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Warren County Agriculture In The News

History of the local agriculture task force will reveal its future
by Ann R. Swanson, correspondent
Success Stories: Warren County Future of Ag Program
Reprinted from the Times Observer, January 29, 2007

In September 2004 a Task Force comprised of close to 30 community leaders representing a broad diversity of groups came together to discuss the Future of Agriculture in Warren County. As the scope of the project was set forth members of the Task Force were an integral part of each decision made.

That July Commissioner John Eggleston met with Wes Ramsey, Phyllis Wright, and George Wilcox. He expressed concern for the economic welfare of the farming community. The task force was a direct result of this meeting.

Task Force Committee Members Meet

The program was introduced to the public during the Penn State Cooperative Extension annual meeting. Let's Talk sessions were held in various locations throughout the county in November 2004.

In February 2005 a survey of seventy three farmers and agri-business persons was done by forty four volunteers made up of consumers and farmers. Questions for the survey were developed from the Let's Talk sessions and Penn State Future of Agriculture program.

The Extension Northwest Dairy Team was formed. Five Extension Farm educators combined their expertise to meet with individual farm families to improve animal health, dairy production, quality housing, profitability, and estate planning.

By summer 2005 the campaign known as "Buy Fresh, Buy Local" drove the Farmer's Market. Local products were offered weekly through October.

Warren Farmers Market at the Warren County Fair

The Farm Land Preservation Board was formed. This is an area that is still being explored and developed.

The need for an agribusiness specialist came out of the survey process and the Let's Talk sessions. The Future of Agriculture committee has worked to refine the specifications and job description for this position. As of 2007 it looks as if this position will soon be a reality with support coming from the commissioners and Penn State Cooperative Extension.

The year 2006 was a very productive year. A presentation was made during an Eggs and Issues meeting. The Warren County Farm Bureau was represented at career days for eighth graders and at one for eleventh graders.

A web page with information for consumers, farmers, teachers, and producers was set up. To access this go to www.warrenag.org.

An Ag Awareness Day was held at the Warren Mall. Along with producers there were "Meet the Professionals" sessions, higher education representatives, and displays by agricultural and natural resource groups. The first Warren County Producers pamphlets were distributed.

Two in-service sessions for educators were held with personnel traveling to view a variety of operations. Time was also devoted to developing educational materials to be shared. The committee worked with the Warren County School District to offer Act 48 credits for this.

The first Farmer's Market at the Warren County Fair became a reality. Six producers participated offering fresh vegetables, baked goods, and meats to fair campers.

An expanded Farmer's Market for Sugar Grove became a reality.

The annual Penn State Cooperative Extension annual meeting featured local products to be sampled. The League of Women Voters hosted a speaker on "Buy Fresh, Buy Local."

In December 2006 Ray Haines and Associates conducted sessions for Quick Books training with ten farm families participating.

As the Future of Agriculture Committee looks forward to 2007 they want your help. In the past they took what they learned from consumers and producers to formulate their action plan. Many ideas were implemented with some still on the drawing board to receive more attention.

Agriculture effects everyone. The health of the economy depends on the health of all facets of business. Watch for the announcement of Let's Talk sessions in your area during the month of February. Lend your support. Let the committee know your needs and wishes. They really do listen and act on the information they receive.

Two years ago [in 2004], the Warren County agricultural community found itself in need of help. Farming businesses as well as the county’s economic base was in a decline. The agricultural community and consumers were in need of a healing process regarding an issue with use of local farmland. Government officials, consumers, farmers, and agency personnel got together to address these problems through  the Future of Agriculture  program. The main goals of the effort were  to help small family farms remain while retaining their quality of life, county wide economic development, and consumer appreciation of local agriculture and their concerns.

Through a series of “Let’s Talk” sessions with 80 consumers and farmers, interviews with 73 farmers (conducted by 22 volunteers), program participants identified four main goals to sustain and improve agriculture in Warren County:

  1. Expand local markets for “Buy Fresh, Buy Local”
  2. Establish and maintain agriculture in science and technology of Warren County School District curriculum
  3. Enhance farmers’ education
  4. Increase public’s awareness of benefits of local agriculture and its contribution to local community

Volunteers have tackled these goals and the results are numerous.  One local woman volunteered to develop the www.WarrenAg.org website. Several informative displays and the “Warren County’s Producers” leaflet have been created. On March 4th, a Family Agriculture Awareness Day was held. Phyllis Wright, an extension educator in Warren County, said the best part of Family Ag Awareness Day is “people getting together, sharing ideas and talking about the future.”  This summer, there will be a four-day in-service to educate teachers on how to use agricultural concepts in science, math and social studies. The momentum is strong. There are plans for the task force to go out to seek other volunteers to continue the promotional work and web site. An example is a leaflet for farmers only on financial aid and farming information. Volunteers are also working to increase the number of farmers’ markets in the county and to provide teachers with more in-depth training; and finding new ways to deliver current research based information and financial resources for farmers.

 For information about how the Future of Agriculture program can help your own community, contact Kathy Brasier or go to http://www.cax.aers.psu.edu/futureofag/

 

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Updated:  02/05/10