Preserving farmland: Use it or lose it!

ImageUrban and Peri-Urban Land Use:  In and Around Louisville, Kentucky

Very rough draft prepared by Andrew for discussion purposes (January 2014)

To live, we must eat. To eat, we must grow food. Soil, water, sunshine and skilled labor are needed to grow food. Growing food requires land where plants can root and animals can roam. Without land, eating is not guaranteed. Many people know this well as nearly one billion people go hungry and 25,000 people die of hunger every day. Things in the United States are not yet nearly as bad as many parts of the world yet, but millions here experience hunger and hundreds of millions of Americans are malnourished.

In the U.S. and in Louisville there are competing pressures on land and these pressures will continue to increase. Because it is unsustainable, the fossil fuel-dependent industrial food system now producing nearly all of our food will begin to fall apart. High petroleum prices will make shipping foods across the country and around the world impractical. Having ample land, in and around cities, to grow food will become critical. Land could continue to be privatized and accumulate in fewer hands. But if we are to avoid shortages and increasing maldistribution of food, access and ownership must be fairly and widely available to people using it for sustainable and life-giving purposes. We must begin moving in this direction now so we can weather the mounting economic, environmental and climate crises coming our way.

Statewide, Kentucky has about 85,500 farms comprising 13.9 million acres in farmland. If an acre of land can, depending on the diet, support between 0.5 and 8 people, Kentucky’s current farmland could support between 6.95 million on the low end (typical meat, dairy, junk food diet) and 13.9 million people and 111.2 million people eating a plant-based diet of intensively raised crops. The latter figure is more than 1/3 the population of the United States. In 2010, Kentucky has a population of 4.34 million. So, there is enough land, but much of it is used to fatten cattle, which get deported for slaughter. How can we make better use of the land both in the city and in the surrounding countryside?

Peri-Urban and Rural Land

Rural and Peri-Urban Land Use Policy Recommendations:  

1) Access to land for current and future food production

2) Establish Urban Growth Boundary ~ Agricultural Preservation Zoning

3) Establish agricultural land trust to permanently protect food production land within the UGB (Land Banks, Land Trusts, alternative holding institutions, such as churches or non-profit corporations)

  • Transfer or Purchase of Development Rights ~

4) Develop incentives for the lease of land to small farmers, and the donation or sale of agricultural land to a land trust or public agency

  • Loan guarantees by the government and banks for financially limited future farmers and family farmers wishing to expand
  • Promote multipurpose land use at the margins of the UGB that offers flexibility, but maintains land as a working farm

5) Promote access to land, capital, training and direct marketing opportunities for new and existing farmers so the food production with be viable and the land will be sustainable into the future

6) Promote and continue to educate policy makers and the community so people are aware of and support protections of land for food protection.

Urban Land

There are thousands of vacant properties and uncounted acres of residential, church, school, municipal and other land within Louisville limits that could be used for food production.  Regarding vacant properties, Louisville needs fundamental changes in the foreclosure culture to increase the acres in our land bank so they can be put to productive use. Metro agencies, such as codes and regulations, zoning, and planning should, partner with FIN, CFA and other groups to devise ways (including appropriate zoning) to make land available to organizations and individuals for growing food and starting food-related enterprises. The Food in Neighborhoods Community Coalition is eager to partner around the following food and land use objective:

Urban Land Use Policy Recommendation

Inventory and increase acreage of urban food producing land by promoting regulations, zoning, incentives and disincentives that enhance acreage of urban farms, orchards, community gardens, parking easement gardens, and school gardens.

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RESOURCES

Policy Guide on Agricultural Land Preservation

Montgomery County Agricultural Preservation

Lexington Land Use: Maintaining a Balance Between Urban and Rural Uses

Development with farmland in background.

SMART GROWTH TOOLKIT :  Preserving Agricultural Land and Farming Opportunities

Modules, Case Studies, Slide Show and Model Bylaws from Massachusetts