Current Class Members
Kelsi Cureton is an Intermediate Credit Analyst for Farm Credit of New Mexico in Las Cruces. Her daily duties include analyzing customer credit to make financial recommendations, creating projections and appraising collateral, and servicing existing loans. Kelsi hopes to help young and beginning farmers by offering affordable financial training, and says, "nothing would make me happier than to help producers become successful by understanding the numbers behind their plows and cows." Kelsi volunteers on a variety of Farm Credit service committees, and currently serves on the Sam Steel Executive Council for the College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences at NMSU. Outside of work, she spends her time riding horses, building and restoring wood furniture for resale, and making jewelry. Kelsi holds a Master's degree in Business Administration and a Bachelor's degree in Agricultural Economics and Agricultural Business from NMSU.
Joseph Griego is the Director of Head Start at West Las Vegas Schools, and the Title IX Coordinator for the district. With over 22 years of experience in Head Start programs, Joseph is well versed in the challenges facing impoverished youth, and believes in empowering youth and families toward successful futures. Outside of these roles, Joseph also owns a small organic farming operation with his wife, Ruth Ann, and is enthusiastic about combining these interests - "I would like to see our school systems utilizing more locally grown foods and even growing our own foods." Joseph also enjoys spending time with his six sons - Castillo, Ronald, Joseph Paul, Dakota Joe, Cory, and Asa - along with camping, hunting, fishing, and taking care of their livestock. He serves as the Chair of the Executive Board of HELP NM, and holds a Bachelor' degree in Art from New Mexico Highlands University and is working on his Master's degree in Educational Leadership.
Sam Hagelstein is a Financial Advisor for Edward Jones in Artesia. With a background as an Ag & Commercial Lender, Sam now works to help others in preparing financially for retirement, education, and unexpected life events. Outside of work, he enjoys shooting, volunteering with his church, and spending time with his family. He and his wife, Hannah, recently welcomed their first child, and are enjoying parenthood with their son Micah. Sam's ties to agriculture run deep after growing up on a working ranch east of Roswell, NM - "I have been determined to continue being a part of agriculture and its progress in my community and my country." Sam is pursuing a Master's degree in Finance & Economics from West Texas A&M University and holds a Bachelor's in Agricultural Business from Eastern New Mexico University.
LeeAnderson Jim is the Alfalfa Crop Manager for Navajo Agricultural Products Industry (NAPI) in Farmington, New Mexico. Lee oversees 13,200 acres, and is responsible for crop management, employee schedules, departmental budgets and operational plans. He was an active member of the Shiprock FFA chapter, and followed his passion for agriculture both at NAPI and through his own cattle growing operation. He also enjoys target shooting, traveling, and spending time with family. Lee believes in empowering his colleagues and crew, saying "I like to work side-by-side through problems and situations, and explain processes step-by-step with individuals until I know that they are confident to continue on their own." Lee is currently perusing an Associate's degree in Business Administration from Central New Mexico Community College.
Martina Lewis is a member of the accounting team for Navajo Agricultural Products Industry (NAPI). Her role as an Accountant involves processing invoices, issuing payments and assisting vendors with new accounts. She plays a key role in reconciling major accounts and providing documentation for audits. Martina sees the "big picture" of the farming operation, and is an avid supporter of environmental education for youth. She believes in offering educational opportunities in schools, such as "hands-on learning through school gardens, caring and protecting animals, and restoring local park water resources." Martina enjoys gardening herself, along with trying new recipes and spending time with her family. She and her husband Aaron have one daughter and one son, Madelyn and Aaden, and live in Farmington. Martina holds a Bachelor's degree of Business Administration in Finance from New Mexico Highlands University, and an Associate's degree in Business Administration from Dine College.
Matthew Gonzales serves as the Director of Government Affairs for the New Mexico Farm & Livestock Bureau. As a public relations specialist, Matthew works to coordinate legislative efforts among state, local, and federal governments, and prepare policy proposals which represent member and industry interests. He is actively involved in his community of Cimarron, New Mexico by serving on the village council, school board, and Municipal League Board of Directors. Matthew is proud of his New Mexico heritage, and says, “I love this state and I’m dedicated to seeing us achieve our full potential.” He and his wife Victoria have two daughters, Aspen and Eva, and enjoy the outdoors as a family.
Jeroen van der Ploeg is the Vice-President and manager for Mid-Frisian Dairy & Farms and Freanna Yoghurt. These unique names come from Jeroen's Dutch heritage and family roots in Freisland, a province of The Netherlands. Now as a dairy farmer in Clovis, New Mexico, Jeroen oversees daily operations on the farm and is designing and building a new yoghurt facility. He actively represents producer interests in the area by serving on the county Farm Bureau board and participating in the Young Farmers & Ranchers program, and enjoys projects that use his electrical or mechanical skills. Jeroen also hosts visitors to his farm, and says "we welcome people and encourage them to see agriculture in different ways - while on the tour, they taste yoghurt and learn about the entire process from start to finish." He and his wife, Traci, are the proud parents of Gerritt, Teis, and Andelynn.
Tiffany Rivera serves as a Government Relations Specialist for the New Mexico Department of Agriculture in Las Cruces. In her role, Tiffany works to educate legislators on the work of the NMDA, create meaningful collaborative relationships with policy and industry groups, attend the legislative session annually, and monitor relevant policy issues both on the state and federal level. In her free time, she enjoys working out, studying nutrition and health, traveling, and watching documentaries. She is passionate about healthy living and sees food as a unifying tool to bring people together. Tiffany also believes in increasing agricultural literacy among the youth in our state because "the kids of today are the leaders of tomorrow, and if we can focus on educating them it will pay off greatly in the long run." Tiffany holds a Master's degree in Agribusiness and Bachelor's degree in Animal Science from NMSU.
Derek Romig is a Field Representative for Dairy Farmers of America, a national dairy cooperative. Derek serves as a vital link between producers and the cooperative, and assists dairy farmers throughout New Mexico to ensure customer satisfaction. He and his wife Magan have two children, Patrick and CJ. In addition to spending time with family, Derek also enjoys hunting and golfing, volunteering at the Southern New Mexico State Fair, and serving as a leader for his kids' 4-H club. He is passionate about representing the dairy industry in our state, and says, "whether I am working with a dairyman, customer or coworker the leadership possibilities are endless." Derek holds a Bachelor's degree in Agricultural Economics and Agricultural Business from NMSU, with a specialization in Water Resource Management.
Erin Roy is the owner of The Harvest Trail Agency, a marketing firm specializing in farm-to-table, local restaurant, and other small agribusinesses. Erin started her company to give these businesses "a leg-up" in today's fast paced marketing world. Her expertise in social media, event planning, website management and photography help her to tell the story of agriculture from plow to plate. Erin believes in "shrinking the gap between large and small producers", and attends as many learning opportunities as possible to help communicate new trends to her clients. Additionally, Erin invests time in her backyard garden and livestock, and loves to fly fish, camp and travel. She and husband Starson live in Tijeras where they raise his two boys, Shadyn and Sylus. Erin holds a Master's degree in Agriculture and a Bachelor's degree in Animal Science from NMSU.
Heather Salopek is the Founder and Owner of Legacy Pecans in Las Cruces, specializing in corporate and retail pecan gift packaging. Her day-to-day responsibilities range from creating the company's strategic vision and goals to analyzing cash flow and overseeing online orders. A native of Las Cruces, she has advocated for the pecan industry as the U.S. international marketer and continues to promote the product as a businesswoman - "I think an initial way we can promote the industry and create buzz and awareness is through Agrotourism in southern New Mexico." When not in the pecan fields or her local store, Heather enjoys farm life, hunting, traveling, and anything that includes coffee. She also serves the community through the Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce Board, and sits on various college alumni councils. Heather holds both Master's and Bachelor's degrees in Horticulture and Agricultural Business from Texas A&M University.
Marisa Thompson is the State Extension Horticulture Specialist for New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service. Based at the Agricultural Science Center at Los Lunas, Marisa is responsible for research and extension programs in sustainable horticultural practices. She writes a weekly gardening column called "Southwest Yard & Garden" and helps ensure the most up-to-date and accurate information about urban landscaping and gardening is available to the public. Outside of her Extension work, Marisa is an avid dancer, including swing and ballroom styles, but mostly country western. She is passionate about encouraging others, and says, "I believe that through training to be a better leader and a better educator, I can make a difference by speaking up for the people of New Mexico and inspiring a new generation of leaders." Marisa holds a PhD in Plant & Environmental Sciences, a Master's degree in Horticulture from NMSU, and Bachelor's degrees in Biology and Psychology from UNM.