Originally I didn’t plan on this blog being political, but it looks like I’ll have to dip a toe in those waters… By now you’ve already heard about the new proposed county budget that Mayor Carlos Alvarez presented to the county commissioners. There was much debate about what to cut, how much to cut, and what to save — and it’s not over yet.
One of the worst proposed cuts is to the county Extension Service. The new budget slashes almost all their funding. Extension staffers are in a tizzy working on their revised budget to present to the mayor in hopes of staying alive.
So what is this service and why should you care?
Extension helps homeowners, gardeners and growers with training and information they need to learn many things like water conservation, better landscaping techniques, raise better plants and animals, solve bug and disease problems, train Master Gardeners and so on. Their programs have value to the public way beyond their direct benefit, in a provider-to-provider kind of way. Without Extension, for example, Farmer Margie wouldn’t be a farmer — she’d still be in IT.
Right now, Extension is very involved with UF/IFAS in getting the word out about laurel wilt, the insect-borne disease that has been killing avocado trees in the state. If you’ve been reading this blog, you know they held a meeting not too long ago, alerting growers to the threat, and providing preliminary information on how to handle it. Without Extension and UF, there wouldn’t be much hope for saving a multi-million dollar industry by beating this disease.
Extension is a Cooperative program that’s funded both by the county and UF, which contributes matching funds to whatever is budgeted by the county. It’s double-the-value for the money. Extension has been around for decades helping generations of growers and gardeners. I remember my dad Carl, who raised tomatoes and other vegetables in the 40’s and 50’s, said Extension taught him what grew best here when moved from Wisconsin.
So what can you do to help?
Speak up! Let the county commissioners know there’s an active community of gardeners and locavores who care about what happens to Extension and the support it gives local growers. Love Farmer Margie’s giant Donnie avocados? Tell the commissioners about them, and how she hopes to still grow them next year.
Write to the commissioners. You can start with your district, but why stop at one? Write letters to all of them! Call their offices and leave messages, and send emails. Set up a meeting with a commissioner and/or their aides. Bring your friends to the meeting.
Attend a community budget meeting. Here’s the link to the dates and locations. There are many scheduled all over the county from August 11 through 20. Go and speak up on behalf of Extension. It was suggested that if you go, wear green in a show of support.
Commissioners are also holding their own meetings in August to get the public’s input.
Go to a commission meeting and ask to speak. The first budget hearing is on Sept 3rd, and the next is on the 15th. You still have a couple of weeks to persuade your commissioner.
By helping your local farmers and growers, you help yourself and other locavores. Go for it!