As a farm writer, when I write about our farmers and how the loss of farmland affects them, people often ask me, “What’s so important about saving farmland?”
Of course there is the obvious reason; without local farms, there’s no local food, or, as the American Farmland Trust (AFT) puts it: “No Farms, No Food.” AFT is a nonprofit membership organization created in 1980 by a group of farmers and conservationists that is “committed to protecting the nation’s best farm and ranch land and improving the economic viability of agriculture.”
The work of the American Farmland Trust points to several reasons why saving our farmland is so important. They not only work to preserve farmland but, to promote community and small family farms, protect local food systems, promote sound stewardship, and preserve water and soil quality.
Promoting community and small family farms and farmland enhances the quality of life in communities, both in rural and urban areas. How so? Here are just a few reasons why preserving them is so important.
Farmland is green space, even though most people don’t think of it that way. It is a significant contributor to environmental quality. As AFT states, “Farm and ranch lands provide food and cover for wildlife, help control flooding, protect wetlands and watersheds, and maintain air quality. They can absorb and filter wastewater and provide groundwater recharge. New energy crops even have the potential to replace fossil fuels.”
And, as I have written about here on Care2, there’s even a group of farmers dedicated to this, The Wild Farm Alliance that is preserving open space for wildlife and species by promoting healthy, viable agriculture that helps protect and restore wild nature.
Farmland is critical to protecting and promoting regional food systems programs. More and more regions and urban areas are looking to create local food systems, and want to ensure there is a source of high-quality, healthy food. Not only does supporting local farms provide this, but it also provides a stable and higher paying market for these growers and decreases costs for consumers by decreasing marketing costs by farmers.
Farmland provides fiscal stability to local governments and boosts the economy. It does this by contributing to a community’s infrastructure and helps a local economy through sales, job creation, and support services or businesses.
One of the most unique of these support services is tourism, or more specifically, agri-tourism. There are plenty of places that people visit to see rural scenery or to enjoy the food or drink of a specific region including the wineries in California’s Napa Valley, or popular farm stays like those found in Italy, and increasingly, here in the United States.
In the next couple of weeks, I will outline some specific agri-tourism regions and destinations, as well as some other ways that you can help support and save our nation’s farmland. To get you started, check AFT’s preservation page for some ways to get involved.