A spotlight on agriculture

Agriculture is big business in Iowa with an estimated worth of $20.5 billion in 2007 according to Iowa Farm Bureau. Hamilton County is no exception, generating more than $568.5 million of total sales in all ag-related industries in 2009 according to Webster City Economic Development. A local group met recently to discuss how they could educate the public about facts like these and spread awareness of agriculture.

The Webster City Area Chamber of Commerce hosted a meeting on Tuesday which included more than a dozen representatives of local ag-related businesses, city government and the local school district in attendance. Deb Brown, chamber director, said the meeting between people involved in many aspects of agriculture was held to revitalize an agriculture committee that last met around 2007 in Webster City.

“We have an interesting mix around this table from organic to fish to education to small and large business. Ag really does reach all of us,” Brown said.

At the initial meeting, representatives agreed that they needed to reach out to other local organizations. In addition to groups like the Hamilton County Fair Board and ISU Extension in Hamilton County, meeting attendees agreed that student involvement through the Webster City FFA chapter would be essential to educating the public about agriculture. Webster City Mayor Doug Getter said a recent career fair hosted by the FFA was a good example of how to showcase opportunities in agriculture to community members.

“I think if we can encourage more of our youthful residents that there are good career opportunities available for them, that will help our transition from generation to generation which is another issue that the state and most areas face,” Getter said.

Another issue Getter discussed is how the community celebrates agriculture. Even though agriculture is a common business in the area, he said the community takes it for granted. The group discussed hosting an event in July or August this year which would include educational opportunities for the public. They also discussed holding an event for National Agriculture Day next year.

Brown said the committee will continue to be open to interested community members. For more information, contact Brown at the Webster City Area Chamber of Commerce, (515) 832-2564.