Extension nears 100
Story by Eli Ruiz
FERNDALE With its hundredth anniversary less than two-years away, Cornell University Cooperative Extension of Sullivan County (CCE) held its 98th Annual Meeting at the CVI Center in this tiny Liberty hamlet on December 11.
All told about 80 were in attendance for the meeting, which unlike in past years, shed the dinner portion which was held separately in late October.
“We decided to try something different this year,” said Family/Consumer Educator and Marketing Head, Nicole Slevin.
On hand was everyone from CCE Interim Executive Director Lydia Reidy, Agriculture and Natural Resources Issue Leader Elizabeth Higgins, to Town of Liberty Supervisor Charlie Barbuti and Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther and the man everyone came to hear speak, New York State Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Darrel J. Aubertine.
Gunther introduced New York State’s 27th Agriculture Commissioner. “Prior to becoming commissioner Darrel was a good friend and colleague of mine and Jake’s in the New York State Assembly where he represented parts of St. Lawrence and Jefferson Counties,” said Gunther.
Appointed to his current post by New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo in January of 2011, Aubertine oversees more than 500 employees, and as Gunther said, “He has done a great job at maintaining New York’s vibrant agriculture industry and has ensured that our food supply is safe.”
“Of all the colleagues and friends that I’ve had in the Legislature, none do a better job of representing their district as Aileen,” said Aubertine, who added, “This is my first opportunity to come down this way since I became Commissioner and I really relish the opportunity.”
Aubertine went on to describe agriculture as a big generator for the state’s economy, but added, “The [federal] Farm Bill, though, needs to be passed sooner rather than later. I’m not sure if it will get passed before the first of the year… I certainly hope it does. Even as most of the media’s attention is on the Fiscal Cliff, wrapped up in that cliff is the Farm Bill,” explained Aubertine.
Citing the large amount of available farmland and quick access to State Route 17/ Interstate 86, Aubertine called Sullivan County a “prime location” and a “nexus” for economic growth. “Agriculture has finally earned a seat at the table here and is being recognized for the economic driver that it really is,” said Aubertine. “Here in Sullivan County we’ve got one of the fastest growing agricultural counties in the state.”
Finances a concern
Before the commissioner spoke, Fundraising Committee Chair and CCE Board member Glenn Pontier went over the Extension’s 2012 financials reporting revenues of $818,023, with expenses totaling $862,026.
“I’m told by the accounting people that this is a cash-flow problem and is not ultimately a serious problem,” Pontier said of the revenue shortfall of just over $44,000.
Interim Executive Director Lydia Reidy who also heads-up the Ulster County chapter of CCE spoke briefly, and explained, “We’ve been working very hard the past year as a staff to evaluate and strengthen our programs. One of the things that we know we need to do in Sullivan County is to continue to look for additional funds to let us do the kinds of programs that we know this county needs and that residents will benefit from.
“Our staff and board are committed to evaluating the current programs that we offer and building on them,” added Reidy.
Reidy went over some of the improvements at CCE this year which include a new agriculture inspired fountain near the entrance to the Extension’s Liberty locale, new signage on both Routes 52 and 55, a new teaching garden and compost demonstration, and an expanded agricultural staff.
Reidy assured the crowd, “The [CCE] board has been actively interviewing candidates for executive director so hopefully soon we’ll have a new director who will be here full-time in Sullivan County.”
As the CCE of Sullivan County nears its centennial, it is looking to increase support for the organization in four major areas: public awareness, increased activities and programs, more volunteers and enrolled members and financial campaign support.
Toward this end, the Extension is looking to add members to the newly-formed “Friends of Extension Centennial Committee.” Those interested are asked to call CCE at 292-6180 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.