Ag center, farmland preservation topic of May 6 meeting

Published 6:03 pm Thursday, May 2, 2013

“It integrated the Ag program out with community development to where we’ve touched, I’m going to say, thousands of people. It’s not bragging saying we’ve touched a real portion of Polk County – 15, I’d like to say, 20 percent,” Sprague said.

Sprague said hundreds of families have participated in the various markets in the county, which provided supplemental income in the amount of $50 a week for those families. Meanwhile, other farmers brought in as much as $700 to $1,000 in a full-production weekend at the market.

He said in regards to education, he and others supported what was already a shining point in the FFA program at Polk County High School. Through community education, Sprague said Ag center workers and volunteers took sustainability to families through helping them build home gardens.

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“This program energized the community,” Sprague said. “We’ve had five years of building a program that is a case study and is actually being talked about all across the state.”

After five years, it’s all right to reassess the program, Sprague said. He mentioned how he’d like to see Isothermal Community College host a two-year degree program in agriculture. He said he ‘d like to see the Ag center offer a full course in workloads, a project the center had already initiated when it attracted 64 participants in a recent poultry workshop and more than 30 for a forestry workshop, Sprague said.

He said there is even more room to teach local farmers how to capitalize off of developments such as the new equestrian facilities planned for White Oak. He said farmers could be taught, for example, how to grow specialty hays to sell at $15 a bale.

“Is there a job yet to do? You betchya,” Sprague said.

Leap Farm owner Lee Mink said he’s seen the positive momentum the Ag center has created for farming in Polk County and hopes it continues.

“The Mill Spring Agricultural Center, under the direction of Lynn Sprague, has done more than any other entity in Polk County to unite community and build a foundation for a long-term vibrant, sustainable economy,” Mink said. “As we make decisions concerning the future of the Ag center and the office of agriculture economic development … let’s remember the Ag center was built by the community for the community.”