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Lowville Extension hopes sharing, new employees will help

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LOWVILLE — Cornell Cooperative Extension of Lewis County is relying on a new crop of employees and some intercounty cooperation to serve local farmers and the community.

Officials at the agency — which lost its dairy management and field crops educators in a little more than a year — “wanted to make sure we would have coverage for the dairy farmers of the county,” said Michele E. Ledoux, executive director at the Lowville Extension office.

While still hoping to eventually add an agronomy/dairy educator, county Extension officials are filling that role by sharing technical staff with their Jefferson County counterparts, she said.

As part of that arrangement, Michael E. Hunter, field crops educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County and a former educator at the Lowville office, is working in Lewis County on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Mellissa M. Spence also has been hired as a part-time sustainable agriculture educator.

“I make the farmers aware of programs,” Mrs. Spence said.

The Deer River resident, who spent 23 years as a breeding specialist in the area and holds a bachelor’s degree in agriculture from Berea College in Kentucky, said she also will refer questions from producers to the proper Extension specialist.

“There is no cost” for that, she said. “It’s free information.”

The agency’s 4-H program also has a couple new faces: plant and animal science coordinator Amber L. Wynkoop and temporary 4-H assistant Mazie L. Stanford.

“I’ve worked for four years at the Oswegatchie Education Center in Croghan and just never left the area,” Ms. Wynkoop said.

The Sullivan County native earned an associate degree from SUNY Morrisville, a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and recently completed work on a master’s degree in agricultural education, also from Cornell.

Ms. Wynkoop, also a past FFA state officer, said she learned about agriculture by working on her grandfather’s hobby farm.

“We raised a little bit of everything and did maple on the side,” she said.

Since joining the Extension staff about a month ago, Ms. Wynkoop has helped run conservation field days and a closed horse show.

“Now, we are full-fledged into county fair planning,” she said.

Ms. Stanford — who graduated from South Lewis Central School in 2011 and SUNY Morrisville with an associate degree in dairy science — said she is also spending plenty of time in preparation for next month’s Lewis County Fair, at which she has shown cattle in the past.

After doing farm work for several years, “working in an office is very, very different,” she said.

However, Ms. Stanford said, she is enjoying it and is considering pursuit of a four-year degree.

Jessica D. Hall, Fort Drum, also joined the Lowville Extension office in November as parenting educator and has spent much of her time visiting homes.

While many clients come to her through Department of Social Services referrals, Mrs. Hall — who holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of West Florida — said she is working to “get out into the community” more by offering classes about parenting.

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