Land-use seminar wins national award

Land-use seminar wins national award

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The Land Use Actions for the Future of Our County seminar that took place in Wayne County in fall 2020 received a County Activities of Excellence Award from the American Farm Bureau Federation. The prize is a grant to send participants from Wayne County to the 2022 American Farm Bureau Annual Convention and Trade Show in Atlanta.

The Wayne County Farm Bureau has long acknowledged land-use planning is important to maintain a strong agricultural presence and a diversity of food processing and manufacturing in the community. However, it was in 2016 the WCFB first passed a formal policy supporting balanced land use, with an emphasis on revitalizing interest in helpful programs such as Agricultural Security Areas.

Then the WCFB increased its participation in county land-use planning during the county’s comprehensive planning process in 2019, which included a listening session organized by the county Farm Bureau. The Wayne Onward Plan was adopted by the county in November 2019.

Motivated by the completion of the county comprehensive plan, an ad hoc group of partners in the county wanted to organize a workshop to bring together a wider range of partners around balanced land use. A steering committee was created to inspire collaboration around balanced land use, engage new stakeholders, and spur new dialogue and partnerships.

The steering committee partnership included Brian Gwin, Melinda Hill, Steve Lyon and Shoshanah Inwood of the Ohio State University; Elizabeth Schuster of Sustainable Economies Consulting LLC; Lindsay Shoup of Wayne County Farm Bureau; and Pete Wearstler of Wayne County Planning. The workshop was partially funded by a grant from Ohio State University’s Initiative for Food and AgriCultural Transformation.

The steering committee planned a workshop titled Land Use Actions for the Future of Our County, which was slated to take place March 13, 2020, but the in-person event ended up being canceled. The event was converted to a virtual, four-part seminar series that took place September through December 2020. The steering committee selected a diverse group of 16 speakers to represent various land-use types — farmland, economic development, housing and more — and various entities such as government, nonprofit, academic, et cetera.

“I really enjoyed being a part of the steering committee. Balanced land-use planning is such a complex topic. It was a great opportunity to work with this group of thought leaders to brainstorm ways to help maintain our quality of life through land-use planning,” said Schuster, the chair of the steering committee.

The seminar series was considered a success with about 50-80 participants registering for each session. The attendees included a diverse group of stakeholders who in many cases had not worked together previously. Overall, the feedback was positive and suggested there is interest in continuing these discussions through a variety of formats in the future to develop shared solutions to the county’s biggest land-use challenges.

“The WCFB was heavily involved in planning the event. We promoted the event to our Farm Bureau members and also shared with them the recordings of the event in our county newsletter, email and social media. Also, Roger Baker is a Wayne County farmer and a member of the Ohio Farm Bureau Board of Trustees. He was invited to give the opening remarks for the first seminar in the series, and it was exciting to see the positive response and how much interest the audience had in the topic,” said Lindsay Shoup, WCFB executive director.

A team from Wayne County will travel to the 2022 American Farm Bureau Annual Convention and Trade Show Jan. 17-22. Again this year, Ohio had more winners than any other state for the County Activities of Excellence Awards.