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County Future of Ag Task Force getting out message about farmers’ vital role

September 22, 2010
“Did you eat today? Thank a farmer.” The message is simple, concise and, more importantly, a crucial point of public awareness from the Warren County Future of Ag Task Force. The message and seven others conveying the importance of local farmers have been place on four large signs, which have been placed at various locations across the county over the past several weeks. Formed in September 2004, the Warren County Future of Ag Task Force’s goals are to expand local markets for “buy fresh, buy local,” establish and maintain agriculture in science and technology curriculum in the Warren County School District, enhance farmers’ education and increase the public’s awareness of benefits of local agriculture and its contribution to local community. The signs are a manifestation of the public awareness goal. “We wanted something highly visible to get people to think about where their food comes from,” said Cindy Paulmier, a member of the task force. “We want to educate the consumer.” Task force member Heather Wilcox added, “We have to do everything we can to promote our local producers.” Supporting local producers is more than supporting the livelihood of those farmers. By buying local, consumers are supporting an important economic engine in Warren County. For example, in 2009, the typical Pennsylvania dairy farmer spent $3,200 to feed and care for each cow plus another $850 in depreciation expenses, according to George Wilcox, task force member and director of the Warren County Penn State Cooperative Extension. When multiplied by the approximately 5,000 cows in Warren County, dairy farming provides an economic boost locally. “That money circulates around the local economy,” said Warren County Farm Bureau President Mark Lawson. Buying local also has many benefits to the consumer. Lawson explained that non-local produce is picked before its peak ripeness to prevent over ripening before delivery. “So it doesn’t have as many nutrients,” he said. Heather Wilcox also noted that buying local allows consumers to build a relationship with the producer so they can truly know the origin of their food. “The signs are just a step to continue to educate the consumer,” Paulmier said. “That’s been one of our major goal from the beginning,” Heather Wilcox added. As another point of public awareness, the task force started the website in 2006 as a resource for both consumers and producers. Through the website, consumers can find local producers and make the choice to buy local. The Future of Ag Task Force is also sponsoring a Fall Ag Tour on Saturday, Oct. 16, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Participants include the USDA Northern Research Station, Allegheny Cellars Winery, Lazy J Bison, Meldick Farms, Riverview Farms, Bully Hollow Alpaca Farm, Elmview Jersey, and the VanOrd Farm among others. This is a driving tour. Maps and brochures can be picked up at one of the participating locations.

Article Photos

Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry
Propping up farmers
A farmer waves to a passing motorist along Hatch Run Road near one of several signs throughout the county promoting local farming and the Web site.



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