Finding funding for Cook County Extension

May 13, 2012

Another year, another Cook County Extension crisis

Here we go again. I received an email last week from my friend Ron Wolford, Cook County Extension Educator, under the subject line “It’s Back!! Another Cook County Extension Budget Crisis.” It seems that every year, some governmental body or another decides that Illinois Extension is some kind of frivolous expense and needs to be trimmed.

Sigh. So we’ll try to explain it one more time. Legislators and policy makers everywhere, this time please pay attention. I’ll start with an excellent post by Beth Botts, who is co-hosting the show this morning. She titles it Cook County Extension needs your help telling its story to fight new funding threat. From the post:

In the Chicago area, if people have heard about the Extension at all, they may have some dim sense that it has something to do with farmers or 4-H. It seems like a vestige of the agricultural past. In a time when county staffers and commissioners are trying to close to close an estimated $427 million shortfall in the county budget, they see funding for what they think is an anachronism as an expendable frill.

So board president Toni Preckwinkle is planning to eliminate Cook County’s entire $411,000 contribution to the Extension budget. Since state and federal matching funds and grants are based on local funding, Cook County Extension director Willene Buffett estimates that this would end up costing more than $740,000, or about 65 percent of the Extension budget in Cook County. It could end Extension programs in the county. “How can you say that the largest populated county in the state will not have an Extension program? How can you say that?” asks Buffet.

Indeed, how can you say that? Especially when Cook County Extension, in one way or another benefits these institutions and programs:

• Garfield Park Conservatory
• Oak Park Conservatory
• Forest Park Community Garden
• Wicker Park Garden Club
• Cheney Mansion
• St John’s Lutheran Church
• Polaris Charter Academy
• PAEC Elementary
• Chicago Talent Development Charter High School
• Pritzker Elementary
• WestSide Youth Tech Entrepreneurial Center
• New Birth Christian Center
• Westside Health Authority
• Museum of Science and Industry
• CEDA PLCCA Maywood Head Start
• CEDA Resurrection Health PRO CARE
• Head Start –Bellwood
• Nobel Elementary
• Ryerson Elementary
• Morton Elementary
• Orr Community Academy High School
• Cease Fire
• Chicago Talent Development Charter High School
• Garfield Elementary School
• First Congressional Baptist Church of Chicago
• Children’s Health Clinic
• Maywood Youth Mentoring Program
• John Hay Academy
• Hope Institute Learning Academy
• Neighborhood Recovery Initiative

And that’s just in District 1. There are 16 other districts!. Furthermore, There are 5.5 million Cook County residents, and Extension has reached nearly 1 million residents since January 2011 through face-to-face teaching by staff and volunteers, and web-based outreach. 60,000 volunteer hours were contributed by Extension volunteers – a program value estimated at $1,307,400.00

Given those fact, it’s impossible to say that Cook County Extension isn’t efficient or cost effective. Joining me today to talk about this issue is Julie Emerick, a member of the Cook County Extension Advisory Council since 2007. Julie, Beth and I are all Master Gardeners, so you can understand our concern.

How can you help? The Cook County Board is meeting Monday, May 14, and this is a good time to contact your commissioner and tell him or her how important Extension is for the well-being of Cook County.

Send your message to:

Toni Preckwinkle, President, Cook County Board
118 N. Clark St., Room. 537
Chicago, IL 60602
Phone: (312) 603-6400
Fax:  (312) 603-4397

Commissioner Robert Steele
3936 W. Roosevelt Rd., 1st Floor
Chicago, IL 60624
Phone: (773) 722-0140
Fax: (773) 722-0145

Commissioner Bridget Gainer
5533 N. Broadway
Chicago, IL 60640
Phone: (773) 561-1010
Fax: (773) 561-1025

To find your local county commissioner’s name and address, click here .

Got organic veggies? Kilbourn Park Greenhouse does!

Well, if you’re planning on getting your vegetable garden started, I would certainly advise doing it in the next few weeks. The weather has been absolutely fabulous and you don’t want to get too far behind. And if you haven’t had a chance to plant seeds, I have good news. The annual Kilbourn Park Organic Greenhouse Plant Sale is next Saturday and Sunday, May 19 and 20.

Kilbourn Park floraculturist Kirsten Akre once again stops by to preview the 2-day event that features more than 150 varieties of organically-grown vegetable, herb, and flower seedlings.The admission is free and plant prices vary. In fact, if you to see the full spectrum of what’s available, check out the Catalogue of Seedlings for sale.

The sale features a wide variety of open-pollinated and heirloom tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants.  Other highlights include an assortment of greens and onions.  These seedlings are grown with the support of a team of dedicated volunteers who make this Plant Sale possible.  This yearly fundraiser supports the greenhouse and our work to connect kids to nature and healthy foods.

Here’s the info:

Kilbourn Park Organic Greenhouse
3501 N. Kilbourn Avenue
Chicago, IL , 60064

More on the fate of Chicago’s landfill ban

Last week, Tom Shepherd from the Southeast Environmental Task Force and Mel Nickerson from the Environmental Law and Policy Center appeared on the show to talk about three possibilties:

1) That waste hauler Land and Lakes might legally grab Chicago property that was once an active landfill. The property is on the Chicago-Dolton border along 138th Street and the waste company wants it annexed to a neighborhing Dolton site, which is still an active landfil.


2) That an ordinance proposed by 9th Ward Alderman Anthony Beale that would lift a moratorium on landfill dumping within the city limits of Chicago would be passed.


3) That the state would get involved and pass legislation banning landfill dumping in all of Cook County. State Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) introduced Senate Bill 3728, which would prohibit new or expanded Cook County landfills. But just as quickly, the bill was pulled from the Senate Environmental Committee hearing, which was cancelled and the vote delayed.

The first two possibilities are unacceptable. Which leaves option #3.

Where are we a week later?

That legislation continues to be debated. On Wednesday, an Illinois Senate Committee unanimously approved legislation to prevent new or expanded landfills in Chicago and Cook County. The legislation, HB 3881, introduced by Sen. Harmon and supported by dozens of community and environmental groups, will preserve Chicago’s 30-year-old landfill moratorium.Without a landfill ban, waste companies will once again be able to ship garbage into the area.

This is where all of you come in. HB 3881 will be voted on by the full Senate next week and my environmentalist friends tell me that the waste industry will be fiercely opposing it. You can find out more about the issue by going to the No Chicago Landfills website or their Facebook page.

Meawnhile, it’s important that you write to your state legislator to demand that the ban be preserved. Log onto No Chicago Landfills page to send a message today!