Whether it’s a Western Omelet, stuffed with Chorizo and Bell peppers covered in Pepper-Jack Cheese and Jalapeños; a Spinach salad topped with fresh raspberries and walnuts; a pepperoni pizza with thick fresh-baked crust, a bowl of garlic hummus and a side of pita chips or a juicy burger with the works – the foods we crave – came from a farm.

Red Basket Farm, Kinsman OH (Photo by Fitzwater Photography)

Farms come in all shapes and sizes. There are rural farms, urban farm, commodity farms, specialty crop farms. There are orchards, vineyards and cattle farms. There are herb farms, egg farms and pineapple farms. And, if it’s on your plate, it came from a farm. So, it must be said, that farmland is absolutely critical to human survival, and it is time to start taking its preservation serious so that we can make certain it is here for our future generations.

Countryside began our partnership with Cuyahoga Valley National Park in 1999, we joined hands because we found necessity and value in preserving the beauty and utility of the park’s rural landscape. If you’ve been to the park, you can appreciate the beauty of the green woodland, the meandering river and the gorgeous waterfalls. You’ve seen the rolling, lush pastures and stately farmhouses, and maybe even a goat or two. These special places within its 33,000 acres tell us stories of yesterday and today.

Our journey started because we heard the stories of historic farmsteads and hundreds of acres of farmland that were at risk of disappearing from the valley. But farmland loss is a common story across the entire Country. Land is being lost to development at an alarming rate and we have known this for decades. Still, people are so disconnected from where food comes from, and the critical value of our open spaces, that we have not done enough to stop this loss. According to a report published by American Farmland Trust, from 2001 to 2016, 11-million acres of farmland were lost to development.

We can call development progress, and sometimes it is. But there is nothing progressive about destroying the only place our food comes from. Did you know that 10 percent of the world’s farmland is right here in the US? Where will our food come from if we don’t do more to protect our heritage and its life-giving soil?

Recently, a national organization, dedicated to protecting farmland released a new report on how states rank in taking this threat seriously. You can read the American Farmland Trust (AFT), Farms Under Threat report here. Ohio needs to take action. Cities need to take action. People need to take action.

Simon Certified Organic Family Farm, East Sparta OH (Photo by Fitzwater Photography)

How? To start, if you own land, you can protect it. See if you’re eligible for an existing Agricultural or conservation program. Here in Northeast Ohio you can reach out to Western Reserve Land Conservancy to learn how you can easily ensure your legacy continues to thrive. If you don’t have heirs to your land when you’re gone, consider permanently protecting the land then, mentoring a young farmer or
creating a special lease option to pass it on over time.

To our city and county planners, look at the maps, the zoning and studies. Green, open spaces build strong communities. We do not need to spread further away from our cities to accommodate population growth. We need to re-build them consciously, strategically, equitably and healthfully with spaces for food and nature built in, and around, them. To our State leadership, look at the economic impact of agricultural and food businesses. How do our policies and programs foster smart growth and long-term sustainability? How are you protecting the small food businesses that feed your constituents and fuel our economy? How are you preserving the
land that makes Ohio a leader in agriculture and allows families to keep their dream and cultivate the
next generation of farmers?

Martha’s Farm, Ashland OH (Photo by Fitzwater Photography)

An easy step that we can all take today is supporting Ohio farmers. Right now, we are all enjoying Summer’s bounty. The tomatoes are fresh and ripe right off the vine. The corn is crisp and sweet and the apples are ready to pick. Farm to table is not just a trendy marketing phrase. It’s real life.

Countryside is committed to serving our farm community and the sustainable conservation of farmland. We’ll keep this conversation going here in our blog and in our work. Join us!

Tracy Emrick
Countryside CEO

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