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  April 30, 2001

New Extension Center Dedication in Torrington

Nearly 50 years ago, a group of Litchfield County farmers invested the then princely sum of $50,000 and bought a building on the Litchfield Green to house the then agricultural extension service. The Litchfield Agricultural Center eventually became home to a branch of UConn's Cooperative Extension System.

Five years ago, the center's board of trustees sold the building for $350,000, and reinvested that money. On Friday, the sole remaining founding member of the group, former State Rep. Joseph Ruwet, closed the books on the Litchfield Agricultural Center when he presented a check for $465,000 to Chancellor John Petersen during dedication ceremonies for UConn's new Litchfield County Extension Center.

The spanking new $1.8 million, 7,400-square-foot building - nearly double the size of the former facility - will serve the county's farmers, backyard gardeners and consumers for at least another 50 years.

"It's remarkable what these individuals have done," said Petersen. "Their vision, tenacity and generosity is an inspiration to us all. They have given new purpose to the University's mission of engaging the people of Connecticut in the land grant university."

The extension center, one of eight the University operates in Connecticut, offers county residents educational programming in family and consumer sciences, 4-H youth development, and agricultural and natural resources management. A master gardener program also operates from the centers, offering advice and support to backyard gardeners.

The new building features a 120-seat meeting room, four offices for extension staff, a conference room, space for the volunteer master gardeners, and storage space. It was designed by TLB Architects of Higganum, and constructed through the generosity of the original agricultural society trustees and the UConn 2000 program. Since the original building was sold in 1996, the Litchfield County Extension Center has operated from rented space on Winsted Road. In March, staff moved back into a building of their own when the new facility was completed, off Route 4 on University Road.

The dedication ceremony included a silent auction of donated items to help offset the cost of new equipment and furnishings at the center, a brief speaking program, the ribbon-cutting and refreshments.

Richard Veilleux

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