icture this: the scene opens on the young city of Lubbock circa 1910. The Lubbock Commercial Club – now the Chamber of Commerce – created its agriculture committee to partner with Crosbyton, Texas to build a railway between the two cities. Then fast forward six years to 1916, the club creates a film to recruit farmers in Lubbock County to support the railway. The Commercial Club was also instrumental in creating the South Plains Fair, “the granddaddy of West Texas fairs.”
The Lubbock Chamber of Commerce’s agriculture committee has continually taken care of the farmers and ranchers in and around Lubbock County. The partnership with the City of Crosbyton was for the good of farmers in both cities so their seed, grain and cattle trades could happen on a broader scale. Without the committee advocating for the railroad, the cities of Crosbyton and Lubbock would not have had the opportunity to grow because of improvements to agriculture.
Since then, the Commercial Club has been renamed to the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce; however, the agriculture committee remains the same and is the longest standing committee in the chamber. The committee shares their knowledge of agriculture with schools in Lubbock County with Ag in the Classroom and shares it with members of the community through Ag in the Bag. Norma Ritz Johnson, executive vice president of the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce, knows the importance of the agriculture committee their goal is to advocate and inform the public about agriculture.
“Keeping the business owners and those that are involved in restaurants involved in agriculture is so important,” Johnson said. “Some of our chamber members don’t understand what all goes on in ag, but if you asked them about the farm bill they could at least tell you why it’s important.”
With over 100 years of experience in advocacy and education with agriculture, the chamber’s agriculture committee continues to do what is best for the Lubbock agricultural community. Because of events like Ag in the Bag and Ag in the Classroom, the committee is building a community that is more educated in agriculture than previous generations. Former USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack says that people are three generations removed from the farm. According to a Family and Consumer Sciences high school teacher, children grow up believing their milk comes from the store and not a cow or that eggs come from out of the ground.
The committee is a diverse assemblage of people made up of seed companies and other agriculture businesses. The main purposes of the committee are for people in the agriculture industry to network with one another and learn about changes in the world of agriculture. Every month the committee meets and discusses what is going on in Lubbock agriculture.
During their meeting in March 2019 Carol Faulkenberry, a region I representative from the Texas Department of Agriculture, spoke about Continental Dairy Facilities Southwest building, a processing facility in Littlefield, Texas. Faulkenberry discussed Levelland Plastics accepting the Texas Capital Fund and HEB hosting their Quest for the Best contest.
“HEB is one of our Go Texan members and they are looking for Texas products in their stores,” Faulkenberry said. “We had 14 individuals that came in and several were Go Texan members who were trying a new market.”
Johnson said the committee invites a meteorologist to some meetings to give some insight as to what producers can expect in the year to come. She also said advocacy on the farm bill and water policy is especially important to the committee. Johnson said small businesses in Lubbock may not know the specifics about what is going on in the legislature, but the committee wants them to know how important agriculture is to their business.
Known as the Hub City, Lubbock has always been a place for farmers and ranchers from all parts of West Texas to get their necessary ag-related products.
“One third of taxes are paid by people who do not live in Lubbock,” Johnson said.
From equipment and seed stores all the way to something as small as PVC collars needed to repair a water line – Lubbock has the exact parts needed to maintain a farm or ranch.
Which is why I’ve always thought of Lubbock not as a metroplex, but as more of an agri-plex.
The Chamber’s agriculture committee has been one of the longest contributors to the success of Lubbock’s agriculture industry. The actions of the original agriculture committee have shaped the way agriculture is advocated in Lubbock today. The committee continues to strive toward educating everyone it comes in contact with about what is true and what is a myth when it comes to current agriculture practices. Each member thinks of themselves as an ambassador for agriculture and wants to send out the correct message about today’s agricultural practices and hot-button issues.