“Growing things has always been a part of my life,” says Smith. Indeed! She grew up gardening outdoors with her family and caring for indoor houseplants. As a teenager, she had a small glass unheated greenhouse in her back yard where she started flower and vegetable seeds. Her high school summers found her working in those iconic long tobacco barns in the Pioneer Valley sewing dried tobacco leaves. Later, grounded in a love of plants, her career blossomed (excuse the pun) as an extension educator in the UMass Extension Greenhouse Crops and Floriculture Program at UMass Amherst.
In 1978, Smith began working as a “county agent” in Greenfield for the Franklin County Extension Service. As a county agent, she served the community through educational workshops and conferences, weekly radio programs, and newspaper columns on a wide range of horticulture topics. She worked closely with members of the agricultural community, coordinating the annual small farms conference held at Franklin County Tech School and organized the first master gardener program in Franklin County.
After earning her master’s degree at UMass, she accepted the position of Regional Floriculture and Nursery Specialist serving the commercial flower-growing and greenhouse industry from the West Springfield Extension office. The position eventually relocated to campus and took on statewide focus with programs reaching throughout New England. Smith worked with UMass colleagues Paul Lopes and Douglas Cox to develop water quality and energy conservation programs for greenhouses. She and Lopes were instrumental in developing the first greenhouse integrated pest management program in Massachusetts, working closely with flower growers and UMass entomologist Roy Van Driesche to help the industry reduce pesticide use and look at alternatives for pest management. Smith also taught a course on greenhouse integrated pest management for UMass’s Stockbridge School of Agriculture for several years. While the greenhouse industry (and her job) have evolved over the years, especially with the use of technology, one constant is that growers continue to find face-to-face educational programs and conferences very useful.
As an extension educator, Smith works closely with the floriculture industry providing research-based information through workshops and seminars, coordinating conferences, and writing educational articles and publications. All this, plus managing the Extension greenhouse floriculture websites benefit the floriculture industry and Commonwealth. Many of her articles appear in national trade magazines.
Throughout her career, Smith has earned several awards including the National Association of County Extension Workers Achievement and Distinguished Service Awards, Massachusetts Flower Growers’ Association Distinguished Service Award, Dow Study Tour Award (which provided an agricultural tour of the Northwest), an Environmental Education Award and awards for newspaper columns and radio programs. Good growing, Tina!