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Posts Tagged ‘Extension’

Proposed county budget would gut funding for agriculture

By Christina Veiga
cveiga@MiamiHerald.com

There’s a long way between County Hall and the avocado groves of Redland, the rows of tomatoes in Homestead and the plant nurseries of deep South Miami-Dade.

But more than miles seem to separate county government from the county’s $2.7 billion agriculture industry, growers say.

The budget proposed last week by Mayor Carlos Gimenez guts or completely eliminates services to farmers, nursery growers and others in South Dade.

Agriculture folks say the dramatic reductions reflect how out-of-touch County Hall is when it comes to farming in Miami-Dade.

“If they truly understood the value and the asset that this is, I think they might show a little more respect for it,” said Debbie Brady, a spokeswoman for the Dade County Farm Bureau.

Under the proposed budget, the county would eliminate the Agricultural Manager’s Office, which serves as a liaison between growers and the government. Also gutted: the county’s funding for the cooperative extension office, a partnership with the University of Florida which provides research and education for farmers, and programs for youth and families.

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/07/22/2326762/proposed-county-budget-would-gut.html 

Published in The Miami Herald, Sunday July 24, 2011.

 

 

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Extension says thank you!

If you are setting up your first edible garden, or your 100th, and have questions or problems, Miami-Dade County Cooperative Extension Services is the place for answers. They can teach you how to become a Master Gardener, castrate a pig, or keep your ornamental shrubs from yellowing. Extension was in danger of losing it all due to proposed county budget cuts — but were (mostly) spared at the last minute.

Extension-table

Lots of good eats at the reception

That called for a party to thank everyone who supported them, and there was a nice turnout of local growers for the festivities. The Extension staff went all out preparing food and decorating the auditorium. A long table was loaded with many kinds of delicious food. Dr. John McLaughlin made cheesy wafers and little meat pies. Adrian Hunsberger baked buttery cookies dipped in chocolate and rolled in nuts. Teresa Olczyk and her daughter designed cards and assembled goody bags of thank you candies. Don Pybas greeted guests and guided them to the punch bowl on the left, which had an bit of extra kick. Other delicacies I sampled were veggie empanadas, chicken enchiladas, and creamy guacamole. Mmmmm local food makes for good eating! Tables were decorated with palm and monstera leaves, and various blossoms were picked from flowering trees in staffer’s gardens.

Ken-Bedat

Ken Bedat, Master Gardener

Had the pleasure of meeting fellow CSA member Ken Bedat. He said he had tried to join the CSA for three years and wasn’t able to because of the cutoff on the waiting list.His doctor had ordered him to join, and he finally got in last season. I asked Ken what he enjoyed the most, and he said it would be the greens. He loves chard, kale and collards. He and his wife finally ate the last package of kale out of the freezer. (Clever man, freezing extra greens for later. Will try to remember to do this when I’m in a sea of greens at the start of the season.) Ken recommends eating collards the traditional way, with hot sauce or a splash of vinegar, because the acid helps your body absorb the calcium and iron. Ken is a retired USDA inspector, and a Master Gardner who volunteers lots of hours at Extension. If you call the office for gardening assistance, there’s a good chance you’ll talk with Ken.

Extension-band1

Mike Hatcher, Jim Maiuri, and Louise King

Extension-band2

Mort Glosser

The afternoon’s entertainment was provided by a pickup bluegrass band consisting of Mort Glosser on harmonica, Mike Hatcher on bass, Jim Maiuri on guitar and Louise King on guitar. Mort and Mike play together in a band called Corn Country at the bluegrass festival at Greynolds Park on the first Sunday of every month.

Margie-Don-Teresa

Margie Pikarsky, Don Pybas, Teresa Olczyk

Thanks again to Don Pybas and his staff for all their good work and all the good eats!

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If you have only one avocado tree in your yard, or a grove full, come get the latest information on the laurel wilt disease. It was spotted in Northern Florida earlier this year, and this summer in a grove in Redland. If the disease spreads, it could wipe out not only commercial groves but also backyard trees. I’ve blogged earlier about this in more detail the post titled Avocados are threatened.

Dr. Jonathan Crane of UF IFAS/TREC will lead the Laurel Wilt Disease and Redbay Ambrosia Beetle Research Symposium on Tuesday, November 3, 2009 from 8:30 AM to 3:00 PM. Download the agenda here (PDF 60 KB).

Location:
Miami-Dade County Cooperative Extension Service Auditorium
18710 SW 288th Street, Homestead, FL 33030-2309.
(305)248-3311

Driving Directions:
Traveling south on the Florida Turnpike (Homestead Extenstion), take Exit #5 (Biscayne Drive / SW 288th Street), and go west for about 5 miles. The Extension Office is at the corner of SW 288th Street and SW 187th Avenue (Redland Road), on the left. It is a one-story, beige, block building.

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The Miami-Dade County Cooperative Extension staff, in an expression of our appreciation for our supporters and friends in our recent budget resurrection, would like to invite the community to a “Thank You” reception on Tuesday, October 27th from 3 to 6 PM. As this is an informal gathering we do not expect to have a program or an agenda. No speeches or presentations, just light refreshments, snacks, and fellowship.

Please come by for afternoon break or stay the while! We all would enjoy having some time to individually thank each member of the community that worked behind the scenes, communicated with the County Commission, and/or took the time to speak at one or numerous public meetings on our behalf .

Hope to see you all.

Best regards,

Don Pybas

UF/IFAS Extension Office
18710 SW 288 St.
Homestead, FL 33030-2309
Phone  (305) 248-3311

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Today we received this welcome message from Teresal Olczyk, one of our Extension Agents with whom we’ve worked closely for many years.

Yes, we are back in business thanks to you and many other supporters.  We were restored  at about 84% thanks to the hard work of all community and many organizations.

The County Commission restored our county general revenue funding at about 84% ($887,000) of our adjusted submitted budget request.  As Extension general revenue funding was eliminated in the Mayor’s proposed budget, along with many other agencies and services we would have not been here as of October 1st otherwise.  We are back in business thanks to the hard work and determination of a team of 4-H leaders and members conducted during the past several weeks, the agriculture community spearheaded by Farm Bureau and the Council of Presidents of the Ag. organizations, Master Gardeners, various volunteers and advisory committee members, and individual clientele that were upset with the thought of our not being here to provide the services to the residents of this community.

Many people contacted commissioners personally, wrote letters, faxes, e-mails, included information on the Extension budget crisis on their websites and blogs and attended the budget meetings.

The realization of having a reduced budget means we still have impacts to our budget and operations.  We will lose three vacant agriculture agent positions, and sadly we are also having to eliminate one county funded agent position to meet our budgeted amount.

Teresa Olczyk
Extension Agent IV
Commercial Ag./Ornamentals
UF IFAS, Miami-Dade County Extension

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<nag> Have you written to your county commissioner about the proposed budget cut that would close the doors to the Miami-Dade Cooperative Extension Service? No? Still thinking about it? Maybe it’s just not that important or relevant? I mean, how could it possibly tie in with the tasty, fresh, local and organic veggies you’re going to eat from Redland Organics in a few months? Extension has a LOT to do with it! </nag>

Farmer Margie wouldn’t be where she is if it weren’t for the training that she got from Extension over the years. In her own words:

I started contacting Extension way back in the 70’s when I was in college. I got information on vegetable gardening for Florida, castrating & butchering a pig, raising and butchering chickens, canning, pickling and preserving information, how to take care of my fruit trees, and put it all to good use. In the early 80’s, I took the Master Gardener training, and received in-depth information about growing plants.

In the mid 90’s, when we started the farm, I looked to Extension to get advice on establishing my avocado grove. Later, when we expanded to vegetables, I consulted with them on variety selection, growing techniques, pest control, fertilizing. I’ve attended numerous workshops providing training on irrigation, growing, pests, diseases, etc etc etc.

Extension has been very responsive in helping develop training programs for folks interested in converting to organic productions. I always find good workshops and field days that I can bring my farm interns and apprentices to learn about growing in this tropical climate.

So… what are you waiting for? The list of commissioners is right here. Start writing!

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Did you go to the county commissioner budget meetings to state your case? No? You have several more chances. There are Budget Conference Committee (BCC) meetings on Aug 24, 25, 26 and 27 at commission chambers downtown.

The commission will hold final budget hearings on Thursday Sept 3rd at 5:01 pm and Thursday Sept. 17th at 5:01 pm . Currently the location of the hearings will be at the county commission chambers, but that might change as commissioners are expecting an overflow crowd. (The meeting location is not changing, but they are expecting a crowd. Marian, 8/21/09)

When you go, be sure to wear green. Green needs to be seen! And heard! Read and bring copies of these two documents Ivory Sheet and Green Sheet with you. They have facts and figures about the Extension program.

According to Cindy Dwyer, Master Gardener, “Remember that this is a game of numbers. If nobody shows up to protest, the result is a big zero. Organize a group of Master Gardeners and get your friends and neighbors who care about this issue to go to the meetings with you!”

If you can’t attend meetings, write letters to the commissioners. Find out how you can contact your commissioner here.

So why should CSA members and other locavores care? According to the Extension Ivory Sheet, “Miami-Dade County is considered as ground zero for new plant pests and diseases entering the United States. Many are first found in residential neighborhoods and quickly spread to agricultural areas. Cooperative Extension horticultural professionals are first responders for these invasive threats to agriculture, home horticulture, urban landscapes and the natural environment.”

Remember laurel wilt? It’s still here, and it’s not going away. Do you have an avocado tree in your yard? Cooperative Extension is the place to turn to if you want to learn how to keep your tree alive. If you’ve been enjoying Farmer Margie’s ginormous avocados this summer, and want to eat them again next summer, speak out in favor of Cooperative Extension at the commission meetings. Margie learned how to grow avocados and keep them healthy through training from Extension.

If the budget that Mayor Carlos Alvarez proposes is approved, the Extension office will close its doors forever on September 30. Everyone from the Master Gardener coordinator to the clerical staff will lose their jobs. Everyone from growers to locavores will feel the impact.

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