Posted by: Allison A.
To me there is not much mystery as to why communities were often established near sources of water and fertile soils. For early settlers it was only logical to place a stake in the ground in a location where a life of hard work could be slightly eased by the relative convenience of locally available resources for growing food. I often think about this when I spend time in the park in Buena Vista and consider the role that Cottonwood Creek and the Arkansas River played in the life blood of our forefathers.
Unfortunately, a culture spoiled by cheap oil and grocery stores that feed us produce from the far reaches of the earth have detached us from first hand knowledge and appreciation for the resources required to fuel our bodies on a daily basis. Thus, those same resources which were so highly valued by pioneers from the past are today most often valued for their development potential in the world of real estate. Communities all across the west, including our own, are under tremendous development pressure due to impending population growth. And, so long as that development continues to be unguided, it is likely that the trend of converting rich agricultural soils into backyards and driveways will only continue to consume this irreplaceable resource.
I find it interesting and informative to learn from what other communities in the west are doing to overcome these same challenges that we face here in the Upper Arkansas River Valley. Here is a recent post on New West that we can certainly relate to. From Rooted In The Soil:
“Several factors make farm and ranchlands the most sought-after for these new developments. For starters, agricultural land is flat and well-drained, and hence is cheaper and easier to build upon.… Complex social and economic factors are at play too. Right now, agricultural lands are usually more affordable to developers than to farmers and ranchers. With development pressures pushing up land prices, new or expanding agriculturalists find it hard, if not impossible, to buy land and pay for it through agriculture, especially when economic returns are low.”
The article offers several solutions as to how a community can work together more to encourage and incentivize development on less fertile lands while at the same time working to revitalize a local farming culture. Strategies listed are: mitigation ordinances, TRDs (transfer of development rights), a linking service to match land owners with producers, and incubator farms. Two of those strategies are akin to the work that Guidestone is doing here in our valley.
The author, Neva Hassanein, closes by stating:
“We cannot predict the future — but we do know that people will have to eat and that food will be grown on soil. Our options are to protect our fertile soils here and now — with all of us, not just farmers, supporting the process…”
Important food for thought, indeed.