We have spent the past seven months working with our team (Logan Simpson and Ken Meter), Adams County and the City of Brighton to create a viable way forward for a historically Ag area south of Brighton. See full post. The main objective was to have consensus and a clear way forward on land use for the area. While there are still some landowners that object to the plan, it was unanimously passed by the City Council of Brighton and only one "nay" from the Board of County Commissioners of Adams County.
You can read the full draft plan here.
But this post isn’t necessarily about the work we did, but it’s one thing that really stood out to us as a common theme in this conversation and, I would assume, a national theme in the Ag community. It is alarming the amount of viable farmland that is disappearing in our urban fringes due to the development and density pinch. The American Farmland Trust says, "We lose nearly 50 acres of farmland every hour – and once farms are bulldozed and paved over, that land is gone forever." That's a big stat to swallow. But there is also another side to this conversation, and that is of the landowner wanting to sale.
Terry met with a variety of landowners during this process. During one such visit, sitting around the kitchen table, talking about how her property has been passed down for generations and may be nearing its end. Mainly in its ability to provide a comfortable lifestyle from living off the land. Sitting there as a guest in her home she generously shared the history of this place. One thing she shared stuck with us since that visit –that things must die in order for new things to emerge. In her mind, we suspect, she was speaking of the farming way of life and how it can no longer sustain families, a dying vocation for the modern way of life. In our minds this meant we have an opportunity to figure out how farming can live a new life, just one that looks very different from the traditional way of Ag.
Is it mad to think that farming can have a second life, in a place where landowners want to see ‘progress’? Progress being development, development that will afford them a retirement and an inheritance for their children and grandchildren– for a future that will most likely not take place in the same community. The data corroborates her point of view that this type of farming is a dying endeavor unfit to provide a lifestyle where prime jobs at $45K are sought after. What is the resolution that benefits people and the land?
There is no simple answer for this. One thing we do believe, is that we must be good stewards of this land in pursuit of viable solutions– whether that’s conservancy, new farming methods, clustered density with open space, etc. But we also understand that in order for there to be stewardship of this land or any other farmland resources, we must have champions and leaders that can hold a brave vision moving forward.
We are not so ignorant to think a philosophical declaration is where the story ends, –it is actually where it begins. What does the new Ag landscape look like? How can it serve and be preserved? How can public and private entities intersect to fill in the leadership gaps? We hope to continue our work and conversation in the Brighton District Area. To help create solutions and models for many of these questions.
We'll keep you posted. You keep your fingers crossed.