- Education and Training: technical assistance, workshop
- Sustainable Communities: community planning, partnerships, public participation, public policy, sustainability measures, community development
Central New York is facing uncertainty regarding the future of farming due to a rapidly globalizing food system and economy, and changing land use patterns in the region. This impacts farmers in several ways. Scattered development patterns can significantly fragment productive farming areas. Conflicts spring up with new homeowners unfamiliar with the noises, smells, and activities of neighboring farm businesses. Such development also drives up land prices for farmers and eliminates opportunities for future farmers and local food production as productive farmland is covered by concrete and permanent structures. Agriculture is the number one industry in New York State as well as in Central New York. Maintaining a sustainable agricultural industry is therefore critical to all members of the community. In 2006, farms in Onondaga and Madison Counties sold over $156 million in farm products. These dollars are frequently re-circulated in the region’s economy as goods and services are purchased by farmers from other area businesses. Growing interest in buying locally produced food at farmer’s markets or from food processors that source much of their products locally, such as Byrne Dairy, further magnifies the contributions of farms to the regional economy. Through our active Agriculture and Farmland Protection Committee, which has involved local farmers, CACDA has identified protection of existing farms and rural character as a key community priority, and has sponsored several educational presentations that focused on keeping farmland in active production. However, it has become apparent that more awareness and education for both the public and for key decision-makers are needed to help everyone understand the critical need to preserve farms for the economic future of the area, and how that might best be accomplished.
Project objectives from proposal:
The project includes two components. The first project component is unique in that it focuses on educating officials from the 35 towns in Onondaga and Madison Counties and county officials about more effectively integrating the business and land use needs of farms into local land use and economic development planning. This timely initiative will fill a need found in many rural communities where land use planning decisions are frequently made by volunteer boards with limited access to professional expertise in planning and/or agriculture. Rather than just widely providing education on the importance of agriculture to our local economy, this approach seeks to target those decision-makers who can make the greatest impact and provide them with the tools necessary to make informed decisions.
New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets has made funding available for towns to develop local agricultural and farmland protection plans. Over $800,000 in grants was provided to 39 towns in 2007-08, with a similar amount anticipated to be awarded in 2008-09. Our proposed work will help position communities in Central New York to take advantage of this state funding that will enable local governments to implement the concepts and tools introduced through this project and sustain positive momentum in support of farms.
The second project component, development of a ‘Farm Book’, will reinforce the information shared at the conference and workshops, and help educate residents about what is needed to keep local agriculture healthy. The ‘Farm Book’ will be distributed to conference and workshop attendees, and to local residents. It will provide practical information for farmers, elected officials and residents, and can serve as the basis for future discussions and partnerships.
The typical approach to addressing the importance of keeping farms viable for the economic future of the community has been to offer information at agriculturally centered events, such as county and state fairs or county extension-sponsored events. The ‘Farm Book’ is distinctive because it will reach many area residents, including those who would not otherwise be exposed to this type of information.