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NMSU's "Southwest Yard & Garden" Highlighted on KNME Fund-raiser

ALBUQUERQUE = "Southwest Yard & Garden," New Mexico State University's weekly TV show, will be the featured attraction in a two-and-one-half-hour segment of KNME-TV's semiannual fund-raiser on Saturday, Dec. 9, from noon to 2:30 p.m.

The show, which began airing on KNME and public television stations in Las Cruces and Portales last April, is a half-hour, unscripted review of gardening issues in New Mexico and the Southwest. The program features demonstrations and presentations by guest speakers in gardening and landscaping in New Mexico. It also includes a question-and-answer session for viewers in southern and northern parts of the state.

KNME chose the show for the fund-raiser's Dec. 9 segment because of growing interest among viewers, said John Burch, membership manager for KNME, who oversees the station's pledge drives.

"There's no question that the show has generated interest," Burch said. "Our entire 'how to' block of programming is well-received, and 'Southwest Yard & Garden' is particularly well-viewed. We help put the show together with NMSU, so this seemed like a great opportunity to promote it."

Curtis Smith, an Albuquerque-based horticulture specialist with NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service, and John White, Doņa Ana County Extension agent, cohost the show. It airs on KNME-TV on Saturdays at noon and repeats on Fridays at 2:30 p.m. It airs on KRWG-TV in Las Cruces on Saturdays at 10:30 a.m. and repeats Sundays at 11 p.m. and Thursdays at 1 p.m. And it airs on KENW-TV in Portales on Saturdays at 10 a.m. Extension created the show to complement long-running national shows such as "Victory Garden," which doesn't cover issues specific to the Southwest. "Our problems are different," Smith said. "Some of the information that is offered on the national programs is not correct, or is inappropriate for this part of the country."

Smith will appear live as an in-studio guest during the Dec. 9 segment of the fund-raiser, which will feature at least two half-hour showings of "Southwest Yard & Garden." Between programs, master gardeners from Bernalillo, Sandoval and Valencia counties will answer phones to take pledges from viewers and questions for Smith to answer on the air. Smith will also discuss holiday topics, such as how to select and care for Christmas trees, and will conduct in-studio demonstrations, such as tree-pruning techniques.

NMSU expects the KNME fundraiser to generate more public interest in the show, but its producers say "Southwest Yard & Garden" has already performed well in its first season. In the last round of Nielsen ratings in July, when the show was four months old, it achieved a rating of 1 in the Albuquerque designated market area (DMA), which covers all of the state's counties except Doņa Ana. That means that, on average, about 6,000 households were tuned in to the program each week. Nielsen estimates about 1.8 viewers per household, so that more than 10,000 people in New Mexico may have been watching the show each week during July. (These ratings do not include viewers in Doņa Ana County or eastern New Mexico.)

NMSU's agricultural communications department, which produces the show, originally intended to conclude the first season in fall 2000 and begin a new round of programming in the 2001 growing season. But given the positive public response over the summer, Extension decided to extend the show through the winter.

"We felt we had developed an audience that we didn't want to lose during the winter," said Terry Canup, department head and the show's executive producer. "The winter season is short anyway in the southern part of the state, and there's plenty of winter gardening topics to cover."

During December, the show will cover such topics as cool weather vegetables or crops and safe holiday cooking tips, said Smith. "We're trying to keep all our regular programming relevant to the season," he said.

The producers are also taking advantage of the slow winter growing season to include more basic gardening education in the features and question-and-answer segments. Because gardeners typically eat what they grow, the show will add kitchen segments on food safety and how to prepare and preserve food, Smith said.

Extension pays for the show's production, although KNME provides free production assistance on many Albuquerque segments. The show is scheduled to run through the 2001 growing season, but its longevity will depend on the success of efforts to seek private sector underwriting, Canup said. "We've had enough feedback to tell us people are watching the show, including former governor Bruce King and his wife Alice, who say they are regular viewers," said Canup. "We hope this becomes a long-running program on public television."