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NMSU’s new Extension horticulture specialist to continue Southwest Yard & Garden column

LOS LUNAS – Southwest Yard and Garden columnist Curtis Smith has retired but the column will continue with gardening advice from Marisa Thompson.


Woman in blue shirt speaking to people
Marisa Thompson, New Mexico State University’s new Extension horticulture specialist, explains how researchers determine if trees are receiving enough water. Besides workshops, Thompson will answer gardening questions as the new author of the Southwest Yard & Garden weekly column. (NMSU photo by Jane Moorman)

Thompson, New Mexico State University College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences’ new Extension horticulture specialist, brings a wealth of knowledge to help answer people’s questions about raising plants.

“Dr. Curtis Smith, NMSU’s retired horticulture specialist, has written the question and answer column for the past 22 years,” she said. “He and I work well together and will be co-writing the column for the first weeks. I appreciate his time and expertise.”

Thompson plans to post links to the weekly columns and related information to all of the horticulture program social media platforms, including a blog.

Besides penning the weekly newspaper column, Thompson will be helping Cooperative Extension Service county agents to answer questions from their clients.

“I know Marisa will be very responsive and a real asset to our county Extension agents to deal with the volume of calls they get with questions regarding horticulture issues in both urban and rural areas,” said Jon Boren, associate dean and director of the Cooperative Extension Service.

“Marisa is already dedicated to the Extension mission,” Boren said. “She knows the Extension specialists, the issues and challenges and the opportunities for future growth of our Extension horticulture program.”

Thompson, stationed at NMSU’s Agricultural Science Center at Los Lunas, began her new position in August.

“I don’t think there is a better fit for me,” Thompson said of her appointment, which is divided between 75 percent Extension and 25 percent research. “I like working with people, and enjoy conducting research.”

Thompson is busy introducing herself to NMSU’s Cooperative Extension Service agents, municipal park managers, the nursery industry and landscape professionals around the state.

“I’m getting an assessment of what is out there. What are the most pressing questions and how we can all work together,” she said.

Regarding potential research she will conduct, she said, “We need more research on cultivars of species that are going to do better with the available water whether it is city water, reclaimed water or ground water.”

Her love of plants began while attending the University of New Mexico.

“I discovered the joy of having plants while working on my bachelor’s of arts degree in biology,” she said. “I began by raising house plants. At one point I had over 100 plants in my tiny studio apartment.”

Her knowledge base grew by working at Osuna Nursery and Plants of the Southwest, two retail nurseries in Albuquerque.

While attending NMSU’s Cooperative Extension Service Master Gardener classes in 2008, Thompson met several NMSU Extension specialists and was inspired to go back to school, specifically to become an Extension educator.

Nine-and-a-half years later Thompson has finished her master’s and doctorate and accepted the position as statewide Extension horticultural specialist at NMSU.