by Jeff Cole
That is why agriculture is important enough to be one of six areas highlighted for future growth and development under a blueprint for the county’s new comprehensive plan. Agriculture was the featured topic of a public forum held June 21 at the Mansfield Town Hall, the second forum in a series of six to take place monthly throughout October to gather public input for the planning process that will develop the new comprehensive plan.
According to ww2.cattco.org, the county’s original comprehensive plan was adopted in 1978 and was intended to guide the development of the county through the year 2000. However, “a new comprehensive planning update is needed to address the challenges of the 21st century and build upon more recent planning initiatives.”
The plan’s purpose, the website further states, is “to provide a blueprint for the future growth and development of the county in the areas of land use, economic development, agriculture, the environment, transportation, infrastructure and arts and culture.”
The 20 Cattaraugus County citizens who attended the June 21 forum were divided into four groups to discuss and write down what they perceive as strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats as they pertain to agriculture and farmland in the county.
Jim Ellis, of East Otto, said that he would like agriculture to remain as the No. 1 industry in Cattaraugus County. He stressed the importance of having an infrastructure that enables farmers to sell their products and said the government should “lay off and get their hands out of farmers’ business.
Lynn Telaak, an animal science teacher at BOCES’ Olean center and a Mansfield resident, said that she hopes the new comprehensive plan keeps agriculture a viable industry in the county. She said she would like to see the Cattaraugus County Farm Bureau’s ag-discovery tent, which is housed at the Cattaraugus County Fair and helps to educate people on all phases of agriculture, integrated into a mobile program.
“We just started last year and we’ve had a really good response to it,” Telaak said of the ag-discovery tent.
As with Ellis, Telaak noted agriculture’s ranking as the No. 1 industry in the county and said that she hopes the “powers that be” in Cattaraugus County will recognize it as such.
“It does not get recognized as that,” she said. “Even in education, we were counting up tonight, there are three high schools that offer agriculture, and BOCES has two centers and there are about three classes between those two centers that are agriculturally oriented. In my BOCES district, there are five school districts and I am their only opportunity at agriculture,” said Telaak, whose district includes Olean, Allegany, Hinsdale and Portville schools and Archbishop-Walsh Academy.
“None of them have an ag-program in their school, so if their students want agriculture, the only thing they can get at our center now is animal science,” she said.
James Isaacson and Paul Bishop, both senior planners for Cattaraugus County, each identified agriculture as being of great significance to the county.
“I want to see it continue to exist at least at the level that it does and hopefully grow in the future,” said Bishop.
Isaacson said, “Agriculture is one of our top industries and it’s very important to us. We want to get some input from our citizens as to what the county can do to improve agriculture and make it more viable.”
Though the topics of economic development and agriculture have already been dealt with in two previous forums, the public can still weigh in on four more topics in order to potentially help shape the county’s new comprehensive plan in those areas.
Each public forum will center on one topic and light refreshments will be served. The remaining public forum topics and dates are as follows:
July 12 – Environmental and Natural Resources
Aug. 9 – Transportation and Infrastructure
Sept. 20 – Arts and Culture
Oct. 18 – Land Use
All public forums have scheduled start times of 6 p.m. The locations for the next four forums have not yet been determined.