Agriculture has been a part of civilization for thousands of years and was a major turning point in the development of societal systems throughout the world.
Agriculture developed when humans domesticated plants and animals. With domestication came control of steady food and fiber sources, allowing for a community to thrive. Civilizations were, in turn, able to fuel their basic needs.
The evolution of agriculture from the beginning to modern day is impressive. As civilizations controlled the food supply so came genetic modification. It may be surprising to some when looking at early foods with their past genetics and presentation, to find similarities to their modern-day counterparts. Seed and animal selection were influencing factors in allowing for the advancement of the foods and technology we have today in agriculture.
Selection is defined as the process of which environmental or genetic influences determine which types of organisms thrive better than others. In simple terms, we are able to choose which plants or animals thrive better in our current situations.
Plants have different varieties that may have a better flavor, less seeds and increased production allowing it to be more desirable and beneficial to the food system.
Animals are the same. We have selected for various traits allowing an animal to utilize less feed, produce more meat and fiber while thriving on the lands they are living on. This is especially true in the show industry through our 4-H and FFA programs.
Animal genetics have improved drastically in the last few years, creating high-quality meat products for consumers.
While agriculture seems to be a specific industry, I always like to remind everyone that we are all directly involved within agriculture. Whether you are a rancher, farmer, 4-H/FFA member, seller buyer or consumer, you are a part of industry as a whole. While, agriculture practices and education has seen dramatic change, especially within the last few decades, this is a reminder of the importance of continuing to include this education for our country’s food and fiber system.
Food and fiber is the basis of civilization. With the advancement of row crops and eventually commercialized crops, and meat products, families were able to purchase items grown from another person at a general location.
Barbed wire allowed for the restriction of open grazing, allowing ranchers to learn about different grazing systems and range management strategies.
Land Grant Universities began with the Morrill Act in 1862, allowing universities to deliver agricultural based education using federal land. New Mexico’s land grant university is New Mexico State University, located in Las Cruces, and was founded in 1888.
NMSU was first named the Las Cruces College and later the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts. Thus, a college formed on the basis of the importance of agricultural education. Of course today, NMSU offers a variety of education courses, but you can always major within the college of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.
An addition to agricultural education was the establishment of the Extension Service from the Smith-Lever Act in 1914, to take university knowledge to the community. Still today, Extension educates the public in agriculture, consumer, and environmental sciences, with youth in 4-H or adults.
As our society continues to grow, some become distanced from the direct production of agricultural products, but as I mentioned, are still an important contributor in the advancement and selection of our commodities.
As our youth are influenced in an ever-changing and fast-paced world, there are those interested and highly proficient in the advancement of agriculture. Whether it is through our 4-H or FFA programs, youth are leading the way in an agricultural world that is responsible, reliable and efficient in the food and fiber products consumed and produced for the world.
Every summer, youth participate in family consumer sciences, wildlife, livestock and horticulture and animal science projects. If you are interested in seeing these projects, visit our 4-H Cloverleaf newsletter located on our Valencia County Extension website. You can also view these projects at our County Fair this August.
To register for an upcoming program, call the Valencia County Cooperative Extension Service at 505-565-3002. For more information, visit valenciaextension.nmsu.edu.
- Free virtual classes are offered from 3-4 p.m. on the first and third Wednesdays of the month with Ready, Set, GROW! and the second and forth Wednesday through Gardening with the Masters. For upcoming classes and recordings visit aces.nmsu.edu/desertblooms/ready-set-grow.html and http://sandovalmastergardeners.org/gardening-classes/gardening-with-the-masters-online. Classes are free, registration required.
- The Valencia County Fair is happening at the Valencia County Fair Grounds in Belen August 2-8. Come out and see the adult and 4-H/FFA youth exhibitor’s projects. For more information visit valenciafair.com.
If you are an individual with a disability who requires auxiliary aid or service to participate in a program, contact the Valencia County Cooperative Extension Service Office at 565-3002 two weeks in advance of the event.
(Sierra Cain is the Valencia County 4-H/Youth Development agent for the New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service.)