By Mary Fox

Communication is what it’s all about, and the second annual Farm Neighbor Dinner on April 10, 2013, the West Valley Firemen’s  Clubhouse will offer that and more. It is a chance for farmers and their neighbors to meet in a relaxed, social setting to get to know each other.

Farming is a vital, economically important industry that many neighbors know little about. This is an opportunity to learn what is happening next door and express concerns.

Jim Ellis, a former Cattaraugus County legislator, brought the idea of this event from Livingston County, where he had attended a similar event with his daughter. The idea was an immediate hit with the Agriculture and Farmlands Protection Board, said Chairman David Zilker.

“It was great,” said Ellis of the first event. “It’s an opportunity to sit down and talk about issues before the need for arbitration happens.”

New ideas will be shared for improving state and county involvement in helping make agriculture more successful economically.

Vendors will display their agricultural products and services prior to the dinner. There will be many door prizes. Most of the food will be locally grown.

Awards will be given for the Best Farmer, Best Conservationist and Best Farmer to promote Farming in Cattaraugus County.

The speaker of the evening will be Betty Wolanyk who present her program entitled “Informed or Misinformed.” Some of Wolanyk’s professional credits include the New York Agriculture in the Classroom at Cornell University, the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture, and curriculum consultant for promotion of education in agriculture.

“We’re really excited about it.  Last year we expected about 126 but 186 turned out,” said Zilker.

Event organizer Deb Miller said, “We’re hoping for over 300 attendees and have room for up to 400. Last year was our first dinner and we had to cut off the ticket sales — we only had room for 200 and we sold out early!”

The West Valley Firemen’s  Clubhouse is located at 9091 Route 240, West Valley, N.Y. Social hour begins at 5:30 p.m. with dinner at 6:45 p.m. Cost is $20 per person. Reservations can be made by March 29 by calling Deborah Miller during the day at (716) 938-2318.  No tickets will be sold at the door!

The public is also invited to attend an open discussion moderated by Dave Zilker of the Cattaraugus County Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board on Tuesday, March 19 at the Great Valley Town Hall at 7 p.m. to provide input on the future of farming in Cattaraugus County.

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