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NMSU Cooperative Extension Service specialists teach in Dominican Republic

Date: 01/25/2011

Two New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service specialists shared their knowledge about good agricultural and manufacturing practices recently with agricultural students in the Dominican Republic.


Nancy Flores, Extension food safety specialist, and Del Jimenez, Extension agriculture specialist, taught good agricultural and manufacturing practice classes at the Instituto Superior de Agricultura in Santiago, Dominican Republic, in October. (submitted photo)

Nancy Flores, Extension food safety specialist, and Del Jimenez, agriculture specialist, participated in the Partners of the Americas' Farmer to Farmer program, which is supported by the United States foreign assistance program's Agency for International Development.

Farmer to Farmer brings together agricultural professionals and practitioners from the U.S. and the Caribbean. Volunteers from the United States work with farmers and agribusiness owners in the Dominican Republic, Guyana, Haiti and Nicaragua to identify local needs from which projects are designed to address those needs.

Bilingual, and fluent in Spanish, Flores and Jimenez were guest instructors at the Dominican Republic agricultural university Instituto Superior de Agricultura in Santiago from Oct. 3-16. This institution was established in the 1960s as an agricultural vocational high school and has evolved into a college through a partnership with Texas A&M University and other land-grant universities.

Flores taught the Good Manufacturing Practices, Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point system, U.S. Food and Drug Administration Food Labeling requirements and thermal food processing curricula to 26 students, while Jimenez worked with agronomy students teaching Good Agricultural Practices.

"Food processing and vegetable production are important income-generating activities in rural areas of the Dominican Republic," Flores said. "The students at ISA raise crops and animals which are harvested and slaughtered at the school and then prepared and served to the students for a nominal fee."

Flores translated the curriculum she uses to teach New Mexico food processors the Good Manufacturing Practices guidelines developed and enforced by the FDA. These guidelines outline aspects of production and testing that can impact the quality of the food products being manufactured.

"The university has a food safety program similar to ours. Where I found them lacking was in funding to repair their equipment, much of which had been manufactured in Europe," Flores said. "The students were very prepared and had a solid knowledgebase. I showed them how to apply that textbook knowledge to real-life situations by having them do hands-on exercises, such as doing GMP audit and an HACCP risk assessment of the school's food processing plant. During their hazard analysis many of the students realized their facility did not have proper hand-washing stations."

Jimenez toured ISA's agricultural facilities and farms and taught the students the Good Agricultural Practices guidelines, which focus on food safety and were developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"I talked to the students about world agriculture, sustainable agriculture production and organic agricultural production," Jimenez said. "I also toured the school's farm, located in the country's interior."

During a tour of a private farm, Jimenez visited with a woman who was in charge of helping organize the vegetable producers of the area into a functioning group trying to apply for Good Agricultural Practices certification.

"While we were there four employees of the Department of Agriculture were accessing how well the vegetable producers were complying with the GAP guidelines," he said. "Unfortunately, none of the projects that I saw would have passed compliance. The technicians and producers were not up to standards with GAP. I think that many of them are trying to do the best they can, but need guidance through educational programs to meet the goals. It's a shame that we had not been working directly with the producers during this trip."

Both Flores and Jimenez provided reports to university officials and the Farmer to Farmer program that gave an analysis of what they observed at the college and what should be done to bring the programs up to GAP and GMP standards.

"I enjoy being a part of this type of program," Flores said of the Farmer to Farmer program. "I like learning about other countries firsthand and seeing what other countries are doing to address food safety."

Written by Jane Moorman.



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