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Donations and Auction Help Valencia County Extension Office Stay Open

BELEN - Lester and Wanda Paris, who farm about 10 acres of alfalfa in Los Lunas, paid 35 dollars for a second-hand herbicide sprayer in an auction at the Belen County fairgrounds Feb. 23 -- substantial savings since the machine could cost about 150 dollars in a store.

Dave Anglen, a specialty breeder, holds a baby goat he donated to the Feb. 3 auction in Belen, which was a fundraiser for the Valencia County Extension office organized by the Valencia County Farm and Livestock Bureau. Anglen donated three adult goats and two babies worth about $500. (04/11/2002) NMSU agricultural communications photo by Kevin Robinson

But Lester Paris wishes he had paid more.

"I outbid all competitors, but I would have bid a lot more if I could," he said. "Either way, it's another 35 dollars to help the kids in 4-H. Every bit counts, I guess."

The auction, sponsored and organized by the Valencia County Farm and Livestock Bureau, was a fundraiser for the Valencia County office of New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. The county commission cut local funding for Extension in December, sending the office into a financial tailspin.

"We're extremely grateful to the Farm and Livestock Bureau and to all the people who have supported us," said Frank Holguin, program director and agricultural agent with the Valencia County Extension office. "People really went out of their way to donate items to the auction and then to bid on those items. It was a good day for Extension and 4-H."

Farm and Livestock Bureau president Angelo Baca estimates about $13,000 in earnings from the event, which included a live and silent auction.

"We got about $8,000 for goods auctioned in the live event, and about $5,000 from the silent auction," Baca said. "I think it really shows that Valencia County citizens are adamant about keeping the Extension program alive and well."

Farm Bureau invested about $1,000 to organize and promote the event, which included dozens of 4-H and Farm Bureau volunteers, including two professional auctioneers. The fairgrounds association offered facilities for free and lent computers for tracking donations and bids. Local stores such as Wal-Mart, Albertson's and Donut King donated food that 4-H volunteers sold for about $600.

All auctioned items and livestock were donated, including two yearling heifers and a yearling dairy bull worth about $1,200, Baca said. Other donations included goats, chickens, farm machinery, furniture and about $2,000 worth of hay.

The silent auction included paintings, wall hangings, tableware, lamps, chandeliers, pottery, baby carriages, clothes, farm tools and much more.

"The Extension program is of real value to our community, and I'll do whatever I can to help keep it going," said Dave Anglen, a specialty breeder of goats, ducks, rabbits and geese in Bosque who donated three adult and two baby goats worth about $500. "My kids grew up in 4-H and my wife and I have been 4-H project leaders for about 25 years. Extension agricultural agents, home economists and master gardeners have all helped us out over the years."

Billy Seelbach, a horse breeder from Belen, donated a 3-year-old female foxtrotter worth about $3,500. Rather than auction the horse, Farm Bureau is selling raffle tickets, with about $500 raised so far.

"We'll get a lot more mileage this way, because a lot of people who didn't come to the auction will buy tickets," Seelbach said. "The raffle will also keep the Extension situation in the public spotlight."

The raffle winner will be announced April 7 during an all-day horse training workshop at the fairgrounds. That event, which will feature nationally known horse trainer Curt Pate, will also benefit Extension. Old Mill, a Belen-based supply store, will sponsor the event, donating $20-per-person entrance fees and some proceeds from feed sales to Extension.

Since January, Extension has received nearly $19,000 from private donations and benefit events, including about $5,000 collected Jan. 30 at a K-Bob's Steakhouse grand reopening in Los Lunas attended by about 500 people. K-Bob's owner Ed Tinsley and First State Bank each donated $1,000 to Extension at the event.

All donations are matched dollar for dollar by state and federal funding, so the Extension office now has nearly $60,000 available to continue operating, Holguin said.

The state Legislature included a one-time $37,000 appropriation in the proposed 2002-2003 Extension budget to keep the office open until June. If Gov. Gary Johnson approves it, the state money and private donations would allow the office to continue operating into the fall, Holguin said.

"We still have to find permanent funding solutions," he said. "But in the meantime, the private donations have bought us more time, and that's really important as we continue to search for long-term funding alternatives."