FILE - New Mexico ranch farm

A hereford bull on a New Mexico ranch.

(The Center Square) – A nonprofit educational group, The Bridge of Southern New Mexico, recently sponsored a conference to showcase the value of agriculture in the New Mexican economy.

“Average wages fall between $25,000 and $60,000 depending upon the position, and half of the employers surveyed offer family-sustaining benefits, including profit sharing and bonuses,” Tracey Bryan, president and CEO of the organization, wrote in the Las Cruces Sun News. “Growing people for the wealth of careers in the agriculture industry should be a top priority for our students and those who’ve been displaced by COVID and are ready to launch new careers in an industry that may be new to them, building on the valuable skills they already have that employers in this industry desperately need.”

Gary Aycock, supervisor of agricultural education at New Mexico State University and the state’s Future Farms of America (FFA) advisor, agrees that agriculture offer promising careers for many young people.

The COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns encouraged more students to go into agriculture, Aycock told The Center Square.

“Kids are actually wanting to work with their hands and get outside a little more,” Aycock said.

The jobs available in agricultural fields are not necessarily menial and technology is involved in many agricultural careers, he said.

“If you look at tractors and the way they have evolved, it takes a lot technological knowledge just to operate those machines,” Aycock said.

FFA has a program called the Supervised Agricultural Experience Program, Aycock said.

“High school students have projects outside of school and hopefully find things that they are interested in that will lead them to a future career in agriculture,” he said.

Students can go directly into the agricultural workforce after high school if they decide college is not for them.

“But there are better opportunities if they go to a four-year university, get a degree and maybe move into management,” Aycock said.

Schools play an important role in encouraging students to enter agriculture.

“It works just like athletics,” Aycock said. “There is a pipeline there. A lot of times, students don’t even realize those careers are out there.”