By Daniel Meyer

In an effort to continue the public dialogue that centers around Cattaraugus County’s agricultural industry and its important relationship to economic development, organizers of the fourth annual Cattaraugus County Farmer-Neighbor Dinner are enthusiastically looking forward to next month’s event.

Set to take place on Wednesday, April 8 at the West Valley Fire Hall, the evening will include agricultural related exhibitor displays, an awards ceremony and plenty of opportunities to engage with farming experts about Cattaraugus County’s great potential as a vibrant and diverse agricultural community.

The annual gathering has been viewed by past attendees as the ideal forum to enhance communication among farmers and their non-farming neighbors who understand the important role agricultural advancements play in the area’s economic success. Bringing everyone together under one roof for a night of fellowship, understanding, a delicious locally sourced meal and face-to-face interaction also allows farmers and businesses to showcase the products and services they have available.

“I think that people look forward to this event because it is something different, and most of the food is grown or produced right here in Cattaraugus County,” said Deborah Miller, who coordinates the annual event for the County’s Department of Economic Development, Planning & Tourism. “More people are buying local and want to support their neighbors. It gives those attending a chance to mingle with one another in a very relaxed atmosphere.”

This year’s scheduled guest speaker is Dean Norton, president of the New York Farm Bureau since 2008. He has held a variety of leadership positions within the Farm Bureau system, including time spent as the Genesee County Farm Bureau President and Chairman of the Western New York Regional Farm Bureau Office Advisory Board. Norton also serves on the New York Farm Bureau Foundation, New York Agricultural Education Board of Directors and American Farm Bureau Federation Board of Directors.

Norton’s family owns Oak Orchard, a dairy farm in Elba, as well as a custom trucking operation for forage and commodity harvesting. A graduate of Genesee Community College where he studied business administration, he is a 2003 graduate of Cornell University’s Empire State Food and Agriculture Leadership Institute. He also operates DMCK Cattle Company and is employed by Freed, Maxick & Battaglia CPAs as a senior agriculture consultant.

The Cattaraugus County Farmer-Neighbor Dinner has become an increasingly popular and important event, which is why Miller is always looking to add something new and interesting to the evening’s activities.

“This year there will be an alpaca greeting our attendees as they come in the door,” said Miller. “There will also be an alpaca yarn spinning demonstration.”

While the admission cost for the dinner helps pay for expenses associated with the event, it is the contributions from several area businesses and associations that allow for the annual gathering to take place.

“The dinner would not be possible if it weren’t for our generous sponsors and donors such as Upstate Milk, Lamb & Webster, Farm Credit East, Erie & Niagara Insurance Association, Ortel Supply, Inc. and many, many more,” said Miller.

The West Valley Fire Hall is located at 9091 Route 240 in West Valley. A social hour will begin at 5:30 p.m. and dinner will be served at 6:45 pm. The cost to attend is $20 per person and reservations are required by Friday, March 27 as no tickets will be sold at the door the night of the dinner.

For more information about the event, including how you can make reservations, become a sponsor of the dinner or serve as an exhibitor, call Deborah Miller at (716) 938-2318 or send an e-mail to deborahmiller@cattco.org.