The Four Partners Agricultural Work Group has scheduled a pair of meetings for next week, one for Monday, 10am-noon, and one for Wednesday, 7-9pm, both at the Cooperative Extension, both to better refine ways to use agriculture to boost economic activity in Schoharie county.
The Agricultural Work Group is one of four working on strategies for the Chamber of Commerce’s spring Economic Summit; others are looking at industry, micro-enterprise, and tourism and marketing.
So far, the Ag Group has held three meetings; last Thursday about 16 participants broke into four smaller groups to discuss:
Open land and farm preservation, processing, including meat, dairy, wood, wool, and vegetables; marketing, including direct sale, wholesale, retail, and bringing customers to the product and the product to customers; and funding.
Though funding was discussed as part of the other three topics, coordinator Linda Cross said it was such an important part of the picture that they pulled it out to look at on its own.
“All of the other groups were told to develop their strategies assuming funding was likely or at least possible,” Ms. Cross explained. ‘I really think we made a lot of progress and I’m thrilled by the breadth and the depth of the knowledge we’ve been able to draw from.”
One disappointment, though, has been the absence of a voice from vegetable farmers; the daytime meeting at the Cooperative Extension was chosen specifically so more of those farmers could attend.
“We tried to put in some ideas that would represent their interests, but we’d rather hear it from them,” Ms. Cross said. “I think our plan would benefit from more of their input; we can’t possibly know everything that’s important to them.”
One of the reasons Ms. Cross said she thinks the Ag Work Group has been able to make so much progress over a relatively short time is that farmers have learned they need to be the “squeaky wheel.”
“I think some of the other things farmers have accomplished this way has taught them to feel comfortable speaking up for themselves,” she said. “We’ve all learned that grassroots works best.”
The Ag Group’s ultimate goal is to see some of its ideas become realities, Ms. Cross said, and they won’t necessarily have to be big-budget items.
“For myself, I’d love to see a permanent home for the Festival Farmer’s Market. And there’s interest in doing more with the county’s wood resources. These things don’t have to take a lot of money.”
Anyone with an interest in agriculture is invited to participate in the Ag Work Group’s meetings.
For more information, contact Ms. Cross at 868-9303.