The United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) research initiative recently awarded UNM-Taos’ new training program a grant of 500 $ 000 for the training of agricultural workers.
UNM-Taos and UNM-Taos Hive (Hub of Internet-Based Vocations and Education) Partner with Not Forgotten Outreach, Inc. (NFO) and Taos County Economic Development Corporation (TCEDC) to Create Reconstruction of an Economy Rural Agricultural (RARE) workforce training certificate program, which will support the local food and small-scale agricultural economy in Taos.
NFO first approached UNM-Taos about the possibility of offering an agricultural program. NFO initially partnered with the UNM-Taos Construction Technology program in 2014 to train military families in agriculture. This program became the catalyst for NFO to develop a strong agricultural training program, which they hoped to become a certified educational program.
“By partnering with RARE, we are getting a little closer and enabling NFO to include more Taoseños in farming activities at Not Forgotten Outreach’s 28-acre farm / ranch training site,” said Yani Bunch. , executive director of NFO. “This collaboration facilitates the reintegration of our veterans and their military families. We are very happy to be a part of this grant, and we believe it will be a great opportunity for agriculture in northern New Mexico. “
“The recent development of the HIVE program and its emphasis on economic development, as well as the economic focus of NIFA, seemed to offer a natural adjustment to include other subjects of study in the program,” said Louis Moya, director of NIFA. UNM-Taos. development. “We have refined the more general concept of inclusion of the agricultural curriculum and are including economic / business skills in the curriculum. It was therefore natural to consider the need to include cultural elements.
The RARE program will form two distinct cohorts of 15 participating students (30 farmers, ranchers and potential food producers in total, recruited from underserved populations and veterans) through an immersive program of farming practices, safe food production and healthy and small business / entrepreneurship skills to build and enhance the local industry, and the next generation of smallholder farmers, ranchers and sustainable food producers in northern New Mexico.
The part-time study program is 18 credit hours in total offered over 12 months that provide industry-recognized stackable certifications; an emphasis on traditional, sustainable and drought-prone farming methods; as well as entrepreneurial training from small business professionals and innovation experts at UNM-Taos HIVE, and commercial and industrial food producers at TCEDC’s commercial kitchen with internship and learning opportunities on local farm sites or food companies. Participants will receive a technical certification allowing entry into a rural and modern agrarian economy through employment or entrepreneurship.
The way forward does not pass through an industrial and mechanistic approach to create an agricultural industry, but rather through small-scale community agriculture, centered on unity – like what was done in the antiquity of the region – which will create a way forward.
“I think the integration of the other aspects of the program (entrepreneurship / cultural studies) took place as we developed our strategy of creating an economically oriented program (and certification) and our approach to an application,” said Moya said.
The Agricultural Workforce Training Grant will provide the community with community college students who have the skills and tools to gain industry-accepted credentials to join the workforce.
“Community colleges provide significant workforce development nationwide,” said NIFA Director Carrie Castille. “These awards will help students achieve a two-year degree or an industry-recognized degree that will create better employment opportunities and nurture the talent pool needed in the food and agriculture sector.”
NIFA invests in and advances agricultural research, education and extension across the country to make transformative discoveries that solve societal challenges.
“For this program,” Moya added, “we have had and will need to further refine the structure of the program as we consider implementation after award, as capacity and partnership considerations will sometimes require some evolution from to the original concept. However, sticking to the proposed guidelines of grant and funding is a necessity. “