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NMSU offers agricultural workshop for New Mexico pueblos

ALBUQUERQUE - Members of 18 northern and southern pueblos along the Rio Grande can learn about growing traditional and alternative crops, developing niche markets and tapping government assistance programs during a free, two-day workshop April 27-28 in Albuquerque.

ico State University's Cooperative Extension Service is organizing the event, which aims to shore up crop production on the pueblos, said Edmund Gomez, executive director of NMSU's Rural Agricultural Improvement and Public Affairs Project, based in Alcalde.

"There's a lot of interest among the pueblos in fortifying their agricultural base," Gomez said. "Many tribal producers have individually requested Extension assistance, so we want to bring people together as a community to answers questions collectively. The networking opportunities are as important as the seminars."

Extension is encouraging tribal youth to participate to get them interested in agriculture, Gomez said.

"For agriculture to be sustainable, we need to educate new generations," Gomez said. "We're working with the Santa Fe Indian School for a group of youngsters to come as a field trip, and we're encouraging parents who attend to bring their kids."

The conference will highlight production of traditional crops, such as Indian corn, squash, melons, pumpkins, beans and chile, Gomez said.

"The pueblos can take advantage of heirloom crop varieties such as blue corn by marketing them as specialty or niche crops to consumers," Gomez said. "We'll discuss the pros and cons of maintaining old varieties that pueblos have grown for generations."

Extension fruit specialist Ron Walser will talk about reintroducing fruit and berry production at the pueblos.

"The tribes raised heirloom fruit varieties for generations, but it's really declined," Gomez said. "Extension recently helped the Jicarilla Apaches and Jemez and Tesuque pueblos re-establish tribal orchards. We want more pueblos to do the same."

Other workshops will cover alternative marketing techniques, irrigation, the affects of drought and state policy on water availability, and state and federal assistance programs for growers. NMSU's Office of Biosecurity will offer a four-hour training session to help tribes guard against natural disasters and terrorist attacks. The workshop will conclude with a hands-on horse-care demonstration.

The event runs from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 27, and 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. April 28, at the Bernalillo County 4-H Building at 1510 Menaul NW.

For more information, or if you are individual with a disability who is in need of an auxiliary aid or service to participate, call (505) 852-2668.

Kevin Robinson-Avila
April 19, 2006