Cornell Cooperative Extension Association of Essex County is holding a town hall-style meeting on March 15 at the Whallonsburg Grange. Pictured above: A local farm stand offers fresh produce.
WESTPORT — What do you want out of your local agricultural agency?
Cornell Cooperative Extension Association of Essex County is holding a town hall-style meeting for community stakeholders on March 15.
The goal, said CCE Board Chair Jay White, is to better learn how the agency can serve the community.
On hand will be agency brass, including state CCE Director Chris Watkins and CCE Assistant Director Paul O’Connor.
“We’re trying to do a reintroduction of what Extension can provide the people of Essex County, especially in the agricultural sector,” White said.
After a brief overview of CCE programs, the event will focus on stakeholder input through a town hall-style question and answer session.
CCE has traditionally helped farmers and local businesses by linking them up with research and extension efforts at Cornell University and other state agricultural research facilities.
But other actors have stepped in to provide those services in recent years as the region has seen an agricultural renaissance, including the Essex Farm Institute, which hosts a series of seminars and workshops throughout the year.
White admitted the region has seen a difference of opinion between traditional farmers and the new generation, many of whom run organic operations and shun genetically-modified seed and GMOs, or genetically-modified organisms.
There are misconceptions about where CCE’s funding comes from, as well as the agency’s stance on larger practices, he said.
But regional specialists and other experts can address those questions and air misconceptions, and ideally break through those barriers, White said.
“We want an open forum so people not just hear what we have to offer, but to bring up significant topics and concepts that may be controversial,” White said.
The forum is scheduled for Wednesday, March 15 at 6:30 p.m. at the Whallonsburg Grange.
The organization, which receives both state and county funding, has been internally restructuring since former Executive Director Anita Deming retired last December.
Executive Director Rick LeVitre is now serving half-time, splitting his time with Franklin County.
The agency aims to hire a full-time agriculture educator this spring.
Applications were due Feb. 23, and White says an announcement may be made as early as the meeting.
LeVitre will attend the session, as well as a representative from the Cornell Small Farms Program and several CCE regional agricultural specialists.
For more info, call 962-4810 ext. 404. Register at reg.cce.cornell.edu/ccetownmeeting_215.