Good move on ag committee

Published 8:33 pm Wednesday, September 25, 2019

The City Council recently approved the reinstatement of a committee that never should have fallen by the wayside in the first place.

Drive through most of Suffolk’s 420-some square miles, especially near harvest time, and it’s easy to see how important the agricultural community is to Suffolk.

In a city with Suffolk’s agricultural heritage that still supports 350 farmers and their operations, the agricultural committee is vital to maintaining an open line of communication directly from the folks driving the tractors to the council members’ ears.

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The first thing that comes to mind regarding the agricultural community, in an increasingly urban city like Suffolk, is to lament that the city is losing farmland to development. And while it’s true that there is less farmland in Suffolk than there used to be, that’s not the only consideration.

Those 350 farmers are supporting innumerable employees, and ancillary businesses and their employees, totaling millions in economic impact every year. The business of farming is vital to our city, for more than just the food farms produce.

Farms are adapting their business models in today’s environment. No longer do farmers simply sell the meat, fruits, vegetables and grains raised on their farms to brokers and processors. Today’s farm might have a subscription service for its produce, sell non-food items like soaps, crafts, fiber and leather made on the farm, teach classes, offer a bed-and-breakfast or pumpkin patch, or even rent out a picturesque barn for weddings and other events.

In other words, the business of farming is constantly evolving, and there’s nobody better than farmers to keep up with all of the changes.

This committee will be advising City Council on how to promote farming and all of these various activities and businesses to enhance the economic vitality of the city. They’ll also recommend policies to enhance and protect all farming activities and aid in addressing new challenges in agriculture.

That’s all in addition to helping preserve the city’s agricultural heritage.

We think the agricultural committee is one that absolutely should be in place for the good of our city.

The next step for City Council will be actually taking the thoughts and recommendations of its agricultural committee to heart. We hope waiting for that to happen won’t be as boring as watching alfalfa grow.