REBER — It's pretty likely Amy Ivy is flipping through seed catalogs despite the snow.
Anyone who followed her column of many years in the Press-Republican knows that — her itch to get her hands in the soil blossoms way before spring's arrival.
But this year, she's planning her garden in private — after 31 1/2 years with Cornell Cooperative Extension, Ivy has retired.
DUCKS AND EARWIGS
Ivy was for many years regional vegetable specialist with the Eastern New York Commercial Horticulture Program through Cooperative Extension in both Essex and Clinton counties.
She came aboard in 1987 as a part-timer in consumer horticulture, which included answering callers’ extremely varied questions.
“This was fun. It’s a feel-good part of the job," Ivy said. "It seems like every day something new comes up.”
Among inquiries, some of the most unusual included one about migrating ducks in a swimming pool, and the time she had to reassure a caller: No, earwigs don't enter a person's aural canal.
In 1998, Ivy's responsibilities expanded to include Clinton County.
She was instrumental in getting the Master Gardener Volunteer Program running.
“It was satisfying to train others to teach," she said. "It is such worthwhile stuff.”
In 2003, she became more involved with the raising of commercial vegetables and high tunnel agriculture which, she said, “has become a passion.”
"For the past several years, Amy has been one of the most active researchers at the Cornell Willsboro Farm, where she has trialed everything from ginger to basil to her beloved peppers," said Mike Davis, who manages that facility, officially titled the E.V. Baker Agricultural Research Farm.
"Her projects rounded the calendar with vegetable season extension studies in the spring and fall, field and high tunnel experiments in the summer, and overwintered greens in the so-called ‘off season.'
"It has been wonderful to collaborate with Amy on all her projects, and her energy and enthusiasm for vegetables and market farming will be greatly missed," Davis added.
A younger Ivy, who started out studying liberal arts and history at Cornell University, wouldn't have imagined the career that she pursued with such passion.
“(I) wasn’t excited about anything so I went to the college’s career guidance office and after testing was told, 'You’re a hands-on person. You belong in a major that does things.’
"I had come from a suburb of Cleveland where everybody has plants," she said, "so I get a (Bachelor of Science) degree in Ornamental Horticulture.
"It was wonderful; a perfect fit.”
While "hand's on" turned out to be true, Ivy discovered a bent for writing, too.
Her columns gave her a chance to share her knowledge more widely.
She never ran out of topics, whether writing about runaway weeds, picking out perennials or transplanting seedlings.
Ivy also became somewhat of a celebrity with a regular bit on North Country Public Radio.
By her own admission, a couple of times when her accelerator foot may have been a little heavy, police gave her a break after recognizing her.
In another instance, about a dozen years ago, Amy’s daughter Caroline was experiencing some difficulty at the border while returning from Montreal — until her last name was associated with Amy’s.
ON A HIGH NOTE
Among the items on Ivy’s retirement agenda are visiting her grandchildren and children in Austin, Texas, and a myriad of projects around her home in the Town of Willsboro hamlet of Reber.
Or, as she said in her final Press Republican column, “Maybe, someday, my gardens will finally be lush and well-weeded! I love winter weather so I won’t be moving to Austin, but I certainly plan to spend more time there.”
“I have always enjoyed the different roles of the job and new challenges. It has been hard to decide to retire," she said, "but I wanted to leave on a high note."
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NEW VEG SPECIALIST
Meet Elisabeth Hodgdon in a story on Page A6.