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Agribusiness is a vital part of Schuyler

MONTOUR FALLS—Schuyler County has many great assets and one of the most important is agriculture.
Jim Ochterski, agriculture economic development specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension, presented his plan to attendees last week, Oct. 21, in Montour Falls. One of the first things Ochterski told the audience was, “On a whole this county is doing pretty well. If it did nothing, agriculture would grow. We want to push it. Tonight we will talk to where, how and who should push it.”
Several opportunities for agriculture were points covered during the program with opportunities listed locally as grassland farming, agritourism development for tourists from cities and suburbs, niche product farming, forest land and timber and community sense of self-sufficiency and sustainability. During the program, Ochterski outlined action steps within the five areas that were identified as well as outlining the definition of agricultural economic development. He said Schuyler County farmers have changed with the times, then moving to the focus points.
Before launching into specific items, Ochterski told the audience several things, including, “Identify what you are good at and make the most of it.”
Grassland farming was the first point. Ochterski said, “The globe is starved for good hay. High quality hay is rare.” In addition to hay, growing grasses for use in energy is another potential for the county. Agritourism is a potential, but of the type that would provide an authentic experience.
Ochterski said the best way to begin niche marketing is on a “micro scale.” Using herbs as an example, he said there are opportunities to assess the potential market. Forest development is a good potential economic development tool. He said there is great timber in the county and agritourism could also be expanded to the forests of the county. The last focus point focused on people. Ochterski said, “A lot of people can learn about self-reliance. The community has a good sense of self reliance.” He used skill sharing as an important component.
Following the outline of the five focus points, Ochterski said one of the most important tools is Broadband. He said, “You have got to have it somehow, some way.” He said it will be especially important to farmers in the future.
The program included a question period that covered a wide range including concerns about Marcellus Shale drilling in the county. Ochterski said, “It is worthy of all due diligence. The benefits and drawbacks are quite enormous. It changes constantly and could be a game changer.”
The possibility of the project came up during program planning conversations with the Schuyler County Legislature which had requested more information on agricultural economic development, a strong interest of the legislature. In addition to the county legislature and CCE, the staff at Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development (SCOPED), Chamber of Commerce, Soil and Water Conservation District, Real Property Tax Services and individual farm managers who provided input on a volunteer basis.
Schuyler CCE director Robin Travis said the legislature gave Schuyler CCE $5,000 to contract with Ontario County for the study. Travis spoke about the future, now that the study is completed, commenting, “This will be worked into Schuyler County’s economic development plan. Schuyler is very serious about implementing it.”
Ending the program, Ochterski said, “It’s easy to say were busy. There is so much going on we’re too busy to implement the strategy. If you focus you can get it done. You’ll be busy but is everyone is applying force in the same direction you’ll get things done.”

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