Cornell Cooperative Extension Agricultural Economic Development Program Promotes Growth of Oswego County Agriculture

Valerie Walthert, Agricultural Economic Development Specialist, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County

OSWEGO, New York – Cornell Cooperative Extension’s recent appointment of Valerie Walthert as an agricultural economic development specialist in Oswego County, reflects a significant emphasis on the importance of the agribusiness industry in this region, according to Paul Forestiere II, Executive Director of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County.

The agricultural economic development program aims to assist those who are involved in agriculture in Oswego County.  “Because farmers face several obstacles that stand in the way of economic development, our mission is to encourage the development, growth, competitiveness, and viability of agribusiness firms by improving the understanding and application of agricultural marketing, business management, and industry development skills,” said Forestiere.
A shift in programming, newly produced agriculture specific reference publications, expanded events and workshops, and the economic development position, are examples of this new direction.

According to Jonathan Schell, agriculture team coordinator at Cornell Cooperative Extension, the new economic development position will shape many of the new initiatives being developed by their Extension office.
“This position will be of tremendous assistance to Oswego County’s agricultural potential,” he explained. “Our biggest objective in the agricultural program is to promote strong and viable farms because of their impact on the county’s economy.”
Agribusiness in Oswego County currently provides 5,140 jobs for its residents, and contributes $31.5 million in annual revenue.

Part of that commitment on the part of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County’s Agricultural Economic Development Team included the recent development of a new Oswego County Harvest Guide, which includes a map of the county and a description of the agricultural points of interest.

The guide works to connect the producers with the consumers by promoting the farms, creating awareness, and showing the consumers that there are opportunities to patronize local agriculture.  The agricultural guide and map educates the public on the growing popularity of the “local food movement”—the idea that eating locally grown and produced foods will provide consumers with the freshest and most nutritious food possible while supporting the local economy in addition.
“By buying local foods and other agricultural products from county farmers we are aiding Oswego County’s economy, local agriculture, and providing for a lower environmental impact,” Walthert said.  “The guide contains many possibilities to locate and contact farmers and purchase agricultural products grown and raised in your back yard…Oswego County!”

According to Walthert, the Oswego County Harvest Guide will be updated periodically and is available at the Oswego County Cornell Cooperative Extension office, 3288 Main Street in Mexico, or by calling her at (315) 963-7286 ext. 203.
In addition to the new map effort, Forestiere said that Cooperative Extension will soon be introducing a new agriculture branding program called “Oswego County Harvest.”  The logo and brand will showcase Oswego County and it’s locally grown and established, agricultural products.

“We’re very enthusiastic about the new brand and potential it will provide our local growers and ag partners,” said Forestiere.  “The program will be similar to that of other successful branding efforts that have been implemented at the state level.”

According to Forestiere, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County is also looking to introduce some new events including a very successful countywide winter farmer’s market that was recently held at the V.F.W. in Mexico, New York.  Additional agricultural workshops are also being planned within the county including “Harvesting Profits from your Livestock,” a marketing workshop on March 24, 2010.

Agriculture team coordinator Jonathan Schell conducts a number of various workshops throughout the year where he brings specialists and professionals to talk about particular topics.

“Education is a continuous process, and is something that should be valued,” Schell commented.  “Taking the opportunity to learn something new, to educate ourselves on what we do for a living, or to learn how to deal with potential issues during growing seasons can put our growers at a tremendous advantage.”

Oswego County CCE hosted a cheese making event, where Peter Dixon, a renowned cheesemaker from Vermont came and discussed the craft during a recent trip to the Amboy 4-H Environmental Center.

“In recent years, agribusiness within the county has been challenged by funding opportunities, which have minimized the potential for value added ideas in this county,” Schell said.  “We feel that many of the new initiatives, seminars and workshops, and new program positions can significantly aid this region in preserving an area of business that’s vital to our community.”

Cornell Cooperative Extension is a key outreach system of Cornell University with a mission to grow and educate the regions it serves and to provide an extensive local presence that is responsive to needs of New York Communities.  The CCE educational system aims to enable people to improve their lives and communities through partnerships that put experience and research knowledge to work in practical and business situations.  For more information, contact Oswego County CCE at 315-963-7286 or visit

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