Growing Rural Opportunities holds launch event April 9

April and Lee Mink operate Leap Farm near Mill Spring, a chemical-free operation. For years, Lee Mink has advocated for chemical-free agriculture and for keeping young people as farmers.

April and Lee Mink operate Leap Farm near Mill Spring, a chemical-free operation. For years, Lee Mink has advocated for chemical-free agriculture and for keeping young people as farmers.

April and Lee Mink recently formed Growing Rural Opportunities (GRO), an organization devoted to providing ways for younger people to continue their family farm operations, or to move into production agriculture.

 

On April 9, GRO held its launch event at Leap Farm near Mill Spring. Some 160 community members turned out for locally produced food and for music by the Bald Mountain Boys of Asheville. The event itself produced about $4,000 in donations, a figure still growing. An anonymous donor offered $5,000 in matching funds.

 

“We don’t own the land; the land owns us,” Lee Mink told guests. Polk County, Mink continued, needs agricultural growth, noting, “We’ve come a long way in sustainable farming in Polk County. “Farmers are land rich and cash poor,” Mink observed. “You can’t blame them for getting out.”

 

He sees a ten-year window before farmland in Polk County changes hands (into non-farm land). “If we’re not dreamers who do, and protect our agricultural future, it’s not going to be here . . . The future is going to depend on a handful of people,” Mink continued, recognizing a few local individuals for their continuing efforts to network between farmers and consumers.

 

Organic producer Bill Barker of the Green Creek area, told guests that Polk County agriculture needs “markets for young farmers, and fresh, local food for people.”

 

Fresh, local food for the event, including pastured pork, was provided by TK farm.

 

– Submitted by Mark Schmerling

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