Meet Amy Ivy: CCE executive director and extension educator

PLATTSBURGH Amy Ivy is the executive director/extension educator for Clinton County's Cornell Cooperative Extension. She is no stranger to this paper as her column "North Country Gardening" appears almost every week. Her positive outlook, extensive knowledge and love of sharing it with others has earned her credit as being an asset to the extension and the North Country. Amy grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and came to New York as a college student. She graduated from Cornell with a degree in ornamental horticulture and subsequently traveled the country with her husband before settling in the tiny valley town of Reber, near Elizabethtown. She worked for a landscaping company and then began her own part-time landscaping business while her children were little. Her history with CCE began in 1987, when she accepted a part-time position with the Essex County CCE in Westport. She began as a part-time Horticulture Program assistant. Her first order of business was to establish a Master Gardener Program, which she accomplished in 1988. The Master Gardeners, a team of volunteers extensively educated in horticulture by the extension, have had a profoundly positive influence on the North Country. They are key in helping CCE reach the masses with knowledge they can put to work in their yard and gardens. Shortly after starting her CCE part-time job, Amy's position became full-time with the addition of the part-time 4-H program assistant position. In 1994, her horticulture position became full-time, but it was divided between Essex and Clinton counties. In 1998, she established a Master Gardener Program in Clinton County. "There is a huge interest up here in that program," Amy commented. In 2003, Amy was just finishing up her master's degree in administration and leadership. She felt the degree would be helpful in her position as she provided leadership for the Master Gardeners and the businesses she worked with. It was at that time, however, a vacancy opened up in the executive director's position. She was asked to fill the position on a temporary basis, and though hesitant, she discovered the job was to her liking. She was asked to permanently take the job in May 2004. Amy's executive responsibilities take up about 50 percent of her time on the job. Her staff helps make her job enjoyable. "I hope to be able to keep the staff the wonderful, wonderful staff motivated and satisfied because I want them to stay. Working for extension is so personally rewarding because what I do is so meaningful. I hope they can feel a similar satisfaction," she said. Because the staff works so well together, Amy is able to orchestrate significant cross programming. For example, she has the Nutrition Program working with the 4-H and after-school programs, both areas that traditionally fall under the Youth Development Program. Attending numerous program planning and developing meetings is an integral part of her job. Another of the many aspects of her administrative roll involves working with the bookkeeper to create the county budget. She is required to report back to the county regularly to inform them on how the money is being spent. The other 50 percent of Amy's job focuses on educating the public and acting as an agricultural leader to the extension's programs. Much of the public's education comes directly from questions they ask CCE either by a phone call or by e-mail. "We get calls on everything under the sun. We usually can find the answer, and if we can't, we find who does know and refer the inquirer to them," Amy said. The Master Gardeners have a section on the CCE Web site designated just for horticulture questions appropriately titled "Ask a Master Gardener." Unlike many other counties, Clinton County CCE does all diagnosing for free. If samples have to be sent out to Cornell University, however, there is a $25 fee. It is a rare occurrence anything has to be sent to the university, as Amy and her staff have such a wealth of knowledge and experience. Amy takes full advantage of the media to educate the public as well. As previously mentioned, her column "North Country Gardening" appears most every weekend in this paper, while she has a column in the Press Republican every Monday. With the help of Clinton County's CCE Horticulture Program assistant, and Essex County's Horticulture Program assistant, she publishes a monthly newsletter packed with valuable information for all homeowners. The newsletter is mailed to all those who call CCE and request it, or it can be accessed on-line. Just as her words are frequently read in the local newspapers, Amy's voice is frequently heard on the local radio stations. She can be heard every Saturday morning on WIRY and every Monday morning at 8:35 a.m. on North Country Public Radio 88.3, with Martha Foley. Amy aims to keep her article and radio program topics timely, and she often bases them on the input she receives from fielding questions from the general public. Her topics often cover landscaping, yard and garden, and making homes more energy efficient. Amy also directly educates the public through free energy saving workshops, and through teaching Master Gardeners. As the overall coordinator of the Master Gardeners, she develops the curriculum and teaches the 50 hours of instruction for each new group of volunteers. Amy has many goals for the Clinton County's CCE. One of the goals she is focusing on now is expanding the Horticulture Program to work with local foods and help connect local producers with local consumers. "This fits with our overall efforts to promote healthy living and healthy eating," she said. Making the office Web site more exciting and user friendly is another goal. "The office Web site will be looking better everyday," she said with confidence. Amy has a big job with CCE, and even after 20 years of working for them she continues to learn and apply new things and share them with North Country residents. "Working at Cornell has been a great way to learn. There is always a new challenge and always something new to learn. It is an exciting time to be working at extension. We are keeping the good things we have going and adding in new ones," Amy said. To discover just what is going on at Clinton County CCE and educate yourself on a variety of topics you can visit www.ecgardening.cce.cornell.edu and www.gardening.cornell.edu/index.html .

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