FORT EDWARD — The number of Washington County farms has grown from 851 to 915 over the past two decades, with 23 percent currently owned by a new or beginning farmer, according to statistics by the Cornell Cooperative Extension.
And at a time when counties around the state are losing farms, Washington County’s number of smaller farms are growing.
But even though the overall number of farms rose, the county lost about 4,000 farming acres and the total number of hired agricultural workers declined, from 1,295 to 1,218.
During the April Washington County Board of Supervisors Agriculture, Planning, Tourism and Community Development Committee meeting, Brian Gilchrist, executive director of Cornell Cooperative Extension, talked to supervisors about upcoming plans to increase education and awareness of the county’s farming initiatives.
According to Gilchrist, a legislative tour of several Washington County farms, hosted by the Cooperative Extension, the Agricultural Stewardship Association and the Farm Bureau is slated for May 16 as part of the county’s Agriculture and Farmland Plan’s educational component.
Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, D-Round Lake, and the New York legislators who are members of the state agricultural committee will be part of the tour, Gilchrist said.
Other initiatives include social media marketing workshops scheduled to start in June to help farms tell their story and sell products on social media; four twilight tours — Ideal Dairy, Marshland, Argyle Hops and Batten Kill Creamery — which will begin the end of June and are limited to 25 people; and self-guided mini-tours around Washington County.
Exploring Ag Grants
Laura Oswald, director of Washington County Economic Development, and Brian Gilchrist, director of Cornell Cooperative Extension, are looking into the possibility of creating a grant program for the agricultural community.
According to Oswald, there is a micro-enterprise program run by the state Office of Community Renewal that allows a county to apply for up to $200,000 for grant funding, with grants to applicants ranging from $10,000 to $35,000.
Supervisors will revisit the idea at the next Agriculture, Planning, Tourism and Community Development Committee meeting in May.
ASA raising funds
The Agricultural Stewardship Association in Greenwich is raising funds to obtain 24,000 farm acres by October 2020, said Renee Bouplon, ASA associate director, adding that they anticipate surpassing that number.
Already working about 25 projects for 7,000 acres, the ASA will likely hire a project manager by fall and they are currently in a search for two paid summer interns.
According to Bouplon, the ASA is working hard on Dairy Transition grants for cow dairy only, and currently three Washington County farms — Lyndon Home farm on Bunker Hill in Greenwich, Adams farm in Whitehall and Chapin family farm in Hartford — have been funded; and there are more on the list.
Nonetheless, funds for the Dairy Transition grant are starting to run out, and Bouplon recommends that Washington County Supervisors urge Gov. Andrew Cuomo put more money into the grants.