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Posted on: February 11, 2019

Consultant Talks Future for Farmers at Ag Day Monday

A man and a woman with a child in her arms and two others in tow follow a herd of cow down a mud tra

HONESDALE (Feb. 8, 2019) – The  Wayne Agriculture Tomorrow working group presents the final report on the Wayne County Economic Development Plan for Agriculture when the region’s farm families gather for the 2019 Ag Day on Monday, Feb. 18.

Part of the County Commissioners’ wide-reaching Wayne Tomorrow Initiative, the study conducted by Agriculture and Community Development Services, LLC, looks at how the “rapidly changing economy is impacting the efficiency and profitability of the agricultural sector and thus that of the entire county.”

ACDS Consultant Phillip Gottwals, will review the report, which examines the local agriculture economy, its dependent industries and Wayne County’s strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities. He will also discuss the resulting recommendations, which integrate comments from the 50 individuals interviewed as part of the process and the suggestions of the Wayne Agriculture Tomorrow working group.

 In the report, Gottwals notes that based on the interviews, community interactions and other outreach efforts, “One thing that is absolutely evident is that in Wayne (County) community is vital. Wayne’s residents care about each other, about their community, and about agriculture.  This community-centric approach is what will ensure the success of agriculture in Wayne, and what sets Wayne apart from its regional counterparts.”

The 73-page document will be available online at WayneCountyPA.gov beginning Monday, Feb. 18, but the 2019 Wayne County Ag Day is the perfect time to learn more about the plan and its recommendations from the people directly involved in the project.

Gottwals will be speaking after lunch, at 1:30 pm. There is no charge to attend Ag Day.

Working Group Co-Chair Jane Bollinger said, “We need the farmers to revitalize the agriculture industry. We need the farmers to work with Wayne Agriculture Tomorrow to address their needs. Their involvement in the implementation is key to its success.”

Bollinger said, with the release of the plan, the working group now focuses its energy on the four cornerstone recommendations in the report:

  • Helping support beginning farmers and an entrepreneurial culture;
  • Modernizing local infrastructure including broadband internet, improved cell phone coverage and better roads;
  • Targeting the development of related food and processing industries, known as a cluster; and
  • Finding the public and private funding for agriculture projects.

As for the latter, the Wayne Economic Development Corporation already has a grant application pending to help fund the creation of livestock and milk processing facilities, as suggested in the plan that also addresses food, forestry and related industries.

The county has begun moving on other fronts, too. This includes supporting and encouraging the next generation of farmers, starting with the successful revitalization of the Future Farmers of America and the Agriculture Curriculum at Honesdale High School. Some 100 students are participating in the program.

Despite the continued aging of the county’s farm operators, the local agricultural industry already bucks the odds with a 15 percent increase in beginning farmers from 2002 to 2012. In all, 50 of those 172 new farmers were between the ages of 25 and 34 during that period, according to the USDA Census of Agriculture.

So, it’s not too late for Wayne County to pin its hopes on agriculture.  Based on 2012 statistics, Wayne County still has 120,000 acres of agricultural lands –cropland, pastureland, woodland and other. In 2016, agriculture contributed $151.6 million to Wayne County’s economy, provided 1,386 full time jobs, and paid $31.2 million in wages and $11.2 million in Federal and State taxes.

Browse the final report.

Economic Development Plan for Agriculture
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