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NMSU Extension soil scientist joins RAIPAP team at Alcalde

ALCALDE, N.M. - New Mexico State University's Rural Agricultural Improvement and Public Affairs Project has a new tool to help underserved farmers be better agricultural producers.

Mug shot of woman standing in front of hoop house
Charlene Carr, New Mexico State University Extension soil scientist, joins the Rural Agricultural Improvement and Public Affairs Program, which is housed at the Sustainable Agriculture Science Center at Alcalde. (NMSU photo)

Cooperative Extension Service agricultural agent Charlene Carr brings her expertise in soil science to the RAIPAP team. She will be working with agricultural producers in the eight northern pueblos to improve the soil nutrients of their land.

"I want to help the pueblo members to have the best yield possible from their land," said Carr, who is a member of the Laguna Pueblo. "The first step of accomplishing that goal is to analyze the soil to see what nutrients are needed for better crop production."

Carr received her bachelor's degree in soil science and her master's degree in plant and environmental sciences from New Mexico State University.

"This position with RAIPAP will give me the opportunity to apply all of the knowledge that I have gained," she said.

As part of the RAIPAP team, Carr will also be working with the Southern Pueblos Beginning Farmer and Rancher program, which is a model for similar programs at other American Indian farming regions.

"We are utilizing her specialty wherever she is needed in the various programs offered by RAIPAP," said Edmund Gomez, project director for the program. RAIPAP is stationed at NMSU's Sustainable Agriculture Science Center at Alcalde. "She is looking at the soil tests of all of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program participants. Once we receive the analysis, she will work with the farmers one-on-one and through producer workshops to help them improve their land's productivity."

This is the first time RAIPAP has had a soil specialist, as well as a pueblo member, on its team.

"There are many traditions associated with the pueblos that we honor when working with the agricultural producers," Gomez said. "Charlene understands those cultural traditions firsthand."

"It is a challenge to help Native American producers bring their soil up to a productive level within the framework of the pueblos traditions," Carr said. "Farming in the traditional ways requires us to not rely on synthetic supplements to replenish the nutrients. It may take a few years of raising crops to naturally build the soil back up to a healthy level."