Five senior college students from Chapingo University near Mexico City, Mexico, have been studying in the U.S. for the past three months. The Noble Foundation, in Ardmore, Oklahoma, accepted the responsibility for providing training and field exercises on the latest range and wildlife technologies available.
Homer Sanchez, a recently retired conservationist, from Mason, previously served as a consultant trainer for the group in Oklahoma, and last week coordinated a trip to Mason County so that the university students could learn first-hand from local ranchers and the observe diversity of the local ecology.
While in Mason County, the university students were hosted with ranch tours on the Curtis Schulze ranch, the James Kelly Schmidt ranch, the Julio Ramon ranch, and the Mason Mountain Wildlife Management Area. Field tour and trainings included drought and grazing management efforts, wildlife income alternatives, alternative livestock, solar water systems, utilizing prescribed burning and excavator equipment for brush management, and the value of conservation planning and goal setting.
Central to all discussions was a focus on teaching students how to evaluate soil and rangeland health in the field through hands-on exercises. Ranchers, Texas Parks and Wildlife personnel, volunteer consultants, and the local NRCS staff, worked together to explain to the group how local, state and federal programs can be built to support the local agricultural community. This type of infrastructure – voluntary technical and financial support - is not available to ranch managers and owners in Mexico, and the Chapingo University students listed this as a major obstacle as an unstable agricultural system can lead to an unstable economy and country.
The group was hosted by local families and loved the beauty the Hill Country offered. As expected, Mason County was a great host. Thanks to all of you that made our community shine!