By REBECCA WEBSTER
Recorder News Staff
Four local producers are being showcased this month in a fundraiser to benefit the 4-H programs throughout Fulton and Montgomery counties.
Each year, the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Fulton and Montgomery Counties puts together a spring product sale, showcasing products from various local vendors, said Linda Wegner, 4-H Youth Development Program Leader.
Though a fundraiser around the spring has been going on for quite a while, about five years ago 4-H members decided it was time for a change.
"They decided they wanted to put more of an emphasis on local food products," Wegner said. "They really came up with the idea and we've kind of been expanding."
What started out that first year with Palatine Valley Dairy Cheese in Nelliston and Smith's Orchard Bake Shop in Charlton, has now turned into a showcase of four different places, now including Fariellos' Confectionery in Amsterdam and Rulison Honey Farms in the town of Florida.
Mark Rulison, over at Rulison Honey Farms, who was filling jars of honey spread on Thursday, said they are happy to be able to be apart of the 4-H fundraiser.
Two honey-clover products from Rulison will be sold in the product sale.
Rulison said that though the business has been in his family four generations, "saving the bees" have brought more people to focus on local honey-making.
He said the sale just gives them another opportunity to sell some of many tons of honey they produce each year.
Aside from Rulison's honey, the cheese bars and curds from Palatine Valley Dairy, and the chocolate bunnies and tracks from Fariello's, Wegner said the big ticket items each year are the pies.
A few years back they sold upwards of 1,200, she said.
Shelley Smith, owner of Smith's Orchard Bake Shop, said Thursday that a lot of work goes into making the unbaked, frozen pies for the fundraiser.
"Basically, I think they (4-H) were just looking for good quality, locally-produced products," she said. "We don't use any canned filling, it's like it was homemade in your house."
At the time of the sale distribution, eight people will work at the shop to support the high volume of pie production.
Smith said this is a big part of their yearly sales, but it's also gives them a chance to be involved.
"I think that supporting programs like 4-H, I think are really important youth programs and I think as budget's get tighter and municipalities don't have the money to give to programs like that, I think it's awesome that Cooperative Extension is reaching out to do a sale like this to keep their programming going."
Wegner said a certain amount of the money goes to the two-county office for programming and there is also a percentage that goes directly back to the clubs and members to use for project materials or to do some of their 4-H programs.
It also helps with 4-H recognition awards, award trips, agricultural business trips, 4-H Capital Days, and a career exploration trip to Cornell University, among other things.
About 18 to 20 4-H clubs exist across the two counties right now, Wegner said, and there are a fair number of individual members.
4-H is the youth component of the CCE.
"Formally it's been in Montgomery County since 1914 and in Fulton County since 1917," Wegner said, adding that prior to those dates, that 4-H clubs existed, but often under other names.
"They emerged as corn clubs for boys and canning clubs for girls because those were the skills at that time-frame," she said, but eventually that has expanded.
"We've been out there for quite some time."
Life-skill development is what 4-H focuses on for the youth , doing after-school programming, summer lessons, and special interest series.
"We work with young people in a variety of ways and again right now we really try to emphasis the learn by doing, and inquiry-based so essentially we're hands-on learning, but also really trying to promote the 'why,'" she said. "Whether it's in the area of plant science or animal science or nutrition or whatever they're project (is), we probably have 200 different project areas."
The product sale is the only fundraiser that 4-H does as a whole.
"This is kind of the two-county effort for the 4-H program."
All of the products from the sale will be delivered on March 21.
Club members and individual members will have selling packets, but individuals can contact the Cornell Cooperative Extension by phone at 673-5525 or at their office at 50 East Main Street in Canajoharie.
For more information, readers can visit www.ccefm.com.