From the Mayor’s Office –
Nancy Colgan

From the Mayor’s Office
June 12, 2024

Nancy Colgan

Thirty years ago, was a different time and trajectory in our Valley; farmland and open space were being gobbled up. Our remarkable agricultural history and farming community were endangered. There was a call to protect that came from not only from farmers but the community at large and from that the Farmland Protection Fund and Purchase of Development Rights were born. This was a valiant, pioneering effort by many which significantly changed our story. To date nearly 5,000 acres of farmland have been protected.

An unsung hero in this rebirth is a woman known to her high school students as Mrs. Colgan. Nancy Colgan was hired by the Warwick Valley School District 29 years ago to run the agricultural program and she was told it was short lived and that the program would probably be discontinued in a year. Local farmer Wisner Buckbee and farm advocate Seymour Gordon lobbied for the Ag Program to continue, and they were ultimately successful. What was initially described as an uphill battle, over time, with great persistence and tenacity, gave rise to one of the best agricultural arts programs in the Hudson Valley. As Nancy is set to retire, the program has two teachers, a growing diverse curriculum and the strong support of the school district.

I have known Nancy for many years, and I’ve met many of her students. What struck me was her ability to help young men and women develop, grow and find themselves. I saw reluctant youth transform into young adults with skills and a sense of self and purpose. It is no easy task for a teacher to win the trust of their students. Nancy was able to develop those bonds. She instinctively knew what was hiding underneath the teen veneer. Hands on teaching, listening, goal making, and setting challenges were all a part of the skills she brought to the classroom. Throw in a field trip, a regional or national competition, suddenly you have some traction and trust. Nancy created more than a program; it was in essence a supportive community within the context of the greater school.

Outside of the classroom Nancy worked on many initiatives including the Warwick Valley Farmers Market, Farm Aid – a community-wide fundraising effort after devastating flooding in the Black Dirt and most recently with the Monarch Village designation. She and other educators created a program for kindergarten and third grade students at Park Avenue and Sandfordville Schools and assisted with the recent Monarch Festival that showcased the student’s knowledge and artwork.

This past Monday friends and former students gathered at the Edenville General Store. The event was organized by Steven Debuck, a former student. Nancy was the guest of honor, and she sported a head of hair that was dyed in a multicolor pattern! Leonard Debuck aptly described it as a series of beautiful halos. This was an opportunity for so many to say thank you to this impactful woman. The stories were warm, funny and meaningful. This was a celebration of the spirit and work of an authentic leader and someone who in this role we will miss.

What she gave us is a legacy. She was a connection and thread that wove its magic at a time when we too as a community saw the value of protecting our land. Ironically, she was responsible for protecting something even more important – our sons and daughters.  She gave hope to so many of our youth who have grown to be accomplished adults who are now taking the reins – instilled with a strong identity from a role model who expects no accolades. Thank you, Nancy, we are so very grateful.

The next Village Board meeting will take place on Monday, June 17, 2024, at 7:30 p.m. at Village Hall, 77 Main Street.