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Cooperative Extension begins move to Orchard Park tonight

The intersection of Power Road and Burton Road in Orchard Park is currently undeveloped
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The intersection of Power Road and Burton Road in Orchard Park is currently undeveloped.

For decades, Cornell Cooperative Extension for Erie County has been located in a building on East Aurora's Roycroft Campus. The agricultural agency now wants to move its operations to a more rural area in nearby Orchard Park.

Cooperative Extension on Thursday goes before the Orchard Park Planning Board, an early stage in a move to 15 acres near Powers Road and Burton Road.

"Once they have that in sight, we will be kind of developing our entire plan for the site and for the building and the architectural plans and all of that," said CE Executive Director Diane Held. "So it's going to take us a few years before we actually have that. We'll have some fundraising that goes into that. So it'll definitely be a few years, I want to say two to three years, probably, probably two years."

Held said lots of details remain to be worked out, like costs and schedule. However, the initial phase would be a relatively small office building for headquarters and some of the staff.

Once the offices open, she said the focus will shift to using the open land on the site for competitions and demonstrations, although there won't be any animals living on the property.

Held said it's time to move from the building it once owned and sold.

"We definitely will need office, some place to locate," she said. "We've been leasing here from RCC, but we do want to have kind of a home and along with that home — which the board really determined with stakeholder input a number of years ago — is that we wanted to have some land where we could do hands-on learning. So where we could be able to take people onto the land to learn things about gardening, about agriculture."

Held said the work of the agency has shifted, as people become more conscious of the food they eat, where it comes from and what they can do to grow their own or use farms that operate locally or in the City of Buffalo.

It also now includes working with the area's thousands of new immigrants.

"In the variety of program areas, not just in our agriculture, but also in our 4-H youth programming, our master gardener programming," Held said. "And then the site that we're looking at in Orchard Park, the 15 acres that we have there, is adjacent to acreage the Providence Farm Collective is farming and they have farmers from many different communities from around the world that are farming there."