The first weeks of our March 20th Special Election campaign for the 103rd New York Assembly District have gotten off to a terrific start. It has been wonderful to reconnect with friends and supporters from 2010 and I am inspired by the warm and immediate response of so many volunteers signing up to call, canvass and help out. Check out our website at www.didibarrett.com to sign up, catch up or contribute.
I have had terrific meetings and phone chats with many Town Supervisors, Mayors and Town and Village Board Members throughout the district — Democrats and Republicans — to hear first hand about their local issues. It is my goal to talk with the leaders of each of the municipalities in the district. I’m finding these local leaders welcome my interest in their communities and respect my longtime community activism and passion for the Hudson Valley. My priorities of creating quality local jobs, curbing unfunded mandates, providing middle class tax relief and protecting and supporting what we love about living in this region are right in sync with many of theirs.
I was pleased to hear that job creation and economic development were among the top priorities expressed by the new Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro when I attended his first State of the County address. I’m hoping that he is looking to develop the region’s agricultural economy as part of this effort. While Molinaro didn’t specifically talk about agriculture in his speech, I couldn’t help but notice that the Dutchess County seal, which was prominently displayed on the screen behind him, features what appears to be a shaft of wheat and a plow, reflecting the critical role farming has played in the develoment of Dutchess County. We may no longer have as many farmers as we once did, but that makes those we still have — and the young farmers who want to join them — even more important to support. After all, we all do eat.
The farm economy is so essential to this region that even while on the campaign trail I continue to stay on top of important ag-related events in the region. Here are a few of note:
*American Farmland Trust ‘s annual No Farms No Food Rally in Albany on February 15 where they urge legislators to strengthen New York’s farm and food economy; protect farmland and the environment and increase access to locally grown food.
*A community conference, Farming our Future, will look at growing food, farms, and community in the context of a rapidly changing local, regional, and global food system. The day long conference, featuring Steffen Schneider, Director of Farm Operations at Hawthorne Valley Farm, as the keynote speaker, will take place on Saturday, February 25 at Taconic Hills Central School in Columbia County. This inaugural conference is geared to local and regional farmers, educators, farmers’ market managers, agricultural students, providers of goods and services, and consumers — all those interested in exploring the future of farming in our community.
*Pure Catskills is currently assembling their annual buy local guide which focuses on farm and food producers in New York’s Watershed area. Pure Catskills farms are located on farmland that protects clean drinking water for 9 million New Yorkers in an innovative partnership that focuses on healthy, working farmland and the water protection practices it takes to keep streams and reservoirs safe.
Lots of creative ideas out there. I look forward to bringing this outside the box thinking to Albany!