Enhancing Douglas County's Agricultural Economy
In January, 2020, K-State Research and Extension – Douglas County and the Douglas County Food Policy Council hosted two focus group sessions aimed at eliciting ideas from the public about our community’s priorities for economic development within the agricultural sector of our economy. Unfortunately, the pandemic curtailed the next steps of that process, but we have recently reinvigorated the effort.
The primary purpose of the project is to provide a response from Douglas County to the Kansas Department of Agriculture’s Strategic Growth Initiative – an effort from the state to hear from communities across Kansas about their interests in economic development opportunities within the ag sector. This effort is an outgrowth from KDAs Ag Growth Summits which have been held annually since 2016. These Summits have offered Kansans the opportunity to brainstorm and refine the list of advantages, challenges and opportunities in agriculture that exist across the state. The KDA points to the necessity of growing the agricultural industry as a means of growing the overall Kansas economy – agriculture accounts for nearly 42% of the state’s total economy. They suggest “Clearly, the success of the Kansas economy is directly linked to the success of the agriculture industry. To grow the Kansas economy, the agriculture industry must grow.”
In Douglas County, work in recent years has provided a foundation for this work. The first chapter of the Douglas County Food System plan focuses on the local food economy, including the agricultural economy. The other four chapters of that plan also illustrate our community’s commitment to enhancing economic opportunity and equity within the food system. However, despite having such a document that was created through robust community engagement, we need your input on this project.
We’re interested in your perspective of our local agricultural industry in Douglas County. We have put together a survey so you can tell us what a desirable agricultural economy looks like in your view. While economic opportunity surely exists throughout the industry, it is important for us to know where the priorities lie. The KDA Strategic Growth Initiative outlines 19 sectors of the agriculture industry, each with several sub-sectors. Where, within those sectors, does our collective desirability align with feasibility? Our hope is to answer that question and create a report that captures Douglas County’s agricultural economic development priorities.
Data from this project can be useful on many fronts. Certainly, a response to the KDA’s request for information on these priorities is among them. Additionally, this information will be helpful to our community’s economic development, education and local government entities as we chart a course for the future. Please take a few moments to let us know your thoughts by visiting the survey at this site: https://lawrenceks.org/listens/surveys/#peak_democracy.