What’s happening to our amber waves of grain?

I love farms. Seriously love them. My heart leaps up when I behold …and all that. But even if you couldn’t care less about farms (like my dad who grew up on a farm in dire poverty and couldn’t escape rural living fast enough) there’s a very good reason to support the mission of American Farmland Trust. It’s called food.

Farms feed us. But American farmlands are disappearing fast.

In this country, we lose 2 acres of farmland to development every minute. That stacks up to 1.2 million acres of farmland vanishing every year into strip malls, parking lots and developments ironically called stuff like “Webster Farms” (where I grew up). And the best, most productive farmland near urban centers is the first to get swallowed up.

What’s the big deal? Well, the farms closest to our urban areas produce most of our food: 91% of our fruit, and 78% of our vegetables, to be exact. Half of the 2 billion acres in our country is working agricultural land, but less than 20% of that is of high quality. Farmland is a finite, irreplaceable resource; fertile soils require thousands of years to develop, but just one earthmover to destroy.

And it’s this flat, well-drained, rich land that is being developed at a faster and faster rate. The loss of farmland in the 1990s was twice the rate in the 1980s, as housing lots got bigger and bigger. In fact, in the last 20 years, the average acreage per new housing unit has also doubled.

Luckily, for the last 30 years, American Farmland Trust has been toiling ardently to save the land that sustains us. Working through the legislatures and zoning commissions, with policy experts, farmers, researchers and scientists, AFT’s mission is to promote sustainable agricultural practices, conservation, enhanced productivity, and resource preservation.  By supporting local farmers and ranchers in very tangible ways, AFT has been able to help them to find innovative ways to protect their land, the environment, and their own economic future.

American Farmland Trust is also integrally involved in supporting Farmers Markets and the push to buy local food from local farmers (including starting a Farmers Market near the White House). By establishing closer ties between farmers and the people who buy their food, American Farmland Trust is creating a healthy understanding of what is really at stake when farmers lose their lands.

I love farms because  I’m in awe of what it takes to work the land and because they are so beautiful. But the need to protect American farmland goes far beyond aesthetics.Farms require few municipal services, protect wetlands and watersheds, help maintain air quality, control flooding and contribute $1 trillion to our economy.  The American Farmland Trust’s line: No Farms, No Food says it all.  (And if you give today, your donation will be doubled, since there’s a matching gift program.) Bonus! I am so down on the farm with that.