as well as the Institute of American Indian Arts President Robert Martin.
“I learned about the various agricultural programs and the opportunities for us to work closer with the Native American communities,” Flores said.
Flores plans to maintain the satellite office at the Alcalde research farm.
“The office will be available for associate deans when they are in the area as well as myself during the legislative session,” he said. “It is important that the College of ACES leadership reaffirms our commitment to serving all New Mexicans.”