Cattaraugus County Cooperative Extension marks fifth birthday

Front row (from left): Directors Lisa Pawlowski, Don Telaask, Sherry Charlesworth, and County Legislator Richard Helmich. Back row (from left): Vice President Diane Clayson, Secretary Jessica Golley, Nathan Blesy, Nathan Nelson, President Don Wild, Treasurer Tim Bigham and Executive Director Dick Rivers.

ELLICOTTVILLE — The Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cattaraugus County marked its fifth year as an independent group at its 2020 annual meeting last month.

Don Wild of Great Valley, who was re-elected president of the Cooperative Extension Board of Directors, said 2020 started with much anticipation — then the coronavirus hit.

“We were starting our fifth year as a brand new association after splitting from Allegany County,” Wild said.

“Our staff was implementing their many programs to serve the needs of our residents in Cattaraugus County,” Wild said. “We had just completed our establishment year for the new Ag Team and had just filled the last position in December.”

While “it has been a very interesting and challenging year,” Wild commended Executive Director Richard Rivers and his staff in making the necessary changes to keep moving forward.”

Also re-elected were Vice President Diane Clayson, Treasurer Tim Bigham and Secretary Jessica Golley.

Rivers told the board that the Cornell Cooperative Extension has a strong club and volunteer base. There are 348 youth participating in a wide-range of hands-on projects. Nearly 70 volunteers help the youths in a wide range of activities and projects.

Also part of the 4-H program is the Cloverbud program, where 58 5- to 8-year-old youths concentrate on activities over projects like older 4-H members.

One of the disappointments 4-H members experienced in the past year caused by COVID-19 restrictions was the cancellation of the Cattaraugus County Fair. Despite the cancellation of the County Fair, 66 4-H members were able to participate in both a virtual market class animal auction and private sales that netted the youths $46,325. The online auction was held through Peterson Auctions. Bidders were able to view photos and video of the market class animals.

While the traditional county fair was not held, several youth participated in a virtual showcase, by sending in pictures of projects that were displayed on Facebook with several videos and on the Cornell Cooperative Extension website.

While the 4-H program couldn’t hatch chicks at the County Fair, four school districts participated in hatching eggs in their classrooms with eggs and incubators provided by the Cattaraugus County 4-H Program, as well as in class instruction from 4-H staff. This is up from two schools in 2019, Rivers said.

The schools were:

Prospect Elementary in Salamanca received 20 eggs.

Portville Elementary received 12 eggs.

Franklinville Elementary Library received 40 eggs.

Hinsdale Elementary received 25 eggs.

Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, the incubators had to be collected and the chicks were hatched at a staff member’s home.

In another program, Rivers described how 14 4-H families raised 1,132 pheasants through a DEC program to help meet the demand for pheasant hunting opportunities. In 2019, 4-H families raised 1,070 pheasants.

Cooperative Extension’s five-county Ag Team “has made an immediate impact in the region,” Rivers said. A Regional Navigator grant is being used to supply workbooks for the team to distribute to those who would like to start their own farm.

“The SNAP-Ed program continues to grow and thrive,” Rivers said. “The Farm to School program assists schools in buying produce from local farms for school lunch programs. Grant opportunities continue to be explored to create stability for the program.”

The Master Gardener program has been re-established after being lost about four years ago. “To re-establish the program, we partnered with Chautauqua County and three staff members participated and completed the class,” Rivers said.

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