County ag development boards can address local issues

newspaperBringing together people from different agricultural backgrounds gives agriculture a voice and strength within a county.

That was the takeaway message from a Dec. 1 workshop at the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Annual Convention on how to start and maintain local ag development boards.

“It’s about bringing diverse people together to form a forum where members can discuss agricultural issues and provide a unified agricultural group,” said Jim Matson, founder of Matson Consulting. “Good agricultural development boards are a multi-year project.”

Volunteers who are interested in creating local agricultural development boards can attend day-long workshops being planned for January and February in Gloucester and Pittsylvania counties and the city of Staunton. Workshop information is being shared as it becomes available.

Matson Consulting, along with the Virginia Foundation for Agriculture Innovation and Rural Sustainability and The Center for Rural Virginia, have developed a guide to assist volunteers interested in creating an ag development board in their communities. The Agricultural Development Board Guide: Creating Effective Local Support for Agriculture is available online at

Matson said members need to spend five to 10 years building up their boards, and he added that it’s important to have long-term, consistent funding. “A baseline is important,” he said. “A lack of consistent and meaningful funding can cripple the effectiveness of an agricultural development board.”

Localities can structure their boards in a way that makes sense for their levels of activity, funding, focus and goals, Matson said. Bringing together established farmers and newcomers is key to successful agricultural development.

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