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NMSU's Castillo Honored as USDA Unsung Hero (Click for large version.)

LAS CRUCES - New Mexico State University's Jaime Castillo was honored as a 2004 Unsung Hero by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for leadership in showcasing the diversity of New Mexico farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses.

New Mexico State University's Jaime Castillo received a 2004 Unsung Hero award from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Castillo was honored for organizing a weeklong tour of north-central New Mexico to introduce top-ranking agricultural officials to the state's diverse farmers, ranchers, terrain and agribusinesses. Castillo, a local government specialist with NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service, also has civil rights and Equal Employment Opportunities for the College of Agriculture and Home Economics. (10/08/2004) (NMSU Agricultural Communications Photo by J. Victor Espinoza)

Castillo accepted the award in Washington, D.C., during ceremonies for National Hispanic Heritage Month, Sept. 15-Oct. 15.

He won the award for organizing and leading a weeklong tour of north-central New Mexico for 30 top-ranking agricultural officials in late August. He worked with colleagues in the federal Farm Service Agency and USDA's Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service (CSREES). Richard Chavez, a civil rights auditor with CSREES, made the award nomination.

Castillo, who was named a local government specialist for NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service in August, also leads civil rights and Equal Employment Opportunity efforts in the College of Agriculture and Home Economics.

Tour participants included Vernon Parker, USDA assistant secretary for civil rights; national agricultural program leaders; and representatives from the agriculture secretary's Hispanic Advisory Council.

"We wanted them to understand how diverse farming and ranching is in terms of ethnic groups, production systems, communities and terrain in north central New Mexico," Castillo said. "We had an ambitious agenda that enticed people to participate."

The 15 tour stops introduced the leaders to Native American and Hispanic farmers. Their operations included large cattle ranches in Guadalupe County, organic farms in Santa Fe County, sheep handling facilities at Acoma Pueblo and apple orchards in Rio Arriba County. Participants saw arts-related ventures, such as Gifts of Harvest, a natural decorations business in Corrales, and Artesanos de Questa, a diversified agricultural tourism business north of Taos. They visited a high school farm in Santa Rosa and veterinary science programs at the Crownpoint Institute of Technology.

Castillo, a Hatch native, earned bachelor's and master's degrees in agricultural education from NMSU. He previously worked as an Extension 4-H agent in Otero County and as an associate with NMSU's Rural Agricultural Improvement and Public Affairs Project, based in Alcalde.

After earning a doctorate in agricultural education from The Ohio State University, Castillo rejoined NMSU's College of Agriculture and Home Economics in 2000. He served as a staff development specialist with civil rights and EEO responsibilities, adding duties as the college's minority faculty recruiter in 2003.

His current duties include organizing County College, a joint effort by NMSU Extension and the New Mexico Association of Counties to provide training for elected officials statewide in public administration, including leadership skills, budget management and media relations. In 2001, Castillo was named an Up-and-Comer by the Anderson School of Management at the University of New Mexico.