Extension Programming Available in Cook CountyMar 18, 2022 08:28AM ● By Editor
Community Center/Extension Director Sarah Waddle. Submitted photo
By Community Center/Extension Director Sarah Waddle from Cook County MN - March 18, 2022
The Cook County Community Center is a hub for many recreational facilities that provide residents with opportunities to exercise, socialize, meet, and gather. But did you know that the Community Center is also home to our local University of Minnesota Extension Office? The Extension Office is here to connect our local community needs with University of Minnesota resources to address critical issues.
Extension has been present in Cook County for decades in many forms. Following the retirement of longtime Extension and Community Center Director Diane Booth in 2021, Cook County renewed its partnership with Extension with the hire of a new local Extension Educator focused on providing education and resources to build healthy and resilient communities here in the county. Local Educator, Sarah Waddle, staffs the Extension Office Mondays-Fridays at the Community Center. Residents are encouraged to stop by or call 218-387-3015 to get connected with the many Extension resources available to everyone.
The Extension office can assist with your questions related to your garden, yard, or horticulture projects. This can be done through one-on-one assistance or by coming into the Extension Office to visit our library of resources. Don’t forget that the office is home to the Cook County Seed Bank where community members can donate or receive free seeds for planting vegetables, fruits, and flowers.
For community members who want to expand their gardening knowledge and give back to the community, Extension offers the Master Gardener Volunteer program. Cook County has a vibrant group of about a dozen Master Gardener Volunteers who share their knowledge each year through workshops, garden education projects, and answering questions. Anyone (ages 18 and over) can become a Master Gardener Volunteer. Go to https://z.umn.edu/CookCountyMasterGardener to learn more.
Other ways to connect to Extension programming
For those looking to garden in a supportive group environment, the community garden coordinated by Extension and located at the Community Center is a welcoming place to learn and grow. Members pay an annual fee ($20) for the use of one of 37 garden plots. The garden has easy access to water and a deer fence around it, which makes it a great choice for many community members who want to grow food or flowers but don’t have access to a good spot for gardening where they live.
In the realm of food access, the Extension office coordinates a program in partnership with the Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank and our local schools to provide food for kids in need to take home on the weekends. This vital program ensures that kids who might otherwise be missing meals have a balance of nutritious food to eat when federally subsidized school breakfast and lunch isn’t available.
There are many virtual programs available through Extension to support families and communities. You can explore the free offerings and find “your fit!” at https://z.umn.edu/ExtensionFindYourFit
We need your input!
Our local Extension office can connect families and community members with programs offered by Extension around the state as well. As we build our slate of programming for the coming year, we welcome input from the community. There are two openings on the County Extension Committee currently, and interested residents are encouraged to apply. Committee members meet every other month to provide input and guidance on the Extension programming offered in Cook County. Residents can visit the Boards and Commissions page of the Cook County website to apply.
County Connections is a column on timely topics and service information from your Cook County government. Cook County – Supporting Community Through Quality Public Service.