A local agricultural leader is retiring after many decades of working with ranchers and farmers, agribusinesses and youth.
Sandra Barraza, the director of the New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service Office for Chaves County and its agricultural and horticultural agent, will serve her last day Jan. 31 after 31 years with Extension Service offices in Colfax and Chaves counties. She has worked in the local office since about 2006.
A Feb. 1 recognition in her honor is planned starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Eastern New Mexico State Fairgrounds.
A fourth-generation rancher who raises cattle and sheep and has some horses on land north of Roswell, Barraza said she looks forward to working on the ranch and spending time with family.
“I am very excited about retiring. Of course, it is with mixed emotions,” she said. “I will miss my work and I will definitely miss working with the public and what I have been able to do for the past 31 years. Basically, I feel like it has been an honor to work for New Mexico State University and the people of New Mexico.”
The head of the Cooperative Extension Service for NMSU, Dr. Jon Boren, said that he has known Barraza for more than 20 years and that she leaves “awfully big shoes to fill” as an extension agent, a county director and as chair of the division’s Promotion and Tenure Committee.
“She has been a wonderful mentor to many of our young extension agents as they go through the tenure and promotion process,” Boren said. “She will certainly be missed by me, not only as a great extension agent and county director but for all this service that she has provided to the extension service and the college and New Mexico State University as a whole.”
Boren said an interim director from the local office will be named soon. The local staff includes two other Cooperative Extension agents — Andrea Stapp, the 4-H agent; and Shannon Wooton, the Family and Consumer Sciences agent — as well as two administrative assistants.
Then after Barraza’s departure, a position advertisement will be issued and a search committee formed, with the aim of filling the position within a few months.
The mission of Cooperative Extension is to provide education to agricultural producers and the public based on the horticultural, agricultural, consumer and environmental sciences research occurring at NMSU.
“Our part of it is the out-of-the-classroom education,” said Barraza. “We are bringing that research-based education to the people.”
Programs include 4-H clubs for youth, agricultural and safety programs for local schools, gardening and horticultural classes, livestock husbandry programs and cooking and nutrition classes.
Barraza said the issues of concern now to people in the area include continued education about the control of the pecan weevil pest affecting local growers, gardening questions and livestock production and quality assurance.
She said that her retirement will affect a few aspects of the office functions, but that the community still will be served by office staff and the statewide network of Cooperative Extension agents.
“I am usually doing gardening classes starting now, in January, so obviously that is not going to happen,” she said. “But our services will still be there even though this position will be open for a little while and, so please, give us a call or come in if we can help in any way.”
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at email@example.com.