The case for farmland preservation


Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot
– Lyrics by Joni Mitchell

Ten farms in Adams County. Ten farms in Ashtabula County. Twenty farms in Darke County. Twenty farms in Holmes County. Twenty in Knox. Another 20 in Licking. Thirty farms in Wayne County.
In a year’s time.
And there are more. According to the USDA’s ag statistics office in Columbus, Ohio lost 300 farms from 2005 to 2006.
That alone should make the case for supporting farmland preservation efforts here in the Buckeye State.
To be truthful, losing a farm doesn’t always mean the ground leaves agriculture. Only four counties that lost farms also lost land in farms. Statewide, the number of acres in agriculture remained the same at 14.3 million acres.
But as we know, there’s a face attached to every statistic. And so those 300 farms are married to 300 people. Perhaps fewer. Possibly more.
Maybe the time was right to retire. Or maybe they had one of the myriad other reasons why folks decide to park the tractor. And that’s OK.
But maybe the developer made an offer too good to refuse and the landowner felt that was the only option to living “land rich and cash poor.”
We don’t know if Ohio’s state ag easement purchase program will have any money for another round next year. Or the year after that. But it’s protected 97 farms and 20,385 acres since it started in 2002, and it’s worth fighting for.
You could make a case for controlling climate change by supporting farmland preservation. You can’t store carbon in the parking lot of an Arby’s, but you can in the no-till fields of an Ashland County farm.
You could make a case for energy independence by supporting farmland preservation. You can’t make ethanol or biodiesel from a new home, but you can from corn or soybeans from a Fayette County farm.
You could make a case for local food by supporting farmland preservation. You can’t buy fresh sweet corn at a strip mall rent-to-own store, but you can at the producer-only Carrollton farm market.
You could make a case for economic development by supporting farmland preservation. Each dollar spent by a Wayne County dairy farm will turn over in the local economy three times in the next 12 months.
You could make a case for endangered species protection by supporting farmland preservation. Nearly 80 percent of endangered species in the U.S. rely on private land for some or all of their habitat.
If we don’t make a case for farmland preservation, no one will. They’ll put up a parking lot instead.
(Farm and Dairy Editor Susan Crowell can be reached at 800-837-3419 or at


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