Save the (Garden-Sized Organic) Farm!

Prairie Gleanings

Call me crazy, but the 25-acre strawberry field between two interstates isn't inherent to feeding the world.

Published on: November 3, 2011

Not much surprises me these days. I still get outraged, but surprised, nah.

As a writer for a farm publication, I get email from folks who have even the smallest connection to ag. Since so few in today’s world even understand the industry, it’s no wonder they don’t know the difference between production ag and somebody’s strawberry-growing side venture. To the public relations folks sending these emails, I’m only interested in production ag.  

When I received one about saving an organic seed farm, again, I was not surprised. Irritated, yes. Surprised, no. Here’s the link. http://www.change.org/petitions/turn-a-30-year-old-organic-farm-in-maryland-into-a-food-education-hub-not-soccer-fields-2

For those who don’t want to waste their time, I’ll explain. A farmer in Potomac, Md. (just miles from Washington, DC) leased some land from a school district years ago (30 apparently). He’s been growing organic seed there ever since. The site willing admits that the guy entered into the lease with the understanding that a school would one day be built there. Now, the school district wants to put in soccer fields. Shock!!

According to the petition, nearly 22,000 people think this is outrageous. The farm has got to be saved! It’s the only organic seed production farm in the county! Rather than get into the specifics on just how much organic seed production this country actually needs, let’s just focus on the land details.

The guy was renting it from the school district. He does not own it. In the St. Louis area, I’ve heard of a similar situation. Someone planted a bunch of strawberries on some land in the suburbs. Now the landowner wants to sell the parcel to a developer for retail space. People are outraged. Thing is, what grounds do they have to be outraged?

Centuries ago, European settlers removed Native Americans from this land. The Indians clung to the belief that land could not be owned. It was a resource to be shared among everyone. We’ve spent years setting up laws contrary to that belief. Yet, for some reason, folks today want to save every niche farm in the middle of a city “for the good of the community.” Sorry, but you can’t have it both ways. The same laws that have allowed farm families to set up centuries-old farmsteads also give the land owner the right to sell to a developer if they see fit.

Now, back to the Maryland nuts. If you really want to give the community a boost, build the soccer fields. With youth sports comes additional hotel stays, more restaurant spending and additional sales tax from weekend shopping. This is all money that stays in the community. The same cannot be said for raising organic seed and shipping it cross country.