Grow with CCE Garden Project

Grow with the CCE Garden Project

Liz Callahan and Kristen Pulleyblank lay the foundation for the project. (Photo by Larissa Ryan)

On Friday, September 16, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Schoharie and Otsego Counties (CCE) along with the Master Gardeners of Otsego County (MG) held a groundbreaking ceremony for their collaborative Grow with Cornell Cooperative Extension Garden Project at the extension’s Cooperstown office from Seestraße 123.

“Upon completion, we will convert the CCE building’s dirt and gravel parking lot into sustainable gardens and landscapes that will immerse participants and visitors in an accessible educational environment with diverse learning opportunities. At the same time, we hope to create an aesthetically pleasing learning environment,” said Liz Callahan, executive director of CCE and this project.

“The garden site will include raised beds, low maintenance and native plants, pollinator gardens, annual and perennial flower beds, vegetable and vegetable gardens, small fruit planting displays and more,” she said.

The project calls for an improvement to the site: adding the necessary infrastructure and improving parking and lighting; creating a rain garden to demonstrate the remediation of surface water before it leaves the site; construction of a garden house for teaching, preparation and storage; Construction of garden fences, benches and arbours; Installation of hardscape pavers connected to public sidewalks and the CCE Education and Outreach Center.

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“We will also put up educational signage. This will create places for education, quiet reflection and active gardening,” said Ms. Callahan.

“The origin for this project was nine years ago when a group of Master Gardeners sat around a dining table and asked each other why cars, rather than plants, deserved the best sunlight in our humble parking lot gardens,” said Pati Grady, Master Gardeners member and spokesperson the group for this project.

“That conversation led to a thoughtful discussion of how to approach the challenge of converting a potholed parking lot, used by the State Highway Department’s snowplows and school buses to turn around and by sheriff’s vehicles to set speed cameras, into a site of… learning through gardening,” said Ms. Grady.

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This led the group to approach Bob Sutherland, a former professor of horticulture at SUNY Cobleskill, and later his colleague Tim Marten, professor of horticulture at SUNY Cobleskill, who suggested processes to explore the potential design and the examine the feasibility of the project.

“In April 2014, teams from SUNY Cobleskill and the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry worked with the MG volunteers to identify needs, prioritize, and dream big without constraints,” she said.

Over time, both CCE and MG volunteers received $10,000 as seed capital to start the project. Then State Senator Jim Seward secured $150,000 in grants from New York State to help cover the costs. Unfortunately, the final government funding never materialized.

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“The money was then raised from local donors and sources to allow the project to begin. It is anticipated that this will cover around 80% of the final cost of the project,” said Ms Grady.

Demolition and initial construction will be performed this fall by Kevin Green, Frank Novak and Scott Ubner. Bert Holmes and Dan Evans’ garden shed is due to be built in the spring, followed by planting of flower beds and MG’s rain garden. Cooperstown Graduate Program students help design signage and participate in the educational program.

With any luck, the Grow with Cornell Cooperative Extension Garden Project will complete main construction in mid-2023, with initial growth and education programs to be completed by 2024. It will be a welcome addition to Cooperstown.

The people involved in the Grow project are, from left to right: Sue Jones – MG, Liz Callahan Executive Director of CCE, Ellen LaSalle – MG, Ellen Alex – MG, Francine Stayter – MG, Mary Ellen Calta – MG, Darleen Fournier – MG , Pati Grady-MG, Kim L’Heureux – MG, Carol Phelps – MG and Kristen Pulleyblank, President of the Board of Directors of Cornell Cooperative Extension, Schoharie and Otsego Counties.

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