Farmers, town and county officials and Island residents will gather tomorrow morning for a workshop to discuss the possibility of forming an agricultural commission on the Island.
Established through a town meeting vote, an agricultural commission is a political body that provides a link to state and federal agricultural agencies and grant monies. Currently, there are over 95 agricultural commissions in Massachusetts.
The Saturday workshop will feature speakers from across the state, including Scott Soares, acting commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, Irene Winkler, coordinator of the Pilgrim Resource Conservation and Development Council, and Pete Westover, also of the Department of Agricultural Resources. A roundtable discussion with agricultural commission members from Carver and Falmouth will follow.
The workshop is the second attempt to address the possibility of creating a commission on the Island. Last November, Christine Flynn, economic developer and affordable housing planner for the Martha’s Vineyard commission, helped organize a workshop, but attendance was low. She hopes for a greater turnout tomorrow. “It’s time we recognize what role agriculture plays in the political sense,” she said.
Workshop sponsors include the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, the Dukes County Commission and the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society. There is some concern that establishing an agricultural commission in the community would duplicate efforts of the society. “It took most of us by surprise,” said James Athearn, a trustee of the agricultural society. “Since we hadn’t heard of it, we didn’t think there was a use for it. We felt these were things that the ag society should be doing.” But after some research Mr. Athearn said he was convinced that it may be an idea worth exploring. “It could be a legitimate use of agriculture to pave the way for the future,” he said. “The point is to have the legitimacy of a town board so people would have to listen.”
The workshop will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the second floor meeting room in the Vineyard Transit Authority administration building at the airport business park. The session is free and open to the public.