No one recent issue has generated more discussion and concern in rural communities across the country than escalating growth and its myriad of related impacts and pressures. From Maine to California, communities have found themselves in the difficult position of balancing growth and the loss of critical natural resources.
More often than not, the resource most threatened by uncontrolled growth is prime and important farmland. Open, productive farmland provides a host of benefits. Beyond the obvious value of its food-producing capabilities, farmland offers open space amenities, passive recreational opportunities, and wildlife habitat; not to mention its contribution to sustaining the viability of a crucial rural industry.
As growth and development pressure increases in an area, farmland is often the first land to fall victim to the bulldozer’s blade. This phenomenon can be attributed as much to a sluggish farm economy as the engineering ease of turning well-drained cropland into subdivisions.
Farmland conversion in a growing area is the visible finality of the decline of a local agriculture industry often begun years earlier. It is usually preceded by escalating farmland values, increasing cases of crop and farm building vandalism, and a rising wave of nuisance complaints surrounding once accepted farming activities. Regardless of the reason, farmland is disappearing at an alarmingly rapid rate in many parts of the country and along with it the rural character and quality of life these areas have cherished for generations.