An important local program is in danger.

Master Gardeners. 4-H. Those programs, and many other important services to the Cincinnati-area horticulture and farming industries—not to mention critical volunteer work that keeps our city beautiful and vibrant—are on the chopping block. Next week.

That’s because Hamilton County and the Metropolitan Sewer District are cutting off all funding for The Ohio State University’s Extension office in the county. For the first time since 1917, our area will be without this vital source of university-led research, education and information. Every dollar Hamilton County invests in OSU Extension returns $2.45 in services.

Last fall, after many years of wanting to do so, I enrolled in the Master Gardener program in Hamilton County. For those of you not familiar with Master Gardeners, these are folks who, after going through a thorough training program based on OSU’s horticultural research, volunteer throughout the community. Master Gardeners share their knowledge of plants, pests and practices through a local call-in garden helpline. We volunteer at Cincinnati parks, the zoo, Krohn Conservatory, Gorman Heritage Farm and other sites, lending labor and expertise to their planting and education programs.

More important, though OSU Extension programs support local farmers and growers by sharing the university’s latest research on growing practices, land and pest management, season extension, crop selection and more. And then there’s 4-H, which helps kids learn leadership as they take on projects involving raising animals, growing crops or creating crafts.

Lately, OSU Extension’s work in Hamilton County has involved working with the Metropolitan Sewer District on stormwater management initiatives—projects like planning, planting and maintaining massive rain gardens and landscapes around the county that mitigate rainwater runoff. MSD is under federal court order to get this problem under control, as the county’s insufficient sewer system allows waste- and stormwater to run into local creeks and rivers. (ICK!)

To my surprise, I haven’t seen this story reported in any local media. And, my Master Gardener experience notwithstanding, I’m dismayed to learn that local farmers and growers are losing access to this essential resource, and that our community is losing the coordinated efforts of horticultural volunteers who help keep our city beautiful.

So I’m publishing here to help spread the word. If you’re in the Cincinnati area and you’re also bugged by this, drop a note to our county commissioners, will you?