By Darcy Tharp, guest blogger
Bobbyville, as my family calls it, or the Village of Roberts, WI, is where I spent the first eighteen years of my life, living the quintessential small town life. Every time I go back to visit my hometown I am saddened to see more and more fields and old farmhouses disappearing.
We are in a unique location right off of a major interstate leading straight into downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul. We have all the benefits of living in a small town coupled with the amenities of the Twin Cities.
The only downside to this ideal location is that other people start to figure this out more and more. In other words, the secret is out. Those desiring to escape living the hectic city life head east into Wisconsin and discover Roberts to be the perfect “suburb.”
To the chagrin of my family, the farmland surrounding the village is rapidly being bought by developers. The concern is that eventually our community is going to become just one long line of developments from the urban area of the Twin Cities to our rural neck of the woods. In addition to the tragedy of losing valuable farmland, this urban sprawl makes it more difficult to maintain the vitality and rural character of the downtowns and main streets of the small towns.
We are witnessing firsthand in our community the need to preserve America’s farmland. My father was a Village Trustee and now serves on the Village Planning Commission, the board that approves developers’ plans, and unfortunately he is often the lone voice opposing plans for further development. This occurred most recently as he fought hard to prevent a Flying J truck stop from being erected near the entrance and exit ramps to the freeway. Unfortunately he was overruled and the truck stop was built.
The real problem was not what was built but rather the fact that the farmer sold the land in the first place. With a suffering local economy, farmers find it increasingly difficult to resist the money offered by developers and are often wooed into selling their land. This is happening in every state throughout the country and it is imperative that we all become aware and take action in our communities and learn ways to help farmers so they are not forced to sell their land.
According to the American Farmland Trust, farmland is lost to development at the rate of one acre every single minute of every day. The American Farmland Trust is a national conservation organization dedicated to preserving farmland and assisting farmers in staying on the land. Their website offers a plethora of information about how to become informed and active in saving our farmland.
The National Resources Inventory “helps to provide a framework for understanding the true immediacy of protecting our nation’s farm and ranch lands. The NRI, conducted by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in cooperation with Iowa State University’s Center for Survey Statistics and Methodology, is a survey of the nation’s non-federal lands that tells the story of farmland loss by the numbers.”
Also, according to a new USDA report on Farmland Tenure in the USA and in Illinois, farmers and ranchers own the majority of the land dedicated to the production of agricultural products, yet a significant portion of our nation’s farmland is rented or leased from non-operating landlords.
About Darcy Tharp: After graduating from American University with a degree in political science, Darcy is currently working as a freelance PR, marketing and events consultant, working across a number of different projects in both public and private sectors. Having grown up in the Midwest, preserving America’s farmland is a topic close to her heart and something that she would like to get more involved in.