BY BILL WOLCOTT
Niagara Gazette — One of the joys of working with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Niagara County is watching kids grow up, according to Kathy Bowers, a youth community educator.
During the fall, aquaponics is on the agenda. The science-based class is held for six weeks, beginning in October.
"We're teaching kids about aquaponics for the first time," said Executive Director Cathy Maloney. "There are so many different facets and programs."
The educational-based fish farm cost $1,500 was funded by the Zonta Club. The gardening tank holds 1,200 gallons of water.
Aquaponics will be taught by horticulturist John Fargaglia and Bowers. It began on Oct. 16 and runs for six weeks from 6 to 7 p.m. The program is free and children are urged to attend all six sessions
Bowers explained the fish fertilize the plants and the plant gives the fish nutrients. The fish are koi and the plants are paperwhites from the daffodil family. Koi are a hearty gold fish, ornamental varieties of the domesticated common carp, and the bulbs will be forced to bloom earlier.
With families changing interest in the science expanding, Cornell Co-op develops programs for 4-H children 5 to 19 years of age.
"Family life is busier than it has been," Maloney said. "Kids have more opportunities and choices."
The Cornell Co-Op in Niagara, which had 400 members last year, faces the challenge of budget cuts and doing more with less money, according to Maloney.
While the 4-H is for youth and teenagers, the co-op has programs for all ages. Everything is seasonal. Programs include horticulture, agriculture and crafts. The staff answers consumer questions.
The co-op sponsors a legislative intern program where high school students shadow a county legislator for eight sessions.
Students are taught living skills, which include knowing things like the proper temperature of meats, storing and cooking.
"It's a great place to work helping people," Bowers said. "People come to improve their lives. We're not doing it not doing it for them, but helping them."
Cornell Co-Op owns its own fair grounds and has a high number of 4-Hers who win ribbons at the state fair.
"We have a lot of pride in it," Maloney said.