Modern Ag- Economics for a rural county: small is beautiful
Published 4:40 pm Monday, April 1, 2013
The ag-scene in Polk County has seen rocky soil in the past couple weeks. On a county and government level, change has come. Decision-making is underway determining the various levels of importance, economically-speaking, that the ag center, the office of Agricultural Economic Development and farming play for Polk County’s economy. At least in my circles, its’ all anyone is talking about.
I sat down with farmer Lee Mink of Mill Spring and LEAP Farm this past weekend. LEAP Farm is a non-GMO, bio-diverse small family farm using organic methods of growing for a multi-market base right here in Polk County. Lee sells at tailgates, to restaurants, a local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and directly off his farm. The following are excerpts from both Lee and myself, beginning with this from farmer Lee.
“One thing we have to remember about the ag center is how its still in its beginning stages and that its’ value to our county is more important than ever. Just five years ago, the ag center was a cold, empty structure, that hadn’t had use for over 12 years, and through a farming community that is hungry for identity and further development opportunities, an even larger community stepped forward to help bring this building and its mission to the foreground for Polk County’s future. We are now, in just five short years, a unified and diverse community taking responsibility for our future by keeping Polk County rural and with grassroots, thought-filled growth. The ag center and Lynn Sprague is the best thing that’s happened to farming in Polk County. It was a perfectly timed gift, literally, to our county and we must continue its momentum. Now he is gone and we have some critical choices to make. I say if we want to keep Polk County rural and green, (and we have a mandate written through a citizen-survey that says we do) then we must continue to support the ag center and spend our money on agricultural development, placing big value on our small, diverse, farms and recognizing how these farmers are cropping up everywhere in leaps and bounds. We need to allow the ag center to continue to grow up and not take 10 steps back.”
Do we want to continue to grow in grassroots fashions, knowing one another as small and medium-sized farmers, building deep roots in strong horizontal firmament? Do we want vertical growth with distribution development for a few large production farms taking Polk County grown to areas like Charlotte and Atlanta? Do we want the big international buffalo-sized industry to come to town and promise hundreds or thousands of jobs and possibly not follow-up on their word?