Today was my third experience this year with gardening trainings provided through the Penn State Cooperative Extension Office of Cumberland County. I've been very impressed with content and quality of the trainings, and I felt that it was time to share this wonderful resource with any of those not familiar with the Cooperative Extension office and what they offer the community.
Cooperative Extension is a collaboration between the USDA, state land-grant universities, and county governments, created with the goal of public education and information sharing. Their mission is to share the knowledge and expertise of the state universities with local communities, providing research-based information on topics related to family and community living, such as agriculture and horticulture, ecology, family and consumer science, and economic development. Most of their information is provided free of charge.
Cooperative Extension is a wealth of knowledge on the topics they address. Extension Educators travel the county providing trainings and workshops on gardening, canning, and fruit production, at public libraries, churches, schools, and at their offices. They create and distribute a large library of free, and low-cost brochures, pamphlets, books, and other print resources. Staff are very accessible by phone and email for questions such as identifying pests, identifying plants and plant problems, and most other related issues.
The county where I currently live, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, is a fairly rural area, and a great deal of the cooperative extension programs that I've been aware of have revolved around agricultural and horticultural topics. I've taken two free seminars at a local library on identifying plant problems and pest control. Today I attended an all-morning workshop held at their offices called Fall Garden Day, where they provided workshops on fall bulb planting, harvest preservation, fruit cultivation, and ornamental grasses. Accompanying the presentations were folders of detailed, informational handouts on the topics addressed.
(paw-paw fruit.....the largest edible tree fruit native to North America....tastes like a cross between a mango and a banana)
Most Cooperative Extension offices also offer the Master Gardener program, where a person receives extensive horticultural training in exchange for educational and other volunteering.
So why not put your tax dollars to work, and connect with your local Cooperative Extension office? Find out what they offer, and perhaps even contribute towards their work in your community.
To find the closest Cooperative Extension office to you.....http://www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension/