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Published December 14 2012

Putting down his pen

Fargo - North Dakota State University is losing its resident expert in all things horticulture.

Ron Smith, the NDSU Extension Service horticulturist for the past 27 years, will retire Dec. 31.

Smith started at NDSU as an associate professor in the department of plant sciences in 1985, and since then has racked up quite the list of accomplishments.

Between traveling around the region speaking on various subjects and teaching courses at the college, Smith penned several Extension publications as well as pieces for magazines such as Prairie Home, Prairie Business and Golf Course Management.

His weekly Hortiscope column appears in at least 56 newspapers around the region, including the Farmers’ Forum published by The Forum.

Rich Horsley, head of the plant sciences department at the school, said Smith’s contributions will definitely be missed.

“He’s been completely the face of horticulture here at NDSU, with everything he’s done,” Horsley said. “We got so used to having a person with all of this knowledge, that we’ve been spoiled.”

That vast knowledge of horticulture, Horsley said, was the most remarkable of all of Smith’s contributions, which was reflected in his Hortiscope column. “He can answer questions on home gardening and landscaping, managing small trees, managing your lawn. His scope is just phenomenal,” Horsley said. “Someone with that much knowledge is going to be tough to replace.”

Horsley estimated that Smith answered 40,000 to 50,000 questions during his time working on the Hortiscope column.

“People just took it for granted that they could ask him a question, and he’d be able to answer it,” Horsley said.

For his part, Smith is looking forward to having some time off from his busy life at NDSU.

“I’m looking forward to a change in the routine,” he said.

In January, Smith and his wife will escape from the North Dakota winter and enjoy a sunny cruise off the coast of Mexico.

Not long after, he’ll be right back at it, speaking at an expo in the Twin Cities, followed by several other speaking engagements.

Smith also hopes to continue writing in the years ahead, even though he won’t continue with the Hortiscope column.

“I enjoy writing, so I’ll continue in that medium,” he said. “Everybody’s kind of been bugging me to write a book, but I don’t know if I’ll do that. Books are a lot of work.”

Whatever the case, Smith said, he plans to continue being active and finding ways to stay occupied.

“I have not been unbusy at all in my life since I’ve been a young teenager,” he said, laughing.

Even in retirement, it seems it’ll continue that way.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535