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Extension agent feels community involvement is key to building trust

Date: 11/23/2010

Pete Gnatkowski, agricultural agent for the Lincoln County Cooperative Extension Service, views his role with New Mexico State University as the person people in the community can come to when they have a question about the various aspects of agriculture.

Pete Gnatkowski

"Our office is the extension of NMSU in Lincoln county. We are the source of research-based information from our land grant university for clientele away from the Las Cruces campus or branch colleges," Gnatkowski said. "I think you need to be a part of the community, a part of the people's lives in the county to build trust with the people you serve."

The Extension agent, who has lived his entire life in Lincoln County, said he is involved in many organizations within the community and participates in many events throughout the year in order to stay visible so people know they can come to him with any questions or concerns.

Gnatkowski said he regularly fields inquires about agriculture, ranging from invasive plants and insects to gardening and soil tests. But his real passion is getting to work with the youth in Lincoln County through such programs as 4-H. For many youth, programs such as 4-H are their first exposure to CES and to NMSU.

Demographics have changed over time in the county, Gnatkowski said, and he sees more and more people who move to the southwest from as far away as New York who want to revel in the mystique of owning a piece of land, but do not necessarily know quite what to do with it once they own it.

Though people come and go from the area, Gnatkowski said he - and other Extension agents - continues to listen to the community and develop specific programs and workshops to help people address their individual needs.

"With regard to Extension, I think that it's a very important part of the university's educational program," Gnatkowski said. "There is just so much information available. Extension really makes a difference and promotes the goals of NMSU."

Written by Audry Olmsted.

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