The New Mexico Department of Agriculture’s recent AG Day event was a welcome return to normal with the chance for families to get out and enjoy all things agriculture on a cool fall day. Elephant Butte Irrigation District (EBID) was just one of the many booths set up on the NMSU campus to educate and reach out to the community. All were focused on the vital need to inspire and educate for the sake of the future health of both our local community and the broader world stage.
EBID’s historic beginnings over 100 years ago were probably witnessed by many of the forebears of the young people and their families wandering around the booths, collecting freebies, and sampling delicious food. The farmers and ranchers of the Mesilla and Hatch Valleys provided food and fiber then, as they continue to do now. This doesn’t happen in a vacuum, it requires intentional education.
Today’s consumer access to super center grocery stores and food shipped from all over the world has removed us from the sense of immediacy and even awareness that surrounds local agricultural resources. We ignore the importance of “local” to our detriment. AG Days and the friendly folks manning the booths aimed to help with that.
During a recent Watershed Forum discussion, John Gwynne, Director of the Dona Ana County Flood Commission, said, “We need to get our legislators involved, we need to get our youth involved in terms of managing this once us older guys are moving out into our own pastures. I think it becomes really important that we pass these ideas that we’ve been working on to younger folks who will then take the ball…watershed projects are not short lived. They don’t do a whole lot in the first couple of years. They take a lot of work and a lot of time. The same thing with the projects that Gary has been working on with EBID, they’ve taken a lot of years to come together.”
Long time EBID Manager Gary Esslinger is responsible for directing the supply of surface water to over 90,640 acres irrigated by farmers across the District. As a multi-generational farmer himself, he agrees with Gwynne and is intensely aware of the need to educate and train tomorrow’s leaders, legislators, farmers, and water managers in all aspects of water stewardship, from the watersheds down to the groundwater aquifers.
This is the impetus behind the District’s custom designed water trailer. The trailer is basically a moving diorama, illustrating the water cycle, beginning with the ever-popular clouds that “rain” water onto the watersheds, then drain down into the Rio Grande, filling aquifers and enriching habitat as well as making agriculture possible.
Every year District employees bring water education to children and families at local events so that they can learn the basics of the water’s connection to the food on their tables and the fiber in their jeans. The need to maintain and improve the ageing water infrastructure that delivers this resource to fields and orchards is not just a critical news topic. Esslinger wants to ensure that both current and future leaders have the education and tools they need to manage water and steward a strong agricultural industry in the years ahead.
For further information on EBID’s role in agriculture, call the District office at (575) 526-6671 or visit the EBID website at www.ebid-nm.org or the EBID FaceBook page. To register for future Watershed Forum events follow this link: https://daswcd.org/master-watershed-conservation-program/.
(Photo: EBID employees and friends include: Naomi Ontiveros, daughter Angelita Ontiveros, Lisa White, Ana Donohue, and Albert Borunda)