If you think you're a farmer, you are.
And if you're a farmer, you need to be at one of two upcoming meetings that will help chart the future of farming in Schoharie County.
Information from the meetings-Thursday, February 11 at 1pm, and Tuesday, February 16, at 7pm, both at Cooperative Extension in Cobleskill-will be used to help update the 2000 Agricultural and Farmland Protection Plan.
"People think if they have a few beefers, or if they're selling eggs out of a refrigerator in their garage, that they aren't 'real' farmers," said John Radliff, president of the Schoharie County Farm Bureau, which is hosting the meetings.
"But as someone who's been doing this for 40 years, I'm saying: You're a farmer. If you're feeding animals in the cold, if you're struggling with the weather, if you're trying to make even a little money from agriculture, you're a farmer and we need you there."
The Schoharie County Agriculture and Farmland Protection Board, along with County Planning and consultants Community Planning & Environmental Associates will be working together to update the 2000 plan.
Senior County Planner Alicia Terry said they'll begin by looking at existing farm conditions, trends, strengths, and opportunities.
"Then, we'll take a look at what the future looks like and begin fleshing out some of those opportunities," she said, "whether it's in niche farming or something more traditional. Something that can carry us into the next 10-15 years."
Ms. Terry pointed to the success of Sharon Springs' Beekman 1802 in finding ways to add value to agriculture products-even to the point of getting locally-sourced salad dressings on the shelves at Target.
"Who would have ever imagined seven years ago that they'd be so successful," she said. "Around the world, people know their name."
The 2000 ag plan had its successes, Ms. Terry said; projects it championed included the hiring of an agricultural marketing specialist, a county position for about 10 years; securing funding to look at the feasibility of a local milk bottling plant, and the School of Country Wisdom, which paid farmers to share their experience with things like growing garlic or raising bees.
One of the issues she sees looming now is the aging out of farmers, who need to look at ways to transition out of the business-or transition others in.
"And they don't necessarily have to be family members," she said. "Look at SUNY Cobleskill and all of those students who are willing to take out loans because they're so passionate about farming...There have to be opportunities there."
Ms. Terry agreed with Mr. Radliff in stressing the need to be open-minded about who's a farmer.
"We have no preconceived notions," she said. "We need as much input as possible. I don't care if you're growing herbs in your backyard, we want your input."
For more information on the farm plan update or the upcoming meetings, contact Ms. Terry at 295-8770 or email her at email@example.com