The Town of Cobleskill will take the next step toward protecting its farms—and its farmers—when it gathers input on its draft Agriculture and Farmland Protection Plan this Thursday at the Cobleskill Fire House.
The 7pm meeting will run through the plan’s suggestions for making existing land-use regulations more farm-friendly, said Michele Strobeck, Schoharie County Ag Marketing specialist.
“Public input is an important piece of the whole plan,” Ms. Strobeck said. “We want to make sure this is what people want.
“We hope to hear from people who value agriculture and want to see it remain…farmers, but also people who want to know where their food comes from and who understand active farms are the best way to preserve open space.”
Copies of the draft plan are available at the Cobleskill Town Clerk’s Office on Mineral Springs Road, at The Community Library, and online at shepstine.net/Cobleskill, or the Town of Cobleskill’s website.
The project was funded with help from the state Department of Agriculture & Markets.
Steering Committee members, who worked with consultant Shepstone Management Company, included chair John Radliff, Ruth Bradt, Mike Montario, John Rose, and Debbie Stanton, along with Shane Nickle and Ms. Strobeck of County Planning.
The draft plan looks at the region’s demographics growth and development trends, and natural resources.
It also details farming’s economic impact in Cobleskill, noting that in 2009, there were 55 farms with harvested cropland, 19 dairy farms, and 68 farm operations in Cobleskill, together worth more than $11 million in assessed value.
The equine industry is also gaining importance locally, the draft points out, and may help retain a good deal of Cobleskill’s farmland; there’s also the indirect economic impact of agri-businesses—everything from veterinarians to forage-harvesting services.
“Altogether, agriculture easily produces a $10+ million economic impact on the Town of Cobleskill and accounts for a minimum of 6-8 percent of its total personal income,” the reports finds.
But the most important piece of the plan, Ms. Strobeck said, may be its review of land-use regulations, something the Steering Committee worked closely with the Planning Board on.
“The question was , “Is this ag-friendly?’ “ she said.
It’s her hope that once the plan is adopted, Cobleskill will follow the Town of Wright’s lead and establish a Standing Ag Committee that will use the plan to help turn some of its suggestions into law.
Most of those suggestions in the draft plan are geared toward allowing for more zoning flexibility for ag and ag-related businesses, clearing up redundancies, and cleaning up confusing language in the regulations.
“That’s where the real teeth of the draft plan are,” Ms. Strobeck added.
“That’s where the towns have the most control and can take the steps needed to help agriculture remain viable.”