County officials, farmers toured the agricultural exhibits at the Dutchess County Fair on Thursday
RHINEBECK – Livestock humor and casual footwear marked the second annual Dutchess County Agricultural Forum, held Thursday at a corral in the Dutchess County Fairgrounds of Rhinebeck. “We have to get out of here before we’re overrun by sheep,” joked County Executive Marc Molinaro, who moderated the event.
The county executive took the occasion to reflect on his youth.
“My very first job ever, prepared me well for my current line of work, I cleaned horse stalls, shoveled horse manure for a living,” Molinaro said.
Barnyard talk was not the only topic of discussion. Officials and industry leaders joined with local farmers to boost Dutchess County agriculture, which is big business.
“Farming is not only just about Duchess County culture, history, and heritage,” Molinaro said. “It is very much part of our current economic condition, and the future prosperity of this county. Farming is emblematic of the kind of growth America has to lean on.”.
Jennifer Fimbel, of the Cornell Cooperative Extension, was named the new Dutchess Agricultural Navigator, as recommended by the Agricultural and Farmland Protection Plan. Fimbel will help farms take advantage of emerging markets in the Hudson Valley, and embrace new technologies and practices.
The Partnership for Manageable Growth will be requesting another $1 million in funding next year from the county legislature, in addition to the $900,000 it received last March, with state matching funds. Currently 3,792 acres of farmland have been preserved.
Jeff Williams, director of Division of Public Policy at the New York Farm Bureau, delivered a presentation, indicating regulatory threats to the industry, including minimum wage and unionization reforms. He said the extensive labor involved makes agricultural produce expensive; and a harvest season worker strike could wipe out an entire crop.
The lowing of cows and bleating of goats beckoned participants afterwards, to take a tour of the Dutchess County Fair, now in its 171st year. Farm animals of every shape, size and variety greeted visitors – many of these animals have come to market, meaning they will soon be sold or slaughtered for food.