Madison County Extension good for a zombie apocalypseby Troy Bishopp

MORRISVILLE, NY – There was a bit of tongue-in-cheek going on at the 2019 annual meeting of the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Madison County. Executive Director Karin Bump referenced an Instagram post from a program participant that quipped, “You guys help everyone win. You (Extension) have both street and book smarts. In the event of a zombie apocalypse, I would want an Extension person in my clan.”

“We joke about it, but it does make for a catchy slogan that people could remember,” said Bump.

After 102 years in business, the Madison County Extension board and staff are always looking for different ways to market their services to the public. The annual meeting is a positive way to showcase those services and celebrate accomplishments with stakeholders. Board chair and farmer Corey Mosher welcomed the 65 guests, introduced the staff and conducted the business meeting for an agency that has an operating budget of over $850,000. “We are blessed to have an active board and a dynamic staff with great talent,” said Mosher.

Bump shared a perspective and slides on all the work that was accomplished in the 2018-19 programming cycle. The 490 events/programs/visits represented 1,261 hours affecting 12,705 local individuals and reaching over a million people regionally and nationally. “These numbers more than double when you wrap in the impact of our regional team partnerships that work within our county,” emphasized Bump.

Synergy was the headline for doing more together to really build on strengths and find new opportunities for the organization. Bump explained that synergy with 4-H youth groups, Agriculture in the Classroom programs, FFA, regional team partnerships, college and university partnerships and grant-based relationships all contribute to the goals of improved services. “Last year we did farm and livestock emergency planning; how to respond to animal welfare concerns; and help connect law officers and farmers with the right resources. We worked with our local highway departments, training and offering a program on understanding our agriculture community. We also collaborated with the Small Business Development Center and USDA’s SCORE, the nation’s largest volunteer network of expert business mentors, to support new and beginning farmers.”

4-H Resource Educator Craig Brown highlighted the positive youth development programs that engaged 11 school districts, 35 classrooms and approximately 700 youth per lesson during the Agriculture in the Classroom curriculum. The Agriculture Literacy Week Program served over 1,140 Madison County youth in five days thanks in part to New York Farm Bureau’s donation of $300 to purchase 85% of the selected books as well as the help of over 20 community volunteers. Brown praised Tractor Supply Company for donating $5,000 dollars to the 4-H Cloverbud Programs and complimented local law enforcement agencies, libraries, agribusinesses and Morrisville and Cazenovia colleges for providing summer programming for youth.

Ag Subject Educator Tess Southern showcased the accomplishments of the county agriculture and economic development programs. Whether putting on a profitable woodlot clinic, hosting Women in Agriculture programs and discussion groups, collaborating with the regional CCE Ag Team members on educational events or leading her popular “Tess’s Tick Talks,” the group was busy in 2019. In addition, the annual Open Farm Day boosted business for 38 local farms with a record attendance of over 6,400 visitors to the area. A partnership with a Chobani mini marketing grant awarded 10 participating farms with $1,500 each to enhance their on-farm marketing projects. Myron Thurston also joined the team as the new agriculture business and marketing specialist and lead educator in ag economic development.

Heading into 2020, Bump looked to three topics to better the organization:

  • Assessment – Community needs; benchmarking; asset mapping
  • Innovation – Agricultural support and launch center for business enhancement and entrepreneurship
  • Responsiveness and Relevancy – A “No Closed Door” response plan and enhanced outreach and marketing platforms

The evening brought accolades for several local members of the community. The 2019 Friend of Extension Award was presented to Jim Buddenhagen of Farm Family Insurance for his help with Madison CCE programming over the years, consistently offering his time, talents and sponsorship. He has been as an Open Farm Day sponsor every year and supports targeted programming such as the Farm Disaster Readiness Course.

The inaugural recipient of the 4-H Youth in Action Award was presented to Kav Young of the Young Riders club. “For over a decade Kav has been part of the glue that held the Madison County 4-H program together, and we are so proud of who he has become. He has grown into a fine young man whose dedication to our community continues as he prepares to enter the United States Coast Guard,” said Brown.

The 2019 Heritage Farm Award was bestowed upon Cody Farms in Cazenovia, NY, for over 150 years of dairy farm heritage. “The farm began with dairy, hops (until the early 1900s) and horses, then settled firmly as a dairy farm. Now in the third, fourth and fifth generations of farm life, the farming lifestyle isn’t just about animals or crops. It’s about beliefs and values passed down through generations – ensuring things are left better for those yet to come. It’s about our heritage and our future,” their Facebook page stated. The 2019 Centennial Farm Award brought smiles to the family of the Wedge Dairy Farm from Earlville, NY, for their continuous operation since 1919.

The chair’s gavel passed to President-Elect Monica Cody, as Corey Mosher completed his three-year term of service. “His enthusiasm and deep sense of association stewardship has been essential over the past three years, during which the association celebrated its 100th year of service to Madison County,” said Cody.

“What I have given to the association has brought me back tenfold to my personal development,” said Mosher. “A million times, thank you.”

2020 comes with a vision that celebrates the work of the past but recognizes the challenges and opportunities that come with change. The Madison County CCE is poised to help for at least another 100 years.