New ag agent at helm
Jessica Smith, a native of Colorado and recent New Mexico State University graduate, is Socorro’s new general county agricultural agent, replacing Tom Dean, who left Socorro this year to accept a state-level extension position in Las Cruces. Deana Tafoya will stay on as the county’s 4-H program assistant.
Dean is happy with the overall quality of the applicants for the extension agent position.
“The local search committee pulled together three really good applicants,” he said. “It isn’t always the case, so Socorro’s pretty lucky. I’m pretty excited to have Jessica come to Socorro county. She’s got a lot of enthusiasm. She’s willing to learn. I think she’s going to work well with the kids and producers.”
Originally from Colorado, Smith earned a bachelor’s degree at NMSU in general science in 2007 and Master of Agricultural Extension Education with a minor in agricultural business in 2012.
Her involvement with the state 4-H horse school in Albuquerque prompted Smith to pursue a career in the extension service,
“One of the determining factors to get my master’s in Ag Extension was the experience I had in horse school and the people I worked with,” she said. “All the 4-H kids in the state who sign up for a horse project can bring their horses and have a week of fun.”
This year’s horse school acquainted Smith with several Socorro 4-H members.
“There were quite a few kids from Socorro at the horse school this June,” she said.
The Socorro County position will be her first taste of life as an extension agent, but she is excited about the challenge.
“My first inclination is to get out and see what the county’s all about,” she said. “I want to see what direction people are going. Tom Dean did a great job, and I want take it from him in a positive way.”
As a general extension agent, Smith will be expected to deal with all kinds of agricultural problems.
“Any sort of ag question can be fielded through the extension office,” she said. “My duty is to educate people. If I don’t have the answer, I do know the people who know the answer. We have multiple specialists in the state who range from plant diseases to specific crops. I can get people answers.”
Smith will also oversee the county’s 4-H and Ideas for Cooking and Nutrition (ICAN) programs. Since graduating, Smith has been the New Mexico Department of Agriculture program director for the seed, feed and fertilizer division. She was responsible for quality control for all seed, feed and fertilizer sold in New Mexico.
“For a company to sell feed, seed and fertilizer in the state of N.M., it has to be registered,” she said. “I made sure what’s in the packages matches the label.”
Smith spends a lot of her free time working with her registered quarter horse stallion, Wimpy’s Little Doc.
“He’s a good guy,” she said. “I show a bit in quarter horse reining, and do a little bit of riding for the NMSU. ranch horse versatility team.”
She traveled with the team to competitions in Colorado and Wyoming as well as the National Ranch Horse Versatility Competition in Amarillo, Texas, in April. At the Nationals, her horse finished eighth overall, fourth in reining, and fifth in pleasure.
Now that she has a full-time job in Socorro, she plans to keep her horse in Las Cruces. She’s hoping the mares she bred him to will produce a few champion foals this spring.
“I bred him to six mares,” she said. “It’s just a hobby.”