SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Last Wednesday, 4-H Junior Superintendents Weston Azaert, Casey Hill, Clyde VanDyke, and Isabel Jacobsen escorted Executive Director of Cornell Cooperative Extension Christopher Watkins and his staff on a tour of the youth building so they could learn more about what we do here. This was the first time that Director Watkins’ staff was able to come to the fair and familiarize themselves with projects and activities that go on in the 4-H Youth Building. It was a joy to see their excitement they had as they learned about the building and the youth work. After the tour, Clyde VanDyke and Isabel Jacobsen sat down for a quick interview with Director Watkins.
What excites you most about 4-H in New York State?
I just think the whole enthusiasm wherever you go in New York State, you talk to youth like you two and it’s just so obvious what an important facet of (youth) life it is.
Tell me about some of the cooperative extension’s successes.
In New York, we have this interesting system where the control at the local county office is extremely important. For this system to work, it takes strong leadership and I really believe in empowering at the of the Executive Directors to be those leaders. We hope for the best boards and wonderful volunteers that make up our system. We are working on getting them to really think about where we want to be 20 years from now, well after I’m no longer Director, and what that system going to look like because the world is changing around us, and we have to be staying abreast to those changes and try to understand them as well as understanding your generation.
How has the extension and the fairs relationship changed over the years?
I don’t have that long of a history but as far as I know it hasn’t changed too much other than getting progressively better. The staff has tried to do as good a job as it can to interact with the counties and make sure that this is the number one event in 4-H.
We understand that you have a background in horticulture. Can you tell us more about your own research and work?
My job is to help the industry store produce in the form that people actually want to eat it because my attitude is that you could just tell people that apples are nutritious, but if they’re not enjoyable to eat, then you’ve wasted your time. The New York apple industry is where I spend most of my time and I started a large workshop where I travel all over New York State to exchange information on that program. What I just love about the upside of small groups is that the interactions are great. I really believe that I’m learning as much from the people I’m interacting with as they are from me.
Cornell Cooperative Extension
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