Saturday, August 3, 2013

The End of Nassau County Extension?

The community gardens at the Extension's East Meadow
Farm in suburban East Meadow, New York.  Photo by
Bob Brinkmann.
Nassau County, New York, is one of the most densely populated counties in the United States.  It is largely considered part of suburban New York City, although in actually, it is made up of dozens of small villages, many of which have colonial roots.  Within this setting, the Nassau County Extension Office has been active in promoting small-scale urban agriculture and has achieved a degree of positive attention, particularly through their master gardener program, classes, and beautiful community gardens.  They are one of the leaders of the small agricultural movement on Long Island.  I wrote about one of their operations, the East Meadow Farm, last year here.

Unfortunately, they are also one of the victims of budget cuts.  Just a few years ago they had a budget of over 1 million dollars for their operations.  Their budget allotment is currently $45,000.  They are trying to get their funding back to 2005, which was $430,000.   Those of you who think they should get grants to cover their expenses should know that these days most grants for public operations like this require a 1:1 match.  They have been getting grants but their current budget wouldn't even cover the required match for grants that they received already.

The budget cuts come at a time when Long Island is investing in local agricultural operations and trying to promote agricultural sustainability through the Long Island Economic Development Council.  Millions of state dollars have gone toward this initiative by funding projects across Long Island.  Local governments should step up and do their part.  All of the important futurists are pointing toward urban and suburban agriculture as one of the most significant trends in our century.  Right as we are moving in this direction, one of the leading players in one of the most important suburban regions of the world is losing funding to continue their work.

Nassau County Extension has been in operation since 1914.  It could be that 2014 is the last year it is in operation unless funding is restored.  For more information, see this news about the Extension's efforts to improve their funding from Nassau County.  The Extension is urging Nassau County residents to voice support for the restoration of funding by showing up for a meeting on Monday and by contacting your county representatives.  This is outlined in the previous link.

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