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NMSU honors chile industry leader Dino Cervantes

LAS CRUCES - Continuing a family legacy of farming, chile processing and involvement with New Mexico State University, Dona Ana farmer Dino Cervantes, general manager of Cervantes Enterprises, Inc., was recently presented with the prestigious Leyendecker Agriculturalist of Distinction award.

Dino Cervantes, general manager of Cervantes Enterprises, Inc., was recently presented with the prestigious Leyendecker Agriculturalist of Distinction award by the College of Agriculture and Home Economics at New Mexico State University. (NMSU Agricultural photo by J. Victor Espinoza)

An NMSU graduate with a bachelor's degree in business, Cervantes has had a dedicated relationship with the agriculture community and New Mexico State University for many years. He is a founding member of the Chile Pepper Task Force. He and other organizers established the task force in an attempt to coordinate the efforts of growers, processors and researchers to help groups associated with the industry remain competitive with foreign markets.

"A lot of success realized by the industry recently is because of what the task force has accomplished," Cervantes said. "I think the success of that group is probably the biggest reason I received this recognition."

Cervantes credited Lowell Catlett, dean of the College of Agriculture and Home Economics; Jerry Schickedanz, former dean of the college; and countless members of the faculty who have been very supportive of the efforts of the Chile Pepper Task Force.

Cervantes believes that similar management models promoting stronger interaction between university researchers and members of private industry could benefit other commodity groups as well.

In addition, Cervantes is working with NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service and the Food and Nutrition Department to promote development of the food technology program at NMSU. Recently, they raised funds and secured support from New Mexico's political leadership to complete the Food Product Development Lab.

Upon receiving his recognition, Cervantes said, "It is very flattering to have my name included with previous awardees who have provided great leadership to the agriculture community. The fact that the college and the university would recognize me is very humbling. I have worked with many great people over the years. It has truly been my honor to have participated with the university and the agricultural community in the ways that I have."

Cervantes is a third generation member of a family with its roots in farming. Cervantes Enterprises, Inc. consists of both a chile processing facility and a 1,400-acre farming operation that produces crops such as chile, cotton and alfalfa. The Cervantes family has grown and processed various types of chile peppers, which are then used in the production of Louisiana-style hot sauce. Many consumers across the world have enjoyed products processed by the Cervantes family for more than 30 years.

According to Lowell Catlett, one of the reasons Cervantes was selected for the award was that he is "active from top to bottom in the chile industry" and that his family has worked in the chile business and supported NMSU for years.

Dino's father, Orlando Cervantes, is a graduate of the College of Engineering and his mother, Emma Jean, won the Leyendecker award in 1996. Dino met his wife, Leslie, when they were both students at NMSU. Currently, Leslie serves on the NMSU Foundation Board of Directors, where she chairs the Membership and Elections Committee.

Cervantes has also had other involvement with NMSU. He was president of the Alumni Association from 1994-1995 and served on the Alumni Association Board of Directors from 1991-1996. He was a member of the NMSU Strategic Planning Council, is a donor and a tried- and-true Aggie supporter and a member of the Sam Steel Society.

Cervantes plans to continue to work with the university whenever possible.

"NMSU has been a big part of my life as a student and professionally," he said. "My commitment to the university will be for many years to come."