PAINESVILLE, Ohio — American Farmland Trust was at the center of a meeting in Lake County last month that underscored the economic importance of agriculture.
The Lake County Soil and Water Conservation District hosted a meeting March 20 designed to educate people about the value of farmland as a land use (an American Farmland Trust Cost of Community Services study) and the economic importance of agriculture (an Ohio State University Extension economic-impact study of the northeast Ohio grape and wine industry).
The Cost of Community Services study, one of some 40 that American Farmland Trust has done around the country in the last 20 years, focused on Madison Village and Madison Township in eastern Lake County. The wine-industry study looked at Lake, Ashtabula and Geauga counties.
Carl Mailler of American Farmland Trust’s Technical Assistance Services in Northampton, Mass., conducted the Cost of Community Services study — an update of a 1993 study in the same communities.
The study showed, among other things, that residential development in the township required $1.24 in public services for every $1 those homes paid in taxes, while farm and forest land required 37 cents in services for every dollar in taxes and commercial/industrial land required 30 cents for every dollar.
The wine and grape study was presented by Ashtabula County Extension agent David Marrison, who showed that wineries and vineyards bring $30 million to the three counties each year — and possibly more if additional spending by visitors to wineries is added.
At least 50 public officials, farmers and others attended the evening meeting at Madison High School.
Many of the questions after the wine study focused on land use: What can the community do to protect the vineyards from residential and commercial development? Others focused on nurseries, the other leading agricultural force in Lake County.
Lake Soil and Water Conservation District is interested in doing a similar economic-impact study for the nursery industry.
Maurine Orndorff of Lake County Soil and Water Conservation District felt it was significant to unveil the two studies together, to link land-use policy, farmland preservation and farm viability.
American Farmland Trust will be talking with officials around the state to highlight the Lake County studies and encourage similar efforts in other counties to look at the value of agriculture — the economic activity it brings to the county, as well as the fact that it is a bargain from a public expenditure/services standpoint.