Friday, September 26, 2008

Developing Farmland

Some people may not care about the changing face of our rural and suburban landscape. To them, it's progress. People are growing, expanding, and want to get out of the city. Why not build more houses? There are more than mere sentimental reasons to preserve our old farmsteads: we need to protect our food, and our future.

Personally, I care deeply about the farms and farm families. I can't explain the ties that I feel to the land or the feeling I get as I gaze over miles of land . . . which in some places takes longer and longer to reach by car. I feel that we are connected to a deeper part of ourselves through nature -- something simpler, more raw, more profound. It is a heritage, and a way of life.

But, there are practical reasons as well that give me cause for concern about the loss of our farmland. For those of you that never wonder where your food comes from (other than out of the box or freezer), think about this:

-With the ever decreasing number of farms in our country, most of agriculture is being taken over by large corporate farms. They have already raised prices and in some areas set up a monopoly over the crops. What will keep grain from turning into another oil fiasco?

-It's not just due to our expanding population, either. In the years 1982 to 1997, the US population grew by 17% while urbanized land (development) grew by 47%. Talk about bad planning! It's not useless land that was permanently plowed under, either. It was some of the best farmland in the country. (American Farmland Trust)

-Every minute we lose 2 acres to development, a number that grew 51% from the eighties to the nineties. What will this decade bring? At our current trend, we stand to lose over 800,000 acres by 2050 in the California Salinas Valley alone.

-If we continue losing small farms, what will happen to our rural communities? Farmers contribute greatly to the local economy. It may all become one industrial-style rape of the land with little deviation.

-The quality of food that comes from small farms is generally much more nutritious. Individual farmers usually take better care of their land and animals, and that benefits all of us.

Septugenarian Dick Courteau said: "Human beings don't weigh the pros and cons very closely for the long term. We just do what seems easiest at the time." Shouldn't we care about where our food is coming from . . . the future of us and our country? We can't ignore the problem and hope the grocery stores will keep supplying us with what we want (which, by the way, will become so exorbitantly overpriced that we'll be forced to start complaining). We also can't depend on importing staples, basics of life. What happens if another world war erupts? Will we starve?

It's time to start thinking about the future, because the future is not very far away.

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