Coronavirus curtails contact, but Muleshoe pride shines throughwebmaster July 8, 2020 0 COMMENTS
By Gail M. Williams
Muleshoe Journal Correspondent
County Extension Agent John Villalba started work at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension in Bailey County on March 1, just as coronavirus shutdown procedures were being put into place.
“It was a weird time,” Villalba said. “I didn’t have opportunity to meet too many people, in terms of face-to face contact. Spring is a critical time when farmers are starting to wind down their planting, and I was not able to get out and be with them.”
Villalba has worked as a county agent in three counties for eight years in Texas. Prior to that, he was a county agent in Tucumcari, New Mexico. This is his 14th year overall.
Shortly before moving to Muleshoe, he did get a chance to meet people at a 4-H meet-and-greet at the Coliseum. He has also been able to meet some people on his personal time and through the staff.
“I just figured I’d let it roll and see what happens,” he said. “We’re taking a new direction as a government agency in terms of performing our duties. It’ll get better. I’m not too worried about that.”
Like other organized youth groups, the 4-H program has not been able to meet face-to-face since March. Nevertheless, Villalba says he is really pumped and ready for 4-H to begin its year on Sept. 1.
“Face-to-face contact will be limited depending on the number of people at a gathering,” Villalba said. “But we’ll be able to deliver information to the public.”
In April, 4-H utilized Facebook to present a 21-day livestock chicken program that takes kids grades K-3 through the process from egg to chick.
“We did it all via Facebook Live and got a lot of positive feedback,” Villalba said. “We do as much as we can in the schools using social media to deliver the programming where we would normally have done it face-to-face.”
Villalba believes one positive about the coronavirus is that extension agencies have had to think outside the box.
“We’ve found new ways to reach our audience, whether it’s adults or kids,” he said. “We’ve learned to employ different tactics to be credible and viable to the community that we serve.”
However, the new normal does have limitations. Overnight camping will probably not be possible.
“I would love to see the kids face-to-face, take them to camps, do things with them,” Villalba said. “We’ve sent surveys to families, asking about the possibility of day camps. It’s kind of a day-to-day thing.”
Villalba said it’s a common misconception that 4-H is all about stock shows. He acknowledges that stock shows are a vital part of 4-H and the agency is always looking for ways to make them even better.
“But 4-H is the most developed program in the world, offering more projects than anywhere else in the world,” he said.
The program relies on parents, volunteers and other agents to provide teaching and supervision for the kids.
“We’re looking for people with hidden skills, a trade or a hobby that they have to help deliver to the best of our ability,” Villalba said.
His ultimate goal is for Bailey County to become the best 4-H Extension County around.
“There’s tons of pride in Muleshoe, so the easy part is taken care of. We’d like people to call, come by and offer their help. That’s what we want,” Villalba said.
Since he came on board at the extension agency, Villalba has had some opportunities to get out into the country and see how farmers are doing.
“They’re at the tail end of really putting up forages for dairies,” Villalba said. “I came from a county where they didn’t have the type of irrigation available there is here. The forage, corn and sorghum, look very good.”
Now, cotton is on farmers’ minds.
“In places the crop is fair,” Villalba said, “but the landscape shows me the crop has struggled quite a bit. We do need more rain. It’s not as dry as it was in 2011 or 2012, but we need some help from Mother Nature.”
Coronavirus has negatively affected the dairy market.
“We’re coming out of that,” Villalba said. “It helps dairy farmers to have a place to go with their milk. It’s not like they can just stop milking; cows still have to be lactating.”
Villalba says there is one way the public can help area farmers.
“Keep praying for rain,” he said. “We can always use more.”
Bailey County AgriLife Extension office is at 118 W. Ave. C in Muleshoe. Call 806-272-4583, find them on Facebook or go to https://bailey.agrilife.org/.