McALLEN – The Garden Gal is on the air.
(Click on the video)
Barbara Storz, a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service horticulturist in Hidalgo County, becomes the Garden Gal from 7-9 a.m. every Saturday morning on “Agronomically Speaking,” a new gardening and agricultural radio program on News Talk 710 KURV-AM in McAllen.
“I’m not crazy about the on-air name management gave me, but they told me that if I didn’t pick a name, my audience would pick one for me and I might not like it,” she laughed.
In addition to her full-time duties as an AgriLife Extension horticulturist, Storz took the reins as host of the show in late March.
Despite Storz’s lack of experience as a talk show host, KURV station manager Sergio Sanchez said he knew minutes after meeting her that Storz was perfect for the job.
“I knew in the first 10 minutes of our first one-hour chat that I wanted her to do a talk show,” he said. “I was floored by the weight of agronomic knowledge floating around in her head.”
After getting the job and practicing in the studio for only a few hours, Storz said she was not nervous about going on the air.
“Sergio gave me a lot of good tips, critiques and encouragement, and the staff at KURV are wonderful to work with,” she said. “I was not a nervous wreck about going on the air because my job as an AgriLife Extension horticulturist involves a lot of public speaking. So developing a relationship with the microphone was not scary for me.”
Storz said when she goes on the air, she imagines herself talking to one person, not thousands.
“I imagine myself sitting in my garden, sipping tea with a good friend just chit-chatting,” she said. “Two hours sounds like a long time to be on the air, but it just flies by because we’re having such a good time.”
Storz opens each show with a monologue to introduce her audience to the show’s theme for the day, the day’s guests and to ask listeners to call in with any questions they may have about gardening or farming.
“I pick a theme that’s timely,” she said. “The theme is based on the time of year it is for gardeners or maybe it will be based on calls we’ve had at our AgriLife Extension office from the public.”
The theme of a recent monologue had to do with compost.
“I told my audience it was time to spread about 3 inches of compost in their gardens and flower beds before the temperature got too hot. That helps soil retain moisture and keeps the soil temperature cool so plants can thrive. If gardeners wait too long, the hot temperatures will stress the plants and if you forget to water, you can lose half your plants or more.”
More recently, Storz pre-recorded a five-minute interview with Ricardo Carranza, an AgriLife Extension program assistant in Hidalgo County, who explained the activities of a recently attained Growing and Nourishing Healthy Communities grant.
Storz said she brings her education and experience to the show, including having been raised on a farm in Louisiana.
“We were raised to be self-sufficient on our farm, so that coupled with my education and experience in agronomy and horticulture helps me deal with almost any question that is called in to my show,” she said.
The only radio experience she had before Agronomically Speaking, though, was at a part-time job she had while attending a secretarial school in Baton Rouge in the 1960s.
“I landed a part-time job at a small radio station working in traffic, which is the scheduling of commercials. But my boss thought I had a pretty voice, so every once in a while he’d ask me to record commercials for clients that didn’t have enough money to hire a professional announcer.”
While recording those spots so many years ago may or may not have contributed to her success on the air today, Storz’s enthusiasm for all living things carries her through, Sanchez said.
“Her zeal for better living and her love of nature is as powerful as her hair is fiery red,” he said. “She has a gift for communicating the obscure and mundane in a story form that captures the imagination of information-minded people.”
One such topic that fascinated Sanchez was Storz’s story about the insects that pollinate, die and become part of the fig plant.
“These little stories help trigger questions callers may have had for a while but never took the time to ask the appropriate expert,” Storz said. “And since my show airs on Saturday, people are off and thinking about their lawns and gardens and have the time to call me with their questions on air.”
Sanchez believes Storz is in her element when she’s asked a question.
“Barbara gets in the zone when you ask her questions,” he said. “I really like listening to her answer questions from callers, whether they are about their garden, lawn, trees, soil, bugs, even their farms. That’s right. Her vast reservoir of knowledge is an asset to local farmers too.”
After a very busy 17 years with the Texas A&M University System, Storz has decided to retire at the end of September, but insists she will always be a horticulturist and will continue hosting her new radio show.
“Barbara is a terrific teacher and we are all blessed to know her,” Sanchez said. “She is truly a Texas treasure.”