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Agricultural extension agent plans to help business, individuals

The Chaves County Cooperative Extension Service Office has two extension agents who joined the group this fall. Tamara Schubert, left, is the family and consumer sciences agent, and Drew Garnett is the agricultural agent. In addition, Andrea Stapp, the 4-H extension agent, is now the interim county director. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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The new agricultural extension service agent for the Chaves County Cooperative Extension Service Office based in Roswell said that his job is to help large agricultural businesses as well as the individual homeowner with concerns about a tree or garden.

“My primary concern is the people here in Chaves County,” said Drew (Andrew) Garnett. “The purpose of the extension is to benefit all of the members of our community. Because the agricultural industry here is so large, yes, I will be putting a lot of effort into our agricultural producers to make sure they have what they need and the information they need to be profitable and sustainable. But anybody who has a home garden, anybody who has a random plant that they have a concern about, a question about livestock or their yard, we are here and available for that as well.”

Garnett is the second new extension agent in recent months to join the local office, part of the statewide Cooperative Extension network affiliated with New Mexico State University to help communities by applying the research conducted by faculty and scientists at NMSU and other institutions.

Located in Chaves County, he is working with the state’s second largest agricultural production area in terms of cash receipts for livestock and crops. Cash receipts totaled more than $467 million in 2019, the most recent year for which information is available from the New Mexico Department of Agriculture.

Tamara Schubert also has joined the office as the consumer science extension agent, with information about her work to be provided in a future article. Another change is that Andrea Stapp, the longtime 4-H extension agent, is now the interim county director.

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Garnett has spent the past seven years in Florida, but his move to Chaves County is a return to his roots. Dexter is where he grew up — graduating from Dexter High School and participating in its FFA Club (formerly the Future Farmers of America) — and it is where his family still lives.

After high school, he earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in agricultural biology with an emphasis in entomology from New Mexico State University. He did his master’s research on glandless and glanded cotton and how the different types of cotton affect crop pests at an Extension Service research station in Artesia.

After receiving his master’s, he moved to Florida to be near his fiancee, who worked for a Florida wildlife conservation agency. Garnett taught high school science for two years and then, for five years, served as a horticulturalist for Walt Disney World theme park and its Animal Kingdom park.

“I was in charge of plant health for the southern half of the property,” he said. “I went from looking at cotton and corn and alfalfa to suddenly looking at Birds of Paradise and tabebuia and tibouchina. It was a lot of very different plant palette from the agricultural side of things.”

But part of his job also was to help with the growing of feed for the Animal Kingdom. He said family drew him back here.

“We loved what we were doing and the people we were with, but there’s something about family and green chile that you miss out on,” he said.

As an agricultural extension agent, Garnett will coordinate the master gardener program, the beef quality assurance program and the pesticide applicator program, which provide training and professional and licensure continuing education credits.

Major issues in the area that he intends to help with are management of noxious weeds that can harm livestock and crops and drought management by “utilizing every ounce of technology and information that we have.” He added that he thinks Chaves County farmers and ranchers are practiced in good water and soil management.

Another continuing issue in the area is control of the pecan weevil. Chaves County remains under a quarantine, and Garnett said that the area still has some reports of the pecan weevil affecting trees. If allowed to infest orchards, the weevil will destroy pecans. The quarantine affects the shipping of in-shell pecans out of Chaves, Lea or Eddy counties, unless certain safety criteria are met, and the shipping of in-shell pecans into the state. Pecan weevil emerged as a potential threat to the state’s second-largest crop in 2016, with invasions in home orchards the major concerns to the state’s commercial pecan crop. The quarantine affecting shipping out of the county is in effect at least until March 2023.

“If people do think they have pecan weevil or an issue with their pecans, please give us a call,” Garnett said. “I would love to come out to their house and look at their pecans. Or bring them and we will take a look at them here.”

He said people can reach him or the Cooperative Extension office through its social media pages or can call the office at 575-622-3210 to ask about a specific issue or sign up to be notified of upcoming courses or programs.

Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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