Columbia County government has formed a coalition to craft a plan to support and promote local agriculture.  The success of the 18-month process will depend upon broad public input, especially from the farm community.  Five public meetings are planned and a survey is being mailed to agriculture producers in order to assess the state of local agriculture and design a county-wide farmland protection plan.

Columbia County is taking advantage of the Farmland Protection Program created by the NY State Legislature.  Hudson Valley Agribusiness Development Corporation is working with the Columbia Land Conservancy to facilitate the Program with the County's Ag and Farmland Protection Board.  the Program establishes a methodology for local governments to assess the status and potential of farming in every community.  Economic value, open space value, and consequences of conversion will be analyzed.  A survey has been developed to be distributed to the County's producers to compliment dialog produced through the five public meetings.

"Farming is an important engine of economic activity and with strategic planning it could play a larger, more beneficial role in out economy,"  says Ken Flood, the Columbia County Commissioner of Planning and Economic Development.

Farming is beneficial to the economy, but money isn't the only reason to think about farming.  Peter Paden, executive director of the Columbia Land Conservancy points out, "Supporting a flourishing farm sector is one of the best ways to conserve our wildlife habitats, landscapes, and our rural quality of life."

Everyone involved or concerned about farming is encouraged to attend one of the public meetings that will shape the farmland protection plan.  Residents can attend the meeting closest to them, or choose to attend any or all other meetings.  The schedule is:

      •  Saturday, January 22, 2011, 10 to Noon.  North Chatham Fire House, 653 County Route 32, North      Chatham.  Snow date:  Monday, January 24th, 2011, 7 to 9pm.  "Meeting Notes"
      •  Thursday, February 3, 2011, 7 to 9pm.  Cornell Cooperative Extension, 479 Route 66, Hudson.  Snow  date:  Saturday, February 5th, 10 to Noon.  "Meeting Notes"
      •  Saturday, February 19, 2011, 10 to Noon.  Copake Town Hall, 230 Mountain View Road, Copake.  Snow  date:  Tuesday, February 22nd, 7 to 9pm.  "Meeting Notes"
      •  Thursday, March 3, 2011, 7 to 9pm.  Kellner Activities Building, 54 Palatine Park Road, Germantown.  Snow date:  Saturday, March 5th, 10 to Noon.  "Meeting Notes"
      •  Wednesday, March 16, 2011 7 to 9:30pm.  Farmers' Research Circle, Farmscape Ecology  Program/Hawthorne Valley Farm.  "Meeting Notes"
      •  Saturday, March 19, 2011, 10 to Noon.  Stuyvesant Town Hall, 5 Sunset Drive, Stuyvesant.  Snow date:    Monday, March 21st, 7 to 9pm.  "Meeting Notes"
Notes from an additional meeting are provided below:
Wednesday, April 6, 2011, 8am-9am, Columbia County Soil and Water Meeting Room, Ghent, New York.  "Focus Group Notes"

Compilation of notes from the Public Hearings and Focus Group Meeting summarized by topic, "Compiled Focus Group Notes"

The farmland protection plan is expected to be finalized by mid-2012.  The process is lead by the County Farmland Protection Board and a working committee headed by Todd Erling, Executive Director of the Hudson Valley AgriBusiness Development Corporation.  Other organizations represented on the committee are the Columbia County Department of Planning, Columbia County Soil and Water Conservation District, Columbia Land Conservancy, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and Farm Credit East (formerly First Pioneer Farm Credit).