Many of us drive by the Cornell Cooperative Extension every day without knowing much about what goes on inside. They've got something to do with gardening. Most of us know that much. So, in the hopes of reintroducing to Genesee County what Beverly Mancuso calls our "best known secret," I sat down with Bev this morning to find out just what goes on at the extension. Here's what I learned...
"We want to focus on what no one else is doing and what we could do the best," says Bev.
That means agriculture education, which is probably priority number one for the extension. Back in the day, the Farm Bureau and the extension were one and the same, but they split off. Farm Bureau now handles all the lobbying for the agriculture community, while the extension takes care of education. They do it all, from vegetable growing to dairy production and everything in between, whether they're working hands-on with farmers or with students.
For students, the incubation program and Dairy Day are the two biggest draws. The incubation program is exactly how it sounds: incubators are brought into schools so the students can watch eggs hatch and learn about it. Dairy Day is targeted at the younger grade schoolers. For one day, they're bused out to a farm to learn everything that goes on, first-hand and up close.
Aside from working with school students, the extension also offers several courses for adults and families, most of which are free to the public. Unfortunately, not too many people are taking advantage, Bev tells me.
One of the extension's most valuable programs is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP is an eight week course on how to eat better by buying smarter and more healthy foods. Anyone who wants to take this course can register at TOPS Market in Batavia. All you have to do is fill out a registration card and drop it in the box near the produce section.
What makes SNAP worthwhile? Well, for folks who complain about the high cost of doctor bills or obesity or how they can't afford to eat healthy, these courses will teach you the fundamentals on such things as food safety and portion size. You can learn how to eat better on your budget.
Speaking of your budget. The extension offers a trio of what they call "empowering" programs: one on how to save on energy costs, another on credit and debt management and a third on how to put together a spending plan to better make your ends meet.
All of these programs are free, folks. Now I can't understand why people wouldn't be taking advantage of this. I understand that we're pressed for time and money. But these programs could help you better manage both of those.
"At the end of the day, it's all about trying to make the community better," says Bev.
Classes on how to eat better and how to better manage a tight budget are sure to help out, as long as folks take advantage. It's easy to do people: visit the extension's Web site, or give them a call (343-3040), send them an e-mail or stop by at 420 E. Main St. They're happy to help out.
Oh, we almost forgot: as we said at the beginning, the extension is also about gardening. Perhaps their most popular course is the twelve-week master gardener program. This one isn't free. It costs about $250. But for folks with a desire to green their thumb, it's a great way to get some in-depth knowledge of gardening.
You may have seen the work of the extension's master gardener graduates around the county. Once they've gone through the program, many of them volunteer some time back to the extension by sprucing up gardens at sites such as the VA Medical Center or the School for the Blind.
Hopefully, that will help people get to know a little more about Genesee County's best known secret. Check back with The Batavian in the coming weeks and months as we plan to work more closely with the extension and 4-H to get up the news and happenings of our next generation.