The mission of the New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service is to provide the people of New Mexico with practical, research-based knowledge and programs to improve their quality of life.
There is an Extension office in each of the 33 counties across the state, and during the months of October through December, I had the opportunity to intern at the Valencia County Extension Office in Los Lunas.
I am a Valencia County native, having lived in Belen my entire life. While in high school, I was actively involved in FFA (Future Farmers of America). I am now a student at NMSU, where I am studying agricultural education. One of my college classes required I complete an internship, so I chose to intern at the Valencia County Cooperative Extension Service.
During my childhood, I was involved in the 4-H/Youth Development Inc. program and I thought I had some understanding of what happens at the Extension office. My internship taught me I had only a vague idea of the responsibilities and skills required of an Extension agent.
My internship provided me a behind-the-scenes view of the work of an Extension agent. This is what I learned.
Extension agents must be flexible. Every program, workshop or activity provided to the community seemed to always run longer than we anticipated. This required that we constantly readjust our schedules to be prepared for the next event.
Extension agents must be well rounded in subject knowledge. During my internship, I attended six different activities, including a forage growers workshop, beef quality assurance training, a cooking class and two after-school activities for kids.
I also know the Extension office provides a number of other programs and outreach in the community, including the 4-H/Youth Development program, Ideas for Cooking and Nutrition (ICAN), Master Gardeners, diabetes education, Strong Womens exercise program, job sills/workplace re-entry education and much more.
While teaching these activities, I noted the Extension agents are skilled at working with and relating to different audiences. Students or participants in the programs and activities ranged in age from 3 years old to 92 years young.
Teamwork is also a necessary skill. In order to accomplish what they do, Extension agents communicate with each other, making sure everyone is on the same page. This communication also occurs with the many volunteers who support the Extension agents and help to extend the reach of education in our county.
There is a lot of planning that goes into everything Extension agents do. When we, as the public, normally attend events, everything is always set up and ready to go. We often do not think about all the work that went into organizing and providing an event, such as figuring out the logistics of hauling equipment, supplies and materials to the actual site. Extension agents have amazing packing skills and move and set up a lot of tables and chairs. Set up and preparation has to start sometimes weeks before the actual event.
Extension agents are also very comfortable public speakers. At each event, they have to speak in front of a group of people. They seem to do it without any problems or fear. They spend a lot of time answering questions to the best of their ability and if they do not know the answer, they are willing to find it, always making sure that everyone is satisfied.
The most important quality of an Extension agent is true dedication to their community. During my time at the Valencia County Extension office, I observed a team committed to serving our county while working to make it a better place.
I never truly knew how much they do, and I only saw a small portion of their efforts during my short internship. I gained a deeper respect for everything they do for our community.
If you have yet to meet our county Extension agents, I encourage you to stop by the office, email or give them a call. They are committed to serving and providing the citizens of New Mexico with knowledge, though their hard work and dedication.
To register for an upcoming program, call the Valencia County Cooperative Extension Service at 565-3002. For more information, visit valenciaextension.nmsu.edu.
Gardening Survival Series, Garden Planning: 10-11:30 a.m., Saturday, Jan. 18, at the Bosque Farms Public Library, 1455 W. Bosque Loop.
Beef Heifer Feeding and Nutrition: 9 a.m. to noon, Monday, Jan. 20, at the Valencia County Extension Office, 404 Courthouse Road, Los Lunas.
StrongWomen Exercise Program, 12-Week Strength Training Program: 10:30 a.m., Monday, Jan. 27, at Belen Eagle Park Community Center, $10. Doctors release needed.
Nurturing Parenting Program, Building Self-Worth: 4:30 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 30, at San Clemente Church in Los Lunas.
Pruning Workshop: 9 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Feb. 8, at NMSUs Agricultural Science Center, 1036 Miller Road in Los Lunas.
If you are an individual with a disability who is in need of auxiliary aid or service to participate in a program, please contact the Valencia County Cooperative Extension Service office at 565-3002 two weeks in advance of event.
(Jolene Wulf, a student intern from NMSU, is studying agricultural education. She is from Belen, and graduated from Belen High School.)
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