Community Spotlight: Woods Houghton- Leaving the Hay a Little Taller, the Cotton a Little Fuller, and the Pecans a Little Sweeter


The professional role of the Eddy County Extension Agent is to “get things going and get out of the way,” says recently retired agent Woods Houghton. Houghton held the post of County Extension Agent for 30 years. He retired August 1st of this historical year.

Woods was an innovator in his role as an extension agent. He used his entomology background and his two bachelor degrees in range and animal science to assist farmers in controlling the ever-changing pests both infamous to this area and to non-native, invasive types as well. He’s responsible for implementing control programs which are still in place for cotton boll weevils. His team successfully eradicated the pink boll weevil in this area as well. The pink boll weevil arrived in Eddy County after a hurricane blew in the pest from the southeast region of the US.

Houghton describes his role as a lot of coordinating pest and weed control during day to day operations. The reward for that toil is that at the end of the year or the end of several growing seasons, he’s left, “the hay a little taller, the cotton a little fuller, and pecans a little sweeter.” The idea of contributing to the success of those crops speaks to the New Mexico state motto “crescit eundo” (as it grows, it goes).

In fact, crescit eundo encompasses the spirit of the entire county extension program. County agents initiate beneficial county-level programs both in the agriculture scene and in the community. Once those budding programs have traction, agents turn them over to other entities to run them in following years. Iconic community programs like Christmas on the Pecos began as an extension program which Houghton helped start.

Another cornerstone of the extension program is 4-H. The leadership opportunities provided by the youth organization in fields like health science, agriculture, and civic engagement connects Eddy County students to larger state and national communities. Houghton notes the success of the 4-H kids in Southeast New Mexico as the greatest achievement in his career. One of his favorite memories of working with the 4-H youth of Eddy County is when a group of kids he coached in state horse judging went on to compete in England. Houghton remarks that many kids in the 4-H program went on to earn PhDs, are running businesses, and sitting on the local  school boards. His favorite quote from his predecessor and mentor, Richard Merrick, goes, “kids are the only thing God gave us to build tomorrow.”

The national extension program actually began as a result of the Smith-Lever Act of 1912 and the Bureau of Reclamation pushing for an education extension program in Eddy County, New Mexico. The goal of the education program was to teach farmers new irrigation techniques in lands where little rain falls. Since the inception of the extension agent position in 1915, there have been a total of 8 agents in Eddy County. Richard Merreck, Woods Houghton, and Wayne Shockey are the most recent three.

By: Kaity Hirst


Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

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