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North Salem Brothers Gather 1,000 Signatures to Support 4-H

NORTH SALEM, N.Y. – Emory and Cody Nager have been active members of the North Salem 4-H Club since it was founded nearly 10 years ago. Cody, 17, a senior at North Salem High School, is currently club president. His brother, Emory, 15, is a sophomore and vice-president of the 4-H. 

The brothers have been conducting a campaign on behalf of the local club and all Westchester 4-H clubs to convince the county legislature to implement 2012 funding. The brothers traveled to soccer games, farmers markets and other group activities to find support for their petition. Signatures were collected from all over Westchester and towns as far away as Yonkers and Mt. Vernon.

4-H Clubs throughout the country are chartered by the United States Department of Agriculture. Beyond that, each state depends upon a state agricultural entity for support and guidance. In New York, the entity is the Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE). There are 4-H Clubs in nearly every county and around 12 in Westchester alone.

Funding comes from the federal, state and county governments, but must begin at the county level. If the Westchester budget does not provide funds, none will be available from the state and federal budgets.

Because of the economic climate, next year’s funding to the CCE was vetoed by County Executive Rob Astorino. The legislature overrode the veto but the money, approximately $990,000, still has not been restored.

With 1,000 signatures in hand, the Nagers formally presented their petition to Legislator Peter Harckham (D - Katonah) on Friday at a ceremony in the high school library. Harckham in turn will officially enter it in the legislative record and “personally walk it up and present it,” to Astorino, he said.

“You have outlined how important it is to continue this program,” Harckham said. “A lot of people think 4-H is just about petting animals but it is much more. It’s about biodiversity, leadership, mentoring young students, working as a team. It’s a wonderful form of learning. You took the reins,” he said to the students. “This gives me the support I need to put it back in the budget.”

Harckham continued, “Cornell also offers the master gardeners program, and they do water testing and soil testing. Here in Westchester we have a billion dollar landscape and golf industry. That industry depends on Cornell for scientific-based research.”

Donna Greene, deputy communications director for Astorino, said funding the CCE “is a lot of money to lay out when the county is facing the possibility of layoffs. We have mandated expenses to cover. It would be great if there were money for everything. We have to choose between this and 9 or 12 employees. These are very tough choices.”

Greene added that the county runs many similar programs of its own at Lasdon Park, Muscoot and Hilltop Hanover Farm.

4-H Club advisor Steve Mulligan said during the Friday petition presentation, the legislature “keeps tightening the belt another notch. But please – don’t take away the belt.”

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