Extension agent Kyle Tator leaves Valencia County post for new career

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When opportunity knocks, you better open the door, and for Kyle Tator, the Valencia County Agricultural Extension agent, opening that door is bittersweet.

The New Mexico Sate University alumnus was told about a wildlife biologist position in his home town area of Dulce, N.M., working for the Jicarilla Apache Nation on about a million acre reserve.

Deborah Fox-News-Bulletin photo: Valencia County Agriculture Extension Agent Kyle Tator left his position at the Valencia County NMSU Cooperative Extension Service for a new position as a wildlife biologist.

Did he know of anyone who might be interested in the position?

Well, Tator pursued a master’s degree in wildlife biology because that’s exactly what his interest is. You bet he knew someone who was interested in the position, but it would not be an easy decision.

He has been a NMSU extension agent in Valencia County for the past five years. He has learned from area farmers and made many friends. He and his wife owns a home in the county and has two small children.

These were the concerns that weighed on the agent’s mind.

“I think it’s important to recognise opportunity and not be afraid to pursue it,” Tator said. “It’s a bittersweet deal because I know I had a good thing going here.”

Tator has a bachelor’s degree in range science and a master’s in big game management. It’s something he went to school for and something he’s always wanted to pursue.

“Finding a home here in Valencia County as an extension agent was a blessing, because it made me grow,” Tator said. “Everything happens for a reason, and this is part of it. It wasn’t an easy decision, but it’s something that my family and I decided to do.”

He talked it over with his wife, Lisa, and although they own a home, they decided it was an important opportunity for his career.

They have two young sons, ages 2 and 2 months.

The job is a dream come true for a wildlife biologist.

“It all has to do with outdoors, and that’s important to me,” Tator said. “And it also has to do with big game, which has always been fascinating to me.”

The Jicarilla Apache boast that their reservation offers some of the best big game trophy hunting in North America. Trophy mule deer hunting, for Boone and Crockett class bucks, is their specialty, their website says.

Tator grew up on a small ranch outside of Dulce.

“As a 12-year-old kid, that was the job that I wanted when I grew up,” Tator said. “So, it’s kind of an opportunity I can’t turn down.”

Within a few months, the Valencia County extension office will have Tator’s replacement, and he’s confident there isn’t anything the office won’t be able to handle in the meantime.

“Some services won’t be around for a few months, but if something majorly pressing is happening in an alfalfa field or something along those lines, we can still handle those things through neighboring counties or specialists, but the staff here is more than capable of answering those questions.”

His goal as Valencia’s extension agent was to showcase agriculture and support its importance here, he said.

“I wanted to make sure that through programming and through all the stuff I was trying to do — promoted agriculture and promoted agriculture education and demonstrated that, without agriculture, it’s a cliché, but, without agriculture we don’t clothe ourselves and we starve to death,” Tator said. “It’s very important to this community, to its heritage, and that’s what I hope I contributed to.”

Valencia County ranchers and farmers are professional producers with generations of experience and expertise, but Tator thinks it’s important that the extension office offers further education to help keep them on top of their game, he said.

“It’s a pretty easy job, you just have to listen to the clientele,” Tator said. “And determine how to best develop an educational program that can help them help themselves.”

The cool thing about the job is it was continuing education for him, he said.

Ongoing projects started while Tator was the Valencia County agent will continue, such as the feasibility study of establishing a regional wholesale produce sorting shed in the county.

“Economically we need to see if it’s viable,” Tator said.

If it is, the search for funding will begin.

Tator’s last day in the Valencia County Extension Office was Aug. 15.


-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.