Where would you like to see a farm?

By Thea Hassan:

Erie County is updating its farmland protection plan, and they are seeking your input. The first public forum discussion was held Monday night in the Lafayette Presbyterian Church on Elmwood Avenue.

Erie County received a state grant to update the Agricultural and Farmland Protection Plan. The last plan was developed in 1996. The Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board, the Erie County Department of Environment and Planning and American Farmland Trust are leading the efforts.

The protection plan essentially provides an action plan for the Erie County Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board to protect farmland within the county. Twenty-two percent of the land in Erie County is in active agricultural production, according to the 2007 Census of Agriculture, which amounts to about 1200 farms. The value of these farms in 2007 was $117 million.

Farmers and their land face a myriad obstacles in growing and distributing their product in Erie County, which is what the plan and public forums are going to address. One threat is urban sprawl and development, which has resulted in fragmentation of potential farmland.  

“We all pay the price for that kind of poor planning,” said Dianne Held, consultant for the American Farmland Trust.

From 2002 to 2007, Erie County lost eight percent of its agricultural development to non-farm development. Furthermore, only a small portion of farmland, 2,000 acres of the County’s 149,000 are permanently protected. There is also a considerable amount of land within the county’s borders that could be farmed, but is not. Considering New York state has some of the best soils in the world, (yes, the world), it seems like a waste to some to not realize their potential.

“We need to think about our responsibility as a player in the world,” said Held. “It’s not a joke that we got called the bread basket.”

This is the first time the city of Buffalo will be incorporated into the farmland protection plan. Much of the discussion in the forum centered around the potential of urban farming.

“Please don’t forget about the city,” asked Susannah Barton, executive director of Grassroots Gardens. “When we look at these maps, we might as well be part of the water.”

Barton was referring to maps of potential and actual farmland within Erie County. According to the map, compiled from USDA soil classifications, the city of Buffalo is barren.

Attendees offered input on where there are opportunities for new farms in Erie County and new markets where the locally grown food could be sold.They also discussed potential barriers that have prevented farming and growing food, and then marketing this food.

Proposals for the greatest opportunities in Erie County for farming and growing food included:

•    Urban land
•    Urban rooftops
•    Vacant factories and buildings
•    Vacant or abandoned farmland
•    college or school campuses

Ideas for potential new markets for locally grown food included:

•    Festivals, such as the Taste of Buffalo, or the Allentown Art Festival
•    EBT support
•    Year round farmers market
•    Increase number of farmers markets
•    Public markets, such as the Broadway Market
•    The prioritization of supporting local
•    Schools, hospitals, soup kitchens, prisons
•    Create a food hub
•    Diversify locally grown crops
•    Value-added product

Potential barriers discussed included:

•    Social stigma of local production
•    Lack of education on importance of locally grown product
•    Lack of subsidies for small farms
•    Distribution barriers
•    Cost of doing business in NY State
•    Local laws and policies
•    Myth of urban soils being toxic, cost of soil testing
•    Lack of education for policy makers
•    Lack of resources for urban farmers

Think you can do better? Want to get your input heard? Two additional forums are planned for this summer:

Thursday, July 28 at 7:30 pm at Eden Town Hall, 2795 Eden Hall, Eden

Tuesday, Aug.16 at 7:30 pm at Alden Town Hall, 3311 Wende Rd., Alden

Additional public forums are also planned for the late fall.

Lead image: Diane Held discusses farmland protection plan with attendees of the forum.

Below: The map on the left shows potential farmland in Erie County. This map shows actual farms in Erie County.

maps-farmland-Buffalo.jpg

About the author  ⁄ buffalorising

15 comments
grad94
grad94

when you were young, there was still some of 'the country' within city limits.

dash
dash

Why is it sad? Do you expect the east side to be redeveloped anytime soon? It's not about turning the east side into a big giant farm. It's simply about people growing vegetables for themselves and perhaps for some extra cash in their pocket.

dash
dash

Urban farming has a long history and has consistently reemerged during periods of economic decline. It gives people who are out of work something to do and provides a way for people to feed themselves beyond the food stamp. Do you prefer the 10,000 trash-strewn vacant city lots over vegetables?

dash
dash

It's nice to know New York State has some of their priorities straight. The city is intentionally a central place for people from the region to congregate for planning purposes.

dash
dash

While the factory farms receive massive subsidies small farms stand no chance to compete. If there are to be any subsidies at all it should be smaller farms that receive favorable treatment. As food is necessary for survival our priorities should be in promoting a stable and secure food system. The consolidation of our farms have led to a highly vulnerable food system where a shock to the system could cause mass starvation. Not to mention that factory farming is systematically destroying the most important resource we have, our soil.

Regarding farmland being overrun... agricultural land is increasing becoming a popular investment for wealthy types to preserve capital as the value of paper assets continues to deteriorate.

armyof100clowns
armyof100clowns

Although this is a positive step, I feel they are really not attacking the root of the problem, which is . . . wait for it . . . the word that cannot be mentioned here . . . ok, I’ll write it . . . sprawl. I know this site is called Buffalo Rising, but it concerns itself, and rightly so, with regional “goings on”. Regionalism is the only way the city will survive, and, in the long run, the only way WNY will continue on as a viable region to live and work. Sprawl is most often discussed on this site as one of the main baddies in the rogue’s gallery working against the city and its residents; however, it is also the destroyer of rural WNY and the lifestyle held by generations of people that call those areas home.

As I have posted many times in the past, I was raised out in the Town of Aurora near West Falls. When I was a kid my road was mainly oil and gravel. Most of the traffic occurred during the summer months when the farmers moved goods and equipment from field to field in the area. You could have slept in the street without worry of being run over. This all started to change in the mid to late 80s. Many of the farmers were dying off, or, like others in the region, their children did not see a future in the area and fled for “greener pastures”. The farms were subdivided and homes erected. Many of the folks that moved out here were from the inner ring suburbs and wanted “a little peace, quiet, and space”; however, many found living with the smell of manure, rough roads, farm traffic, and the lack of convenient access to supermarkets and other amenities inconvenient. Soon the roads were widened and paved. The speed limit went from 35 to 45 (and is now 55!). Most of the farms are gone. Places like Quaker Crossing and other land gobbling developments, like Birdsong, have cropped up like mushrooms after a rainy day. Traffic has increased. Light pollution has increased. It really is sad.

In the meantime, the city has been hemorrhaging, the inner suburbs have been declining, and the infrastructure to support the region has increased, with its cost distributed over a smaller population.

How do we stop this? The only way it can and will stop is for the folks in rural Erie County and the people of the City of Buffalo to unite as a front and ask our representatives to adopt a regional plan that encourages redevelopment and infill development of the City, encourages the preservation of and continuance of local farming and rural spaces, and discourages the ever expanding wastefulness of sprawl type development.

Strengthening the Right to Farm laws and making small city farms viable are baby steps in the right direction, but a regional development plan is needed to really stem the tide of destruction.

RaChaCha
RaChaCha

Where would I like to see a farm? For starters: the site of that horrid proposed housing development at Carolina & West on the lower west side. Thanks!

buffloonitick
buffloonitick

dcoffee

do you have a name and address for the South Buffalo co-op?

Lego1981
Lego1981

Kind of sad that we are even considering and seeing farming done in our city. What's next? Raising pigs, chickens, cows, horses in what was once our East Side?

dcoffee
dcoffee

I have to point out one thing, we DO have a year round Farmers Market, Clinton Bailey, http://www.clintonbaileymarket.com/WinterArticle.htm You guys really need to get down to South Buffalo more often. Farmers every Saturday of the year, vendors who are required to have local food the rest of the time. Most of the year it's open 7 days a week, It's a cooperative market owned by the farmers, and it's huge. Clinton and Bailey ave is also a major food hub, go drive around the Food Terminal for great bulk prices on cheese and etc.

Glad to see the state is concerned about preserving farmland. Especially considering the crazy weather happening around the country, and increasing food prices, we are going to need more local farms. It's a lot easier to turn farmland into a subdivision than it is to turn it back into a fertile farm. I'm working in a city plot planting a garden currently, the soil is full of rocks, dries out quickly, and has hardly any nutrients. You could easily get triple the amount of produce from some wild area around here without much effort. While I believe strongly in urban gardening, it's no substitute for a well maintained farm. We need to keep all the farms we have, and start cultivating more.

Mr. Underhill
Mr. Underhill

When I was young farming used to be done out in the country.

65oceandrive
65oceandrive

Future farming areas are a real concern, and urban farming should be given serious attention. Lower east side near the rail and river should be considered.

RobH
RobH

Nice to know that New York State is so flush with cash that it can come up with grant money to hold a meeting on Elmwood Avenue about farming.

Jesse
Jesse

Sounds like another money grab.

"Social stigma of local production" WTF?

"Lack of subsidies..." Oh yeah, there it is.

Yeah, I totally see how Erie County might be completely overrun by subdivisions and the farms wiped out in the next year or two. Or maybe not.

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