A comment that always annoys me is when people assume we are farming only until a savvy realtor comes and offers us a good price for our land. I am sorry, but farmers don’t farm just to get a high price for their land. They would be smarter to just let the land sit idle. Why work 14-16 hour day, seven days a week, 365 days a year if your only goal is to get a high price for your land. Realtors don’t care how hard you worked. We farm because it is our job, it is our livelihood and it is our passion.
I recently learned that the Metropolitan Council does not consider farming, or agriculture, as a permanent use of land. Why is land use for agriculture any different from other commercial uses (i.e. a mall, Best Buy or and airport)? Aren’t we all paying income and property taxes? Aren’t we providing a product valuable to citizens of our local area and state? Aren’t we creating a stable local economy?
According to USDA statistics, ever dairy cow supports 12 off farm jobs. That means our small family farm (100 cows and 100 youngstock) creates a need for 2,400 jobs. That is almost enough jobs to employ everyone who lives in Elko New Market. Talk about a stimulus package. A farm needs local business to support them. Unlike some commercial businesses that ship in most of their product from far away places, we buy feed from the local feedmill, we buy gas from the gas station up town, we use the parts store about 10 miles away and we grocery shop in the nearby town. Farmers also go to church in their same town and send their children to school in the local community.
As our county is currently developing and drafting their 2030 Comp Plan, I don’t think it is a good idea to assume that all of our county will be houses and traditional commercial land. There seems to be an attitude that of “how can we appease the farmers until they retire and sell out”. Nonsense, if you want local food grown by family farms, agriculture needs to be something that is just as critical to county growth as housing and commercial. Farming should not be something that happens on the other side of the county, another part of the state, or worse, another county.
At Zweber Farms, we are not people who just sit on the sidelines and let other people make decisions for us. I serve on the county’s Farming Task Force. This is a platform for agriculturalist in our county to express views and concerns about county issues. Of course, planing and zoning is a hot topic at present.