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Another Voice for Agriculture

By Emma Matkin

Chamber LogoThe Lubbock Chamber of Commerce has been working for almost 100 years to serve its member businesses in Lubbock and West Texas. Affiliated with the Chamber are working committees that strive to represent a specific area in the community.

The Lubbock Chamber of Commerce has been working for almost 100 years to serve its member businesses in Lubbock and West Texas. Affiliated with the Chamber are working committees that strive to represent a specific area in the community.

Ag in the Bag

Robert Scott (left), a Texas AgriLife Extension agent from Lubbock County, teaches area students attending the Chamber’s Ag in the Bag program about sheep and goats. This was a favorite of the students as they each had the opportunity to touch the animals.

Mary Jane Buerkle is the Vice President of Business Development at the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce. She also plays a vital role with the Ag Committee as the staff liaison.

“The number one goal of the Agriculture Committee is to create awareness programs and promote agriculture at every opportunity,” Buerkle said. “We want to educate the business community and the general public about what drives our economy.”

The Chamber’s board of directors and committees consist of many different community volunteers who are members of the Chamber. Each committee has a Chamber staff person working with them to help direct the activities of those groups. Buerkle said the community volunteers that serve on the Chamber Ag Committee have a passion for agriculture and education that shows through the quality of their events and projects.

“They truly go above and beyond to show people what agriculture is all about,” Buerkle said. “These volunteers also have served as resources to local media on agricultural issues.”

Centennial Ceremony

2009 Chamber Ag Committee Co-chairs, Lynette Wilson of PCCA (left) and Mike Metzig of AgTexas, manned a booth sponsored by the committee at the Lubbock Centennial Closing Ceremony.

Lynette Wilson, Plains Cotton Cooperative Association Communication Manager, and Mike Metzig, Vice President of Lending at AgTexas Farm Credit Services, currently serve as Ag Committee Co-Chairpersons for 2009.

“Through the Chamber Ag Committee, I’ve been able to network with many amazing individuals from all walks of life who have an interest in agriculture,” Wilson said. “The group’s dedication to ag education in the Lubbock area and their commitment to the town they call home make me very proud to be a member of the committee.”

Metzig feels that it is important that the Ag Committee continues to grow in Lubbock for the future of the West Texas economy.

“I think it is important to have the ag committee because we educate the public of the importance of agriculture to our area, and we also promote agriculture,” Metzig said. “Without our ag industry, the West Texas economy would be worse off, especially with what is going on today.”

Some of the highlight activities that the Ag Committee is involved with include the Water Conservation Council, Ag in the Bag, and Harvest Breakfast.

The Water Conservation Council is a subcommittee of the Chamber Ag Committee that was formed in 2004. This committee focuses on the community awareness and importance of an adequate, affordable and quality water supply on the South Plains. The Water Conservation Council also recognizes businesses that implement water-friendly practices through their monthly “Water-Smart Business” award.

Ag in the Bag is an agricultural education program that is held for elementary school students to learn about the different aspects of agriculture. Some of the topics students learn about include cotton, corn, peanuts, wheat, sorghum, food science, beef, water, and the Mobile Dairy Classroom.

“More than 1,500 students attend this event each year,” Buerkle said. “We consider it one of our premier educational events.”

The Ag Committee’s Harvest Breakfast is an event that brings the agribusiness and general business community together to celebrate agriculture. Past speakers have included representatives from commodity organizations, state agencies, and legislators. This year the Harvest Breakfast will be held October 7, 2009. Buerkle said this is the Committee’s “crown jewel.”

Many members of the Ag Committee also are involved in other events such as the Hub City BBQ, the Golf Classic, Ag in the Classroom, and the Business Expo. The Ag Committee is one of nine committees in the Business Development Division, some of which include Business Development, Energy, and Technology.

“Agriculture is undoubtedly the lifeblood of our local and regional economy,” Buerkle said. “We need to keep promoting the relationship between agriculture, the general business community, and the public.”