The Agricultural Development Specialist position was created in 1998 by the County Board of Supervisors. Agriculture is identified as a key industry sector by the County, the Wayne Economic Development Corp, the Finger Lakes REDC Strategic and Sustainability plans, and the Finger Lakes Forward Initiative. Responsibilities include working with municipalities and farm owners regarding purchase of development rights; the GAIN (Growing Agriculture Initiatives Now) loan program, as well as being the agriculture industry contact for the Wayne Economic Development; a member of the Ag Development Board (AFPB); and the person performing Agricultural District reviews.
The Agriculture District is a County-administered state law that provides some protections for farm operations operating within a certified Agricultural District. The work has included the County Board of Supervisors consolidation of the original nine districts into one district, the annual open enrollment application and the 8-year Ag District review (with the next review beginning in September 2023). Ora has helped six towns in Wayne County successfully apply to NYS Agriculture and Markets FPIG and USDA FRPP (ag conservation easement) programs. As a result, to date there have been approximately 6,700 acres of farmland protected on 23 farms. Having been involved with these projects from the beginning, he is often a resource to farm owners and towns about the NYS program, and assists with the grant proposals.
Ora's professional experience includes working with the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to establish an Agricultural Microenterprise loan program, one of the first ag-focused local programs in NYS (this program has since sunset). As with any Planning or Economic Development position, there are a mix of preservation projects and economic development efforts including purchase of development rights, establishing ag-based loan programs as well as community development initiatives such as brownfields assessment, parks, public access and trails development. Other CDBG assistance projects include the current MicroBurst grant and loan program, public access grants, derelict property study and brownfield planning grants.
Prior to the County position, Ora had 18 years of dairy farming experience, as well as service on the Macedon Town Board, Town Planning Board, County Cooperative Extension Board and experience on local cooperative boards. In his personal time, he supports the preservation of human life and giving people the opportunity to hear the Gospel message.