Lauren Sharp, who works with the Chautauqua County Department of Planning and Development as a junior planner, has spent her career focusing on agriculture and protecting farmland in Chautauqua County.
Sharp’s main work is with the Chautauqua County Farm and Farmland Protection Board as a liaison to help move projects forward.
“The mission of AFPB is to enhance the economic viability of the agricultural industry and to preserve and protect viable farmland in Chautauqua County.” Sharpe said. The AFPB oversees the Chautauqua County Agricultural Districts Program. Ag currently. District 7 is under review. There is also an annual listing period in January for Ag. Regions. AFPB and the county legislature recently adopted and enhanced the Chautauqua County Agricultural Development Strategy as the county’s Agricultural and Agricultural Land Protection Plan in May of 2024.”
Sharp also works with other agriculture-related entities such as the NYS Office of Parks and Recreation and Historic Preservation on the Snowmobile Trail Trail Grant. In doing so, it works with local snowmobile clubs to ensure that trail development and maintenance meet state requirements so that they can remain eligible for state funding. Both of these jobs involve GIS work, so Sharp also spends time doing mapping work for these two projects and for other projects in the department.
The main reason Sharp decided she wanted to do this job was because of her Chautauqua County background.
“I grew up in Chautauqua County,” Sharpe said. “While I traveled to five counties during college and really enjoyed it, I knew I wanted to work and live in a rural community. After I finished my bachelor’s degree, I moved back to Chautauqua County. It took me more than seven years to find my current job. Since the Department of Planning and Development Covering a wide range of programmes, I have been able to use the skills I have gained from my education and previous jobs to succeed in my current position.When I was first hired I did not know that my position would work so closely with agriculture.Having worked with farms in some capacity for nearly 15 years Generally speaking, this part of my position comes naturally to me. The diversity of my job makes every day different and keeps me on my toes.”
Sharp said that many people do not understand what the Department of Planning and Development is doing. She explained that the department is required to facilitate state and district projects.
Both the AFPB and the Snowmobile Scholarship are mandatory projects. Sharpe said. In addition, the department is required to oversee the Chautauqua County Planning Board including Municipal Public Code 239-m referrals, review of county capital projects, the Chautauqua County Food Policy Board, Chautauqua County Shared Services, Tourism and Watershed Occupancy Tax Program, and community management contacts. The department also has discretionary services that may include serving on boards and councils, assisting municipalities and residents, grant writing, plan development, plan implementation, municipal outreach and engagement.Each day varies depending on which projects receive funding and collaborates with community partners to help with resource expansion, information requests and more “.
In addition, Sharp said the department also creates programs and activities aimed at improving the community, economy, and quality of life in Chautauqua County. They also support municipalities by providing training, resources or letters of support.
Besides work, Sharp loves spending time with her family and being outdoors.
“We recently completed the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy’s 2024 Wandering Chautauqua Watershed and Western New York’s 2024 Winter Hiking Challenge,” Sharpe said. “We are currently working on Allegany State Park Centennial Seven.”
Sharp said the achievement she is most proud of to date is her education, graduating from Cassadaga Valley Central School in 2010 and Jamestown Community College in 2012.
“I was the first to graduate with an Associate of Environmental Science degree from Jamestown Community College in 2012,” Sharpe said. “I also left JCC with two more college degrees and went on to get a bachelor’s degree in natural resources in 2014, and eventually a master’s degree in 2018.”
In the future, Sharp said, she hopes to continue working with the public sector, connecting people to available resources and building relationships in the county.
“I also want to continue to help promote and educate agriculture as a viable economic engine in Chautauqua County,” she said. Sharpe said.