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B.A.R.N. Raised As Ag Proposal

BUCKINGHAM – Is an agricultural facility that could be used for cattle sales, rodeos, horse and livestock shows, farmer's markets, and other events in the county's future?

During the May 14 meeting of the Buckingham County Board of Supervisors, Jennifer Ligon, Agricultural and Natural Resource Extension Agent for Buckingham County, presented the B.A.R.N. proposal on behalf of the Buckingham Cattlemen's Association and the Buckingham Agricultural Resource Network Planning Committee.

Referred to as B.A.R.N., the Buckingham Agricultural Resource Network project is a proposed multipurpose facility that would include a 160-foot by 300-foot metal building open on three sides with a 48-foot by 300-foot overhang off to one side. The front of the building would contain a commercial kitchen and a large meeting room that could accommodate 250 to 300 people.

In her presentation, Ligon described the Buckingham Cattlemen's Association, BCA, as a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization with over 200 members spreading over 16 counties across Virginia.

“It is the intention of the BCA and B.A.R.N. Planning Committee to construct this building to house the BCA's two yearly sales, bring a home to the Buckingham Farmer's Market, provide meeting space for large groups of people, and to provide an event space large enough to host a wide range of agri-tourism and agricultural economic development activities,” stated Ligon.

According to Ligon, the estimated cost to construct the facility is $2.7 million. She said it would create 50 part-time jobs and should generate approximately $1.3 million each year for the Buckingham economy with just one rodeo event per month.

Details provided by the B.A.R.N. Planning Committee indicate the majority of those jobs would entail working the livestock sales and major events.

The facility, explained Ligon, would be located in a central location of the county and be connected to every vital road to provide easy access for participants visiting from other areas.

Ligon stated, “We are here tonight to request a letter of support that includes your in-kind and/or monetary contributions.” She added, “We ask the board of supervisors to support this viable project for economic development in Buckingham County and begin the process of approval so that we can meet a deadline of October 1 in order to adequately prepare the first grant application, which is due in November.”

Supervisor Joe Chambers followed with a motion to send a letter of support. With seconds by Supervisor John Staton and Bill Talbert, the motion drew the board's unanimous support.

Information in the board packet outlined that the BCA would be submitting applications to the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission for grant funding up to $2.5 million for the completion of the initial phase of the B.A.R.N. Center; and, to the Farmers Market Promotion Program for grant funding up to $100,000.

Referencing a proposed resolution included in the information provided by the B.A.R.N. Planning Committee, Supervisor Talbert asked Ligon if it would help for the board to go ahead and pass the resolution. She responded that it would.

However, Supervisor Cassandra Stish shared that she was uncomfortable with some of the language in the resolution.

Stressing that she loved the project and was excited about it, Stish said she would like to see the Commonwealth Regional Council utilized for the grant writing-similar to the board's offer to the Buckingham County Library and Ellis Acres Memorial Park.

“I don't see that we have a ready mechanism to be able to give over money in large packages right now,” stated Stish.

Talbert reiterated that the resolution would help increase the possibility of receiving funding through the tobacco grant

Agreeing, Ligon said the resolution and the letter of support would be beneficial in the grant application process. She added, “Any in-kind or monetary donations as well will increase the chance of that grant being approved.”

Talbert asked Ligon, “There is nothing in this resolution that ties the board into any amount of money at this time…right?”

Reading from the proposed resolution, Stish shared, “Whereas the Board of Supervisors of Buckingham County has agreed to enter into a collaborative association with the nonprofit corporation, the Buckingham Cattlemen's Association, Incorporated, for the purpose of operating and maintaining the B.A.R.N.”

She offered, “That is pretty tight language as far as we are concerned.” Stish added, “I am not prepared to do that at this time.”

Stressing the importance of the role the project could have in the county's economic development, Talbert said he believed the project would pay for itself in ten years.

Noting that she was not in any way disputing the value of the project, Stish called for approaching the project with prudence and in a responsible way that is also cognizant of other organizations and worthy projects that have come before the board.

“I think we owe it to everyone to consider this carefully and come up with a plan that is equitable, fair, and makes sense,” stated Stish.

Addressing County administrator Rebecca Carter, Talbert asked how the resolution would tie the board into obligating any of its budget.

She explained that there is some wording in the resolution that may do so.

In turn, Talbert asked if Carter would work with Ligon to change the resolution so the board could approve it and the grant application process could proceed.

Seeking clarification, Carter asked Talbert if he wanted the resolution to offer the board's support of the concept of the project without committing to any monetary support. He replied, “Yes.”

Ligon pointed out that the resolution states, “Whereas, upon completion of payment of this multi-use facility a financial evaluation will be completed each year. When cumulative annual profits are realized, the Board of Directors of the B.A.R.N., appointed by the Buckingham Cattlemen's Association, will return up to 50 percent yearly of the profits to the county. Yearly profit payments may cease upon payment in full of principal amount of Economic Development funds donated by the Board of Supervisors.”

She added that the intent was to pay back the county.

Stish, offering she appreciated that, reiterated her stance that the board needed to be fair and equitable to all groups. She explained that the board needed to put this to a committee that could address such projects in a way that is fair and not arbitrary.

Although Talbert went on to move that the resolution be adopted with the stipulation that the county administrator remove any reference to monetary commitments from the board, he withdrew his motion after Carter pointed out that the application was not due until November.

Ligon agreed that it was “not that much of a rush” but they would like to submit the grant application in October.

Subsequently, Talbert told Ligon, “I'll withdraw my motion and you and Mrs. Carter get together.”

Award Winning Extension Agent and More

Following Ligon's B.A.R.N. presentation, Sherry Ragland, chair of Buckingham's Virginia Cooperative Extension Leadership Council, shared information about two awards Ligon, in her role as an extension agent, recently received.

The first award, explained Ragland, is a Virginia Cooperative Extension Program Marketing Award that Ligon won at both the district and state levels.

“This award was for her work in expanding the marketing methods that the Buckingham Cattlemen's Association uses in promoting their April Bred Heifer Sale and their August Feeder Calf Sale,” shared Ragland. “Ms. Ligon initiated an on-line marketing strategy for the sales using a BCA website she designed.”

According to Ragland, Ligon's efforts resulted in a record-breaking year for the feeder calf sale; and, the heifers averaged nearly $1,500, a $400 increase per animal over last year.

Ragland shared that the second award, presented by the National Association of Agricultural Extension Agents, recognized Ligon as the winner for the Southern Region for the Communicators Award in Web-Site and On-Line Content. With the regional win, Ligon progresses to the national level of competition.

Continuing with the good news, Ragland said later this month Ruth Wallace would be receiving a state-level team award from the Virginia Association of Extension 4-H Agents.

“The award is for Excellence in Natural Resource and Environmental Education,” stated Ragland. She explained that last summer Buckingham 4-H partnered with Peter Francisco Soil and Water District to assist with its Environmental Day Camp, which included 28 youth from Buckingham and Cumberland who learned about watersheds.

“This award recognizes the educational value of the program not just for the environmental knowledge gained but also for the life-skills the youth learned,” stated Ragland, noting this, too, has progressed to the regional level of competition.

Ragland concluded with an award won by the Buckingham County Extension Leadership Council, ELC.

“Our Buckingham County ELC recently won the district level award and was runner-up for the state level award for the 2011 Virginia Cooperative Extension Programming Award for Unit Extension Leadership Council Development,” explained Ragland.

Along with Ragland, Buckingham ELC members include Lois Farrish, Josh Fleenor, Marie Gillespie, Brenda Jones, Roger Morris, Melissa Headley-Smith, Kelly Snoddy, Deborah Stewart, Elizabeth Washington, and the staff of the Buckingham Extension Office.