Keeping Urban/Suburban Cooperative Extension Offices sign now

We are writing to urge you to vote against Budget Amendment Item 219 #2H, which would close the urban and suburban Cooperative Extension offices. We believe that our horticulture agents, Master Gardeners, Consumer Family Services and other Extension programs are vital to the health of our residents and communities.

We believe that the loss of horticulture agents, who guide the work of Master Gardeners, would deprive us of the great expertise and dedication of the agents and Master Gardeners. Master Gardeners are, literally, an extension of the Cooperative Extension offices and their horticulture agents and are the eyes and hands of Virginia Tech and Virginia State University. These dedicated volunteers protect the health of residents and their urban environment by following scrupulously the constantly updated requirements for disease, pest and weed control disseminated by these universities.

The Extension offices deploy Master Gardeners, as well as Tree Stewards and Master Naturalists, to play many roles in our Northern Virginia neighborhoods and communities. These volunteers share their expertise in plant clinics, farmers markets, educational programs, demonstration gardens, school programs and gardens, senior centers, community gardens and in healing gardens for those with disabilities.
Master Gardeners are educated in plant taxonomy and pathology, entomology, cultural growing requirements, wildlife control, and integrated pest management. Many are deeply knowledgeable about the science of horticulture and have worked professionally in related fields.

All support the mission of Cooperative Extension, to educate the public about horticultural best management practices. Master Gardeners also inform our communities about plants and tree selection, food production, the use of the safest pest control, the importance of urban forest canopy, water conservation, storm water management and invasive plant management, all of which are vital to creating a sustainable ecosystem.

We believe that this amendment reflects a dangerous lack of understanding of the importance of communicating the basic principles of horticultural science to urban/suburban residents. Their health and their environment are threatened if, for example, they do not understand the appropriate use of the great range of fertilizers and pesticides teaching these fundamentals is one of the primary educational roles of Extension agents and Master Gardeners.

We also believe that the CFS programs must be saved. In a very fragile economy, the CFS programs reach out to the children, teens, and adults who are among our more vulnerable residents, to support their financial and physical health. Taking away these programs will put more people in need of public assistance in many areas, to include health, jobs, financial planning and nutrition.

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Ronda FletcherBy:
HealthIn:
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VA House and Senate Budget Conferees

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