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Technology drives NMSU Cooperative Extension Service into the next 100 years

A century ago distributing, practical, research-based information to the citizens of New Mexico could take days, if not weeks. Today it can happen in seconds with a just the click of a mouse. New Mexico State University?s state-wide Cooperative Extension Service today uses the latest internet and mobile technologies to share information on agriculture, natural resources, family, consumer issues, 4-H, youth, community and economic development.

Man stands near a palm tree.
Jeff Anderson, Dona Ana County Extension horticulturalist, demonstrates how to prune freeze-damaged palms in a video on Desert Blooms. Posting videos on YouTube is one of the technologies the Cooperative Extension Service is utilizing to help New Mexicans. (Courtesy photo)

The Smith-Lever Act of 1914 formally established the Cooperative Extension Service in New Mexico. This collaboration between the United States Department of Agriculture, NMSU and county governments gives citizens direct access to valuable, science-based knowledge generated at NMSU.

?We?re still largely a people organization, so it?s extremely important that we continue to connect with our clientele face-to-face. At the same time, we use technology to our advantage to provide our clientele with the information they need anytime and anywhere,? said Jon C. Boren, associate dean and director of the New Mexico Cooperative Extension Service at NMSU.

?We have innovative mobile apps being developed here in our College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences to help Extension faculty located in every county of the state meet clientele demands,? he said. ?We?ve outfitted most of our Extension county faculty with iPads to help them answers questions even faster for producers and consumers.?

?We are using Facebook and social media to inform and stay connected with our clientele,? Boren said. ?We?re also finding that a lot of our traditional clientele, who we?ve worked with for many years, are relying heavily on those types of applications.?

At NMSU?s Dona Ana County Cooperative Extension Service Office, the staff has created Facebook pages for the office and the county 4-H program.

Agriculture agent Jeff Anderson, who teaches the Master Gardener courses, is broadcasting the training to Luna County for the first time this fall. He also recorded and posted pruning videos on YouTube.

Jeanne Gleason, director of NMSU?s Cooperative Extension Service Media Productions, is leading a team that develops innovative media, such as apps, games, videos and animations to help teach New Mexicans about topics such as food safety, healthy living, horticulture and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics education).

?Part of our role is to help our Extension faculty located throughout the state use technology to help solve problems for the citizens of New Mexico,? Gleason said. ?We?re really working to get all of our publications out on e-book form, so they can be accessed in the field on an iPad, iPhone or other similar devices.?

While technology has changed the methods the Cooperative Extension Service uses to communicate with New Mexicans, Boren said the organization?s mission is unlikely to change in the next 100 years.

?Extension was really founded in agriculture 100 years ago but the real benefit of the Cooperative Extension Service is that we are a grassroots-driven organization,? Boren said. ?We have advisory boards from various stakeholder groups in every one of our 33 counties who provide our faculty in county Extension offices with input on what programs they most need to better their lives and the communities.?

?We bring information from the university to all parts of the county including Sunland Park, Chaparral, Hatch, everywhere in Dona Ana County,? said Karim Martinez, county program director and home economist.

Funding for each Cooperative Extension Service office is split between the county government, the state government and the federal government through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

?By having that funding come from the county, we are focused on serving our county clientele and that means everyone in the county,? Martinez said. ?We work hard to make sure we are addressing whatever needs are important here in our local area.

?A huge component of Extension is our volunteers,? Martinez said. ?We could not do what we do without our 4-H leaders, 4-H members and Master Gardeners. We have quite a few volunteers in different program areas.?

?The success of the Cooperative Extension Service is really how well we listen to the needs and it?s also directly dependent upon our partnerships,? Boren said.