sunflower with bee on it

Episode One: A Conversation Starter

Join Master Gardeners, Jean Thomas and Tim Kennelty, in a conversation with Evon Antonio and Connor Young about Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) of Columbia and Greene Counties including the breadth of programs they offer. Then listen to some practical tips about how to site a vegetable garden with Teresa Golden (The Veggie Patch) and learn how honey bees survive in the winter with Linda Aydlett (The Hum of the Hives).

Hosts: Tim Kennelty and Jean Thomas

Interview Guests: Evon Antonio and Connor Young


CCE: Cornell Cooperative Extension (

Veggie Patch: Cornell Cooperative Extension | Food Gardening ( ; Untitled-2 (; How to Start a Vegetable Garden | University of Maryland Extension ( ; Explore Cornell - Home Gardening - Vegetable Growing Guides

Hum of the Hive: Beekeeping calendar for the Northeast; Honeybee Democracy; Honeybee Colony Thermoregulation – Regulatory Mechanisms and Contribution of Individuals in Dependence on Age, Location and Thermal Stress


Welcome to Nature Calls: Conversations from a Hudson Valley. Our team's goal is to present science-based information about gardening and all things nature in New York's Hudson Valley. Hosts Jean and Tim, along with team members Teresa and Linda, are Master Gardener Volunteers for New York's Columbia and Greene Counties. So if you're interested in gardening or nature, or nuggets of information about what's happening outside your door, settle in, enjoy the conversation. Whatever the season, we have something to say.

Jean: Welcome, everybody, to the first episode of Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley. I'm Jean Thomas.

Tim: And I'm Tim Kennelty. We're Master Gardener Volunteers with Cornell Cooperative Extension. And may I say, Jean, I'm very excited to be hosting this first podcast edition with you.

Jean: Well, yeah, I'm pretty excited, too. This podcast is the child of a radio program, we produce pre-COVID. These episodes, by the way, are still available on the gardening page of the Cornell Cooperative Extension website at

Tim: Yeah, and really the origin of this podcast was we all sat together in a room and thought, how can we reconstitute this, especially in these crazy times, when people are going out in the garden a lot more, they're going on hiking trails a lot more. And what can we do to help in terms of answering questions, providing advice, and that's really our goal, as well as providing some entertainment maybe as well.

Jean: This podcast is going to be about 30 minutes an episode, it's going to have an interview and a couple of little nuggets of knowledge and various topics. And it's portable. You can take the podcast with you when you're going out on nature hikes or working in the garden.

Tim: And one of the reasons why we decided to do this is we have so many experts on so many different topics. We have Master Gardeners, Master Beekeepers, Master Naturalist, and the staff at Columbia-Greene have all kinds of different expertise in everything from animal husbandry, to mushrooms, to foraging. So we have a lot of people to draw from, as well as people from the community. There's so many amazing nursery people and people who are involved in land conservancy, we're going to talk to all of them.

Jean: Our goal is to provide science based information about all aspects of gardening and more in the Hudson Valley. No matter how much fun we're having what we're telling you, it will be science based. And there will be backup information available on the website.

Tim: And we're also going to talk about some of the really big issues like climate change and habitat loss, and some of the things that are really, really critical in our environment, as well as some of the smaller things like where to cite your vegetable garden and what native plants are important to pollinators and all of that really good stuff that people want to know about when they're out in their garden as well.

Jean: The birds and the bees...

Tim: The birds and the bees, yeah. So some of the topics we're going to be covering in our recurring safe plants are things like beekeeping, birding, being out there on Columbia Land Conservancy trails, and what animals you'd see; garden myths we're gonna talk about, correct?

Jean: Yes. And Tim's going to be talking about good plant versus bad plant?

Tim: Correct. It's actually my favorite topic.

Jean: Is it? That's what, invasives versus natives?

Tim: Yeah, absolutely. Really important stuff, right?

Jean: Yeah. And I'm going to be doing a segment myself talking about things like the terrifying use of Latin.

Jean: So let's move on and talk about what's in this premiere episode Jean.

Jean: Well, we mentioned earlier that Cornell Cooperative Extension is our host, so we thought it would be a good idea to talk to Evon Antonio, and Connor Young. Evon's the Executive Director of Cornell Cooperative Extension, Columbia-Greene and Connor is Team Leader of Natural and Environmental Resources. So they're going to be going over historically, and as a community resource, what Cooperative Extension actually is.

Tim: And they cover amazing amount of topics, both Evon and Connor. We're also really excited that our two partners in crime Linda Aydlett and Theresa Golden are joining us on the episode today. Linda is a Master Beekeeper. She's going to talk about how bees keep warm in the winter.

Jean: Teresa is going to be discussing how you plan the site for your vegetable garden.

Tim: Yeah, that's really important.

Jean: Yes, I think we've said enough for now in this particular conversation, Tim. Let's listen in to Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley.

Jean: Welcome to Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley. We're with Evon Antonio, Executive Director of Cornell Cooperative Extension Columbia and Greene Counties, as well as Connor Young, Team Leader of the Ag and Natural Resources, Climate Change and the Environment, and Community Horticulture at Cornell Cooperative Extension. That's a mouthful. Connor, we'll start with you telling us a little about yourself and how you came to be at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Columbia and Greene counties.

Conner: Yeah. I started with CC Columbia-Greene in February 2019. Before that, I was working with a land conservation organization managing quite a few livestock operations throughout Massachusetts. I had worked in land conservation, farmland protection, and academically, my background is pretty varied, but primarily natural resource conservation, sustainable ag and a Master's in environmental law and policy. And that brings me here, which is a diverse background. But obviously given that title, it's helpful.

Tim: And Evon, tell us about your background.

Evon: Well, to begin with, I'm a forest owner. And through that I got engaged with the Cornell Cooperative Extension System, over many years, doing their programs. And eventually I became a Master Forest Owner Volunteer. And through that I got information on the need for a finance manager in the Cornell Cooperative Extension, Columbia-Greene. That was around 2012. They are just newly consolidated both Columbia and Greene counties. And their financial structure needed to be integrated. I thought I could offer some things. So I came on board and that's how I got started with the Cornell Cooperative Extension system.

Jean: Evon, what does Cornell Cooperative Extension do?

Evon: Well, our mission is to put knowledge to work in pursuit of economic vitality, ecological sustainability and social wellbeing. We do this by connecting communities with research from Cornell University to enrich and empower our New York State neighbors, local businesses, towns and cities. The programs offered through CCE system (this is nationwide) are based on unbiased research. The full credibility of Cornell University, as well as other land grant institutions and partners throughout the United States is brought to every rural and urban community in New York State and across the nation.

Tim: And how did the Cooperative Extension get started?

Evon: Well, it was an act of Congress that established that it was in 1862, the Morrill Act was passed, which provided for a university in each state to provide education to citizens in agricultural and mechanical fields. Cornell University, being Land Grant University, New York State, which was formed in 1865 is the knowledge base for a Cooperative Extension in our state. It provides educational resources through the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and the College of Human Ecology. The Extension programs based on these resources are conducted by professional staff with paraprofessionals and volunteer assistance through 57 County Extensions in New York State and offices in each of the five boroughs of New York City.

Jean: Is Cooperative Extension still an active system through all the states? A group of us attended the International Master Gardeners Conference two years ago, and there was a huge connection with the Master Gardeners and their local Cooperative Extension offices.

Evon: I'll let Connor take that one.

Conner: Yeah, the Cooperative Extension System exists throughout the United States in all 50 states. There are, I think, about 69 Land Grant Universities in New York State. Cornell University is ours. And while every state has an Extension system, they're not all structured the same. So New York isn't exactly the same as Pennsylvania, Vermont, Massachusetts. However, there's a lot of cooperation between each state, especially when there are shared issues that are being addressed. But then there's also cooperation at the federal, state, county and local level with Extension educators at every level. So in our local CC Association, were able to work on a regional level, and with faculty at Cornell University, on a range of issues, and many of our partnerships are now extending beyond the state border to really pool our knowledge, experience and resources to solve common problems.

Tim: So, there's so many differences among the counties in New York. Is there a particular focus in Greene and Columbia counties? And kind of part two of that question is, are there offices in both counties? And where are they?

Conner: You want to take the first part, I'll take the second?

Evon: Well, yeah, as you mentioned, there are differences in each county. The needs are quite different. Urban communities will have completely different needs than rural communities, rural being far more agricultural. Urban, will probably be more in access to good food, nutrition, family, parenting, that sort of thing. In our case, we have four primary program areas that we concentrate on. So in our case, the most well-known program area would be the 4-H and Youth Development. Then we have Family and Consumer Sciences program area, which includes parenting, nutrition, and anger management. And I need that myself. Then we have the Agricultural program, which includes our new venture, which is Taste New York. And that program is designed to create outreach to the farming sector, and to to get them equipped and prepared to introduce their products to the public at large and to educate the public on the availability of foods and other products generated through the agriculture sector in our communities. And then lastly, but probably the most significant in our case, is the Environmental Natural Resource program area, which Connor heads, and that includes climate change. And Conner can be far more explicit in terms of what they do.

Conner: Sure, yeah. So we have two offices. One is Columbia County that's on Route 66, and Hudson, and in Greene County, the Agroforestry Resource Center in Acra on Route 23. Given the name, it implies that we focus on agroforestry and I think that's a great example of how community and Extension needs evolve. This was founded in 2007. And as a result of a increasing private woodland owner population, extensively forested, and there are actually very few large commercial production ag systems in these two counties, compared to any number of decades ago, as a lot of conventional ag shifted to other parts of the state and country. And so like many CCE associations, we evolved with that need, and we address that. So right now, our main focus on both sides of the river is community horticulture, climate change adaptation, like those impacts trying to address those, and agroforestry in forestry.

Evon: And Taste New York venture. That's a significant part of what are our future and our long term goals are, to be able to increase the market reach for local producers. And also to make sure that we put Columbia-Greene on the map.

Tim: Can I ask a question? So can you give us an example of some of those products? Because that's really interesting.

Evon: Oh, well, we have producers in the dairy sector. They will make cheese. We have honey. Probably the most well-known and probably most prevalent product would be maple. Maple producers. Maple syrup. Different types of products that are made with maple. We are hoping to expand some of that through the agroforestry things that we are researching in and experimenting with on our Model Forest. So we can translate that into things such as some mushroom related products. Ginseng, over time. We have some research plots that we are hoping to make viable and hopefully expand that reach. There are other types of processed meat products that will have a shelf life, and that could be sold through the market system. And then there are soaps and those kinds of things that are produced locally. And the requirement here for placement in the store is that the products that are being sold have to be, I think, and don't hold me to this, I think it's 85 or 90% produced or processed in New York state.

Jean: We're still on forestry. We have the only Model Forest. What is it set up for?

Conner: The Model Forest program was established by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection who oversees the New York City watershed throughout the region. Quite a bit of Greene County falls into that region. And so the Model Forest Program was really started to allow landowners loggers, forest professionals, youth anyone in between to come and understand the relationship between sustainable stewardship and water quality. Siuslaw Model Forest was originally called Siuslaw Tree Farm. Eric Rasmussen studied at SUNY ESF to become a forester. And in his early career, he moved to the west coast and spent some time in Siuslaw National Forest. Siuslaw is actually a Native American word meaning the land of the faraway river. And so Eric came back and in his family, where the Agroforestry Resource Center sits was a hotel. And our offices were in the old game room and bar. So that was all converted and was managed over years. And Eric brought guests and family members across the street to the tree farm where he received designation many many years ago through the tree and farm system. And he managed it, steward it, and actually, you might have heard of Environmental Awareness Days where local fifth grade classes come, enjoy the forest for a day, that started in 1970. And Eric's been doing it ever since. And so in 2006, he generously donated this property in the Model Forest to Cornell Cooperative Extension, Him and his family thought it aligned with everything that they held dear about sustainable forestry. And we have tried to steward it alongside Eric and his family since. At this point, our Model Forest sees quite a few visitors. We have at least 30 to 40 programs in the forest each year, focused on logging, focused on insects, amphibians, best management practices for water quality, and quite a few others. And our 4-H Youth Development Program kids go over there all the time. Kids love it. And together we steward this with SUNY ESF and the Watershed Agricultural Council Forestry Program, who coordinate this region-wide. And we're lucky to have great partners to bring the forest alive.

Evon: And we have quite a few research things that are ongoing there also, like the AVID program, for example.

Conner: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, we have quite a few active research projects. We have demonstration sites for agroforestry.

Tim: I understand that Extension's involved in helping municipalities become climate smart. I know I'm working in my own town, and I didn't even realize this, how does that work? And how do you educate residents about climate change?

Conner: So the Climate Smart Communities Program is actually run by New York State. There are seven agencies that have cooperated over the years to make that happen. So the managing agencies, the Department of Environmental Conservation, but through that agency, there are quite a few partners that make it possible. We work directly with the Hudson River Estuary Program, Cornell's Water Resources Institute with funding through the Environmental Protection Fund to be able to provide resources specific to climate change adaptation. Climate Smart Communities is available for any community throughout the state. That usually begins with a pledge about becoming climate smart. And there's plenty of information on the state website. But after communities get together and make this pledge, they are really navigating a number of issues - mitigation being one and adaptation being another significant area of high priority. That's where we focus. So what we do is we identify community partners, and we try to work with them throughout the year on any number of actions within the adaptation pledge. So that can include a landing tools, which are and assessments these are summarizing all of the work done to date and the opportunities that lie before you in order to reach climate smart certification levels. Or we do a lot of road stream crossing management plans, which are assessing culverts and structures like that, which are heavily influenced by flood events, and severe weather, as well as aquatic passage trout. And so Trout Unlimited is another partner on that specific project area. In 2021, we saw an expansion of this, we're seeing a lot of interest, the Climate Smart Community Program, and we partnered with the New World Foundation to support their Local Champions Project.

Conner: And we were able to provide support Climate Smart Community assessment as part of their project, which includes many other climate change services that communities can utilize to help adapt and prepare and to make changes.

Tim: Isn't there a whole point system that a municipality has to go through to become a Climate Smart Community?

Conner: Yes. So if you go to the website, you'll see all of the pledges and actions. And usually they're always corresponding with a point. And in order to become bronze certified, which is the lowest, usually the entry level certification, that is 120 points. And so depending on what communities have done or what they plan to do, what they're actively doing, they can assess points, and then submit that to the Office of Climate Change, which are assessed and then those points are awarded. And if 120 is reached, then, sure enough, certification follows. After that, communities can go to higher levels, silver being the next. One of our roles with the submission process is to help gather all of those actions, ordinances, zoning, flood preparedness guides, anything that could possibly relate to the Climate Smart Communities Actions, we help compile it and then submit it and understand where the points lie for these communities.

Tim: I think my town's gonna come to you and ask you questions after this. I learned something new.

Conner: Yeah, so as of now, the last time I checked in Columbia County, the town of New Lebanon and the City of Hudson, we're both certified bronze. And in Greene County, as of this past year, the Village of Athens.

Jean: The pandemic created challenges for everyone. What did extension have to do to adjust to the realities of the pandemic? It just occurred to me that maybe the reactions of people to a lot of this climate change situation was amplified by the pandemic? Is there a connection that you're seeing there?

Evon: Well, the pandemic certainly was a disrupter, that's for sure. And continues to be. We have had to significantly curtail a lot of our public facing events. And we developed other ways of delivering programs to the community. And most of it was done through technology, Zoom became the medium of the day, and continues to be the medium of the day, quite frankly. So a lot of our activities were done in remote settings. It doesn't mean that our impact on our contribution to community was diminished, necessarily, because what the technology has done for us is provide an avenue to reach broader sectors of the community that we would not otherwise have been able to reach, should they have to travel long distances just to get to our venue for a particular meeting or a particular problem. So we have seen an expansion in the reach of the programs. And I think that that was a good thing. It has opened our eyes to the possibility of doing things in a different format, or hybrid format, which is something that we have now incorporated in our long term planning view. Our strategic plan, for example, has incorporated some of the lessons learned from the pandemic. It still continues to be a challenge, because we have new variants that are emerging on a rapid, almost a daily basis. And we have to adapt to that. We are somewhat limited in terms of what we can do as an association because we have to adhere to Department of Health guidelines and also the prescriptions of the state of New York. Whatever they prescribe, we need to at least make sure that we are in compliance with it. So while there might be some latitude provided to do things, our approach has been very cautious because I think that part of our mission is to educate and to serve the well-being of the community and the transmission of virus is certainly something that we should take very seriously because we don't want to expose unnecessarily the community to any risk that could be mitigated otherwise

Jean: I think we've covered an enormous amount of territory. Thanks Evon and Connor. This podcast will also be available through a link at the website at

You're listening to Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley.

Stay tuned for The Veggie Patch.

Teresa: Welcome to The Veggie Patch, a recurring segment of this podcast that will focus on growing vegetables and other edible crops. My name is Teresa Golden, a Master Gardener Volunteer with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Columbia and Greene Counties. Approximately once a month we'll cover a variety of topics related to growing edible plants. This will range from how to get started with a garden, to the specifics about planting, harvesting and caring for individual crops.

Vegetable Gardening in the Hudson Valley is a great activity for everyone young or old. Whether using containers, a community garden or a larger garden plot. Growing veggies enables you to supply family and friends with nutritious vegetables for six to nine months of the year. It's terrific exercise providing both an upper and lower body workout, but also helping to reduce household food expenses.

In lieu of a dedicated vegetable garden you can consider creating an edible landscape. This approach integrates edible plants within a home or community landscape. For instance, you can add blueberry plants to a largely ornamental landscape or create a yard full of fruiting bushes, edible flowers vegetables and ornamental plants. Basil, rosemary, dill, sage, lettuce, peppers, dwarf tomatoes, okra, eggplant, and even Swiss chard can all easily be worked into an ornamental bed or border. The possibilities are endless.

So how do you get started? The first step is to choose a site. Ideally, a full sun garden should have a southern exposure with more than six hours of sun each day. Eight to 10 hours of sunshine is ideal, but most vegetables really need at least six hours. Look around your yard for possible sites and record how much sun the various areas get to select your best option. Note that the best bet might be a container garden on your porch or patio.

However, if you don't typically get that much sun don't despair. Carrots, beets, Swiss chard and kale can do well in a garden with only six hours of sunlight. And leafy greens such as spinach, arugula and lettuce can thrive with only four or five hours of light, but they can also tolerate more.

In addition to sun, a critical requirement is water. Locate your garden where it's easily accessible to water. Remember that you'll have to water your plants at least an inch a week, especially in the drier months of the summer.

A level well drained site is best, but if you are located on a slope, consider creating a terrace to make a level area. Avoid the root systems from trees and shrubs to minimize competition for water and nutrients as well as to avoid a lot of shade. Make sure to keep your garden at least 75 feet away from black walnut or butternut trees, as their roots exude a chemical that is toxic to tomato, potato, peas and asparagus plants.

And, ensure your garden can be accessible to a wheelbarrow or garden cart for moving soil, compost, mulch, and plants, as well as to harvest your veggies.

One of the advantages of the winter months is that you have the time to plan and dream. Until next time, this is The Veggie Patch.

You're listening to Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley.

Stay tuned for The Hum of the Hive.

Linda: Welcome to The Hum of the Hive, a monthly segment of Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley that explores our natural world from the perspective of the honeybee - Apis Mellifera.

Hello, I'm your host Linda Aydlett and I'm a Master Gardener Volunteer with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Columbia and Greene Counties. I'm also a Cornell University Master Beekeeper who's been keeping bees for over a decade now. Like many beekeepers I know who've been bitten by the bug, I've become quite enamored with honey bees, and I'm always learning something fascinating and new about these remarkable creatures. So come with me as we embark on a journey with the honeybee, following her through the four seasons, starting with, well, right now.

We're in the midst of winter, the weather's frigid and there's not a bloom in sight. Honeybees are one of the few species of bees that form colonies are able to survive year after year. Hopefully these colonies are now ensconced in a warm dry cavity that could either be the hollow of the tree or inside a manmade hive. And if the prior seasons were bountiful, there's plenty of honey stored away to hold them until the nectar-rich blossoms are once again plentiful in Spring.

Even though they're not out foraging, they're working hard within the hive, keeping each other fed and quite toasty warm 24/7, even during blizzard conditions outside the hive.

But until Spring comes, how do honeybees survive winter?

Well, let’s take a look inside...

As cold blooded creatures that don't hibernate, honeybees have developed several means to help the colony survive in cold climates. Starting when temperatures dropped to the lower and mid 50s individual members of the colony gather to form a huddle about the size of a soccer ball. This is what beekeepers called the winter cluster. As temperatures drop even further, the winter cluster tightens and becomes even more compact. At the same time, the honeybees on the outer edges of the cluster are packing as tightly together as they can against each other to form a shell that basically encases the cluster, much like the mantle in cases the core of our Earth. This mantle forms an insulating shell an inch or two thick so that the heat is kept inside the cluster and helps preserve precious energy. With an insulating layer in place, the cluster simply doesn't need to heat unoccupied space within the hive box.

Using thermal image cameras, researchers discovered that individual bees, called heater bees for the task they're performing at the time, can provide enough warmth to keep the nest at precisely the right temperature in spaces immediately around themselves.

Heater bees use an anatomical feature all bees have in a surprising way that allows the cluster to keep even warmer ... and it's on their wings, believe it or not!

Honey bees can't fly at temperatures much below the mid-50s. It's just too cold for them to move their flight muscles. So in winter, they're stuck inside the cluster. While it is indeed much warmer, there's simply no room to fly.

Using a ridge of hooks (called hamuli), each individual honeybee is able to temporarily unhinge and detach all four of her wings from her body so that she can use her flight muscles in a vibrating or shivering movement. So instead of taking off in flight, she’s literally shivering in place. This shivering raises the body temperature of each honeybee, and collectively they produce the right amount of heat needed to keep the queen toasty warm, somewhere in the mid-80s. Yes, that’s 80F, even when the wind’s howling and snow’s piling up outside. And if the comb at the center of the winter cluster contains brood – that is, eggs, larva and pupa – this helps the cluster keep the temperature to an even hotter, tropical-like 95 degrees or so needed for the brood to develop into adults.

While the center of the winter cluster is being kept toasty warm, quite the opposite is true for the honeybees on the outer mantle layer who are continually being exposed to the bitter cold. To survive, they enter into a state called torpor, which means that their metabolism slows down so much they appear quite motionless, if not dead. If left in this state they could indeed freeze to death. To prevent this from happening, honeybees on the outer rim are slowly rotated towards the center of the cluster, exchanging places with their warmer sisters.

It’s remarkable that at no time is any one bee is in charge, not even the queen. Each individual works in concert with the others for the common good, which, at this moment, is to preserve the colony through the severest season of the year, winter. Cooperation, communication, and resiliency are traits we’ll see repeated throughout the seasons. So join me for the next episode of The Hum of the Hive as we delve further into the fascinating world of the honeybee.

Thanks for listening!

That concludes another episode of Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley. We would like to thank Sandra Linnell and Deven Connolly from Cornell Cooperative Extension of Columbia and Greene Counties for production support. And a SPECIAL THANK YOU to our listeners for joining us on this episode of Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley.

You can find links to any of the topics mentioned in this episode at our website at Comments and suggestions for future topics may be directed to us at or on the CCE Master Gardener Volunteers of Columbia and Greene Counties’ Facebook page.

For more information about Cornell Cooperative Extension of Columbia and Greene Counties, visit our website at, or visit us in Hudson or in Acra.

Cornell Cooperative Extension provides equal programming and employment opportunities.

Last updated May 3, 2023