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Dexter native becomes local ag agent

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The new extension agricultural agent for Chaves County is a familiar face to many farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses in the area.

Troy Thompson of Dexter began the position Monday after 11 years as a soil conservationist with the Roswell office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Services.

He also has served as the rodeo supervisor for the Chaves County 4H and FFA Fair for about four years and has been involved in other agricultural-related organizations.

“I grew up in this type of atmosphere,” he said. “I have always been interested in it. I just honestly never knew that I would move into it.”

He explained that his late father, Bill Thompson, was a Carlsbad extension agent and then a Roswell extension agent from 1976 until his retirement in 1997.

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Thompson, who owns 4 acres of pecan trees on his Dexter property, said he has worked with agricultural producers in the area for many years.

Shannon Wooton, the Chaves County Extension Service director since February, said she knew Thompson from the New Mexico Livestock Bureau and that the role he holds is tasked with providing research-based information to ranchers, farmers, agricultural producers, horticulturalists and homeowners.

“Troy will bring his past work experience, being with the NRCS for the past 11 years, bringing some of that knowledge over to our side,” she said. “He also knows the county and that is a plus — knows the ranchers and farmers and knows where the ranches and farms are located.”

Thompson said he will work with agricultural producers individually on such issues as crop production, invasive or noxious weeds, and rangeland issues. He also will organize the office’s annual pesticide workshop, where professionals can obtain their Continuing Education Units, and is planning now for other possible workshops.

He’ll work with local garden clubs and will answer the calls of homeowners, who often call with questions about insects, trees, shrubs and plants. He either provides the answers or connects people with a New Mexico State University specialist. The statewide Cooperative Extension Service operates within the university system.

In addition, Thompson will help out with the office’s 4H and Family and Consumer Sciences programs, which are the primary areas of other extension agents in the Roswell office, and will continue to be involved in youth outreach, as he was with the USDA.

“The average age of the agricutluralist is in the 60s, so we are trying to get young people involved so they can take over some of the ag stuff,” he said. “It is a hard job. It is not something you can just jump into and have instant gratification, so they have to have a good work ethic.”

His mentoring of youth has included his role as a parent of twins. Darci and Tanner, who, like him, are Dexter High School graduates, participated primarily in Future Farmers of America but also some in 4H. Darci is now an FFA teacher in Texas, while Tanner is a mechanical engineer in Carlsbad. (Thompson’s wife of 30 years, Gayle, is a respiratory therapist in Roswell.)

In addition to learning his new job, Thompson is earning his master’s degree in agricultural extension education from New Mexico State. He previously earned his bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics from the university.

Thompson is filling a position left open after the Jan. 31 retirement of Sandra Key Barraza, who had worked with several offices of the New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service over 31 years and retired as Chaves County director and extension agricultural agent.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.