November 3, 2013

Extension celebrates anniversary

Richard Gast, Cornell Ag Connection

— Cornell Cooperative Extension of Franklin County celebrated a century of service last week at our annual meeting and dinner at the Malone Golf Course Clubhouse Restaurant.

One hundred years is a very long time. Yet, surprisingly, many within our community do not know who we are. Nor do they recognize all that we do to assist and improve the lives of thousands of people in our region. That lack of recognition exists even among many whose lives have been touched by their participation in services we provide.

Extension has long been associated with agriculture, agricultural research and the distribution of research-based agricultural information. And indeed, we remain that today. But our focus is expanded. Our vision encompasses learning and education that is community based. And we’re working diligently to improve our county’s economic, environmental and social conditions concentrating on quality of life and the critical issues that affect daily living.

All are welcome to call, email or walk into our offices any day of the working week to set up an appointment, ask for educational materials or bulletins, be placed on one of our mailing lists or request our services, which are often provided without charge.

We offer educational information and programming based on research from Cornell University and other educational institutions, all of it intended not just to increase agricultural profitability but to enhance consumer horticulture and gardening, develop the character and competence of youth, strengthen individual, family and community resources and improve nutrition and health.

While a number of the people I speak with are familiar with 4-H, many don’t realize 4-H is the youth education and development branch of extension. Our 4-H programs, for youth 6-18 years old, provide recreational and learning opportunities in dairy farming, horsemanship, arts and crafts, community service, citizenship and leadership. They work with other kids and adults, make new friends, share common interests and discover new places.

We see the potential in our youth and we make them, not their activities, our priority. We try hard to give them a sense of purpose, to empower them and to motivate them to give back to their communities and their families in return for the good things they received from caring adults when they were young.

Programs like Eat Smart, a nutrition-education program, build stronger families, develop capable, responsible, caring young people, promote healthy, supportive communities, increase financial well being and support informed housing choices. Eat Smart focuses on health, nutrition and safety by encouraging increased fruit and vegetable consumption, promoting safe preparation and storage of food, reducing insecurities about the food supply, expanding knowledge of behaviors that affect women’s and children’s health, and increasing citizen participation in local health and safety policy decisions.

CCE has a history of outreach in home and community horticulture. The information and services we offer are designed to bring ecologically sound, science-based practices for home-gardening projects to homeowners, market gardeners and seasonal residents. We recognize that the process of planting and reaping meets human needs including a feeling of connectedness with the land and the seasons, moments of solitude and cooperation with family and neighbors.

We provide workshops for community groups and the public. We work one to one and with small groups, providing consultation in the office or by telephone. We support community efforts through training sessions in our schools and with other community-based organizations.

We recruit and train volunteers including 4-H leaders, master gardeners, master forest owners, our board of directors and advisory committees. CCE distributes newsletters, pamphlets, booklets, fact sheets and Cornell and other land-grant university and government-agency publications. We reach out to residents with regularly published newspaper articles, as well.

We are working to develop land-use management approaches that improve the quality and sustainability of our environment and natural resources. We encourage farming, forestry and industrial practices that maintain a clean, healthy environment while assuring a safe, sustainable and abundant local food and wood-products supply, attractive landscapes and prosperous economies. And we are striving to meet the demands of contemporary issues such as diversity, technology and new ways of working and learning.

My colleagues and I invite you to discover Cornell Cooperative Extension. We encourage you to contact our office, or the CCE office in your county, to find out about upcoming programs, workshops, classes and activities and to let us put our experience and research knowledge to work for you.

Richard L. Gast, extension program educator II, Horticulture, Natural Resources, Energy; agriculture programs assistant, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Franklin County, 355 West Main St., Suite 150, Malone, 12953, phone 483-7403, fax 483-6214 or email