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Thread: Writing article on how farmers are coping with rural sprawl/urban growth

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    Writing article on how farmers are coping with rural sprawl/urban growth

    As a freelance project, I am writing an article for a Pacific Northwest farming publication that deals with the effect rural sprawl and urban/suburban growth into rural areas is having on farmers; and how farmers are adjusting how they work to accommodate these new neighbors.
    I was wondering if you had any resources you could share or point me to on this issue; if you had any thoughts you could share; or if you knew of someone else who I could talk to on this about this?
    My deadline is July 7, 2011.

  2. #2
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    My only comment about farmers and sprawl is that there would not be sprawl if farmers didn't sell the land to developers.

    Many farmers make a HUGE profit when selling land. For those that don't sell, most zoning laws favor the occupant who was there first (which is more often then not the farmer).

    People will make their decision to move next to a hog farm, and the hog farmer will continue to farm. As it should be. If you don't like living next to a farm, don't build a development next to one. (this is somewhat personal to me...)
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

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    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    Control property taxes for bona fide ag land.
    Adopt the Code of the West to let new comers know what to expect.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    There are many issues that could be addressed. Often, articles on the topic focus on conflicts between long-time farmers and newcomers. There are other angles worth covering.

    - Farmland on the edge of cities may be converted from standard crops to uses serving the new development, such as sod farms or tree nurseries.

    - Smaller (maybe ten acre) parcels can allow people to get into hobby farming or producing for local farmers markets.

    - Tax rules in some states assess land based on use, so that developers will often put land into marginal cultivation even after subdividing, in order to reduce their taxes.

    Most of my family in my parent's generation farmed, and are now among those farmers who would like to sell their land in order to retire. Few in my generation are still farming. I also lived on a farm for a few years and learned to keep my windows shut during plowing, expect to see farmers working early and long after dark, and to ignore the sound of a shotgun blast in the morning.
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    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    This is a complex issue. I've been told by farmers that selling their land for development is their retirement nest egg or helps pay for their children's college education. A lot of these farmers' children do not want to farm. Those interested in farming find it hard to find the capital to purchase existing farms. Farms, with their plowed fields and established water rights are attractive places for subdivision development.

    Open space advocates say we must protect these agricultural viewsheds. Buy Locally advocates stress we need to preserve agricultural uses close to where they should be consumed. People move out to the country for their piece of heaven, which may include a dairy farm next door or a farmer spraying agri-chemicals. But at the same time, these countrified gentry want to have their horses and do not connect that the hay has to come from somewhere (such as the farm their ranchette now sits on). In the West it takes a lot of land to support a horse and supplemental feeding is necessary.

    Horses beat the hell out of the land and what often results is "horse ghettos." - 5-20 acre tracts with a home and hard-packed soil that never gets a chance to recover from horse grazing and movement. Untreated animal waste dries and blows away onto roads and neighboring properties, and seeps into the water table.

    Here we had a struggling dairy farm, which supplemnted its income by allowing septic haulers to deposit their effluent on their land. Which was a use of the land, permitted by the state DEQ. That is, until subdivisions popped up around it, then the farm was regulated until it become economically unfeasible to go on. So the dairy farm closed.

    Our county regularly places covenants, as part of preliminary plat andfinal plat approval, which warn potential buyers that there are ag operations next door.

    Our state has a strong Right To Farm statute. Agricultural uses are liberally defined.

    As far as sources for the articles, I would suggest High Country News. alos I recall reading an article, not sure where, about a farmer who has been in business for decades in the Las Vegas area and the suburbs have been surrounding him for years.

    You might contact Gallatin County, Montana. They've done a lot of work in this regard. Jefferson County created an agricultural zone in Milligan Canyon, in Montana.

    Also try here: http://www.farmland.org
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    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Since you are looking at the Pacific Northwest, it would be interesting to compare the experience of farmers living adjacent to an Oregon city that employs an Urban Growth Boundary to those outside of, say, a Washington city that does not. The UGB ordinance in Oregon was a direct outgrowth of an alliance among environmentalists, farmers/ranchers and the lumber industry to protect these natural and economic resources for the future. UGBs are just one way of approaching the issue, so now that we are 20 some years out in using them, what is the result for farmers?

    I also like Cardinal's suggestion to look at how farmer's have to or have been successful at adapting their products to changing markets that come with these encroaching changes to land use and markets. In addition to sod and tree farms, what about specialty producers for restaurants or other users that come with the expanding urban form?
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

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    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by otterpop View post
    Those interested in farming find it hard to find the capital to purchase existing farms.
    I disagree with this. If you own enough land, folding in more land into mortgages actually makes purchasing easier. Add to that the favorable rates that Farm Credit Banks and the like give farmers, and it isn't as hard as some might think. 30% down on a $500k loan is a lot, unless that $500k is added to a $1m loan that is $500k paid off. Farmers have much more collateral than most people.

    Personally I think farmers are some of the best accountants on earth. At least the ones I know are

    Now getting started in farming is a whole other story.
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    I see that today is the deadline for your article.

    It has been my experience that farmers welcome the chance to sell and retire. The amount they get for land for homes in the suburbs is more than they can get for farming.

    The farmers that have not sold yet, look forward to the day. Most farms are owned or operated by corporations now, and they of course welcome the opportunity to make a profit on the sale of their assets, too.

    Now they don't really care if there is urban "sprawl" or McMansions placed on their land, because they have left, and are enjoying the good life of retirement.

    Some of our citizens as they become wealthy in their professions can speak of land they buy in the outskirts, and many will tell you with some pride that the have a "ranch" (north, south, east, or west) of here. And they too, will be glad to sell and retire to a place of continual ease.

    It is a natural process in our land of opportunity.

    Enjoy!

    PS You asked about how the farmers that remain are adjusting to their new neighbors. Well, they love to see the profits made by the sales of adjacent land, which makes them realize that they too will soon earn a large profit. Well, maybe they don't use arial spraying the way they used to, but there are other ways to spread chemicals.
    Last edited by Streck; 07 Jul 2011 at 7:15 PM. Reason: Added PS.

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    Thank you

    Thanks for all your input.It came in handy, and helped me understand some of the issues.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally posted by Streck View post
    I see that today is the deadline for your article.

    It has been my experience that farmers welcome the chance to sell and retire. The amount they get for land for homes in the suburbs is more than they can get for farming.

    The farmers that have not sold yet, look forward to the day. Most farms are owned or operated by corporations now, and they of course welcome the opportunity to make a profit on the sale of their assets, too.

    PS You asked about how the farmers that remain are adjusting to their new neighbors. Well, they love to see the profits made by the sales of adjacent land, which makes them realize that they too will soon earn a large profit. Well, maybe they don't use arial spraying the way they used to, but there are other ways to spread chemicals.
    I agree with this comment. This happens the same way in my hometown. Even though the Ministry of Construction now push up the topics about New Rural Planning but it seems like no one has truly found an effective solution for rural development.

    Farmers sell their land so easily. The buyers are industrial investors, rich people from big cities need a new haven for retirement. In my city, the rural area with high ground is now on the hot list of land buyers for there is a scientific research saying that the city will be whole flooded in the 40 years.

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